From David Mamet's MasterClass

Story Ideas

David teaches you how to harness your fantasies and life experiences for drama. Look for drama in places where you'd least expect it and discover the inspiration behind several of his plays.

Topics include: Life Experiences • Themes • Looking for Ideas • <span style="font-style:italic">American Buffalo</span> • <span style="font-style:italic">Sexual Perversity in Chicago</span> • <span style="font-style:italic">Oleanna</span>

Play

David teaches you how to harness your fantasies and life experiences for drama. Look for drama in places where you'd least expect it and discover the inspiration behind several of his plays.

Topics include: Life Experiences • Themes • Looking for Ideas • <span style="font-style:italic">American Buffalo</span> • <span style="font-style:italic">Sexual Perversity in Chicago</span> • <span style="font-style:italic">Oleanna</span>

David Mamet

Teaches Dramatic Writing

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Preview

I always used to tell my kids, and they'd say, dad, where do you get your ideas? I say, well, there's this little Mexican guy in Encino. And he drives in on the weekend and he sells them off the back of his truck. So we all have ideas all the time. I mean, our mind is, I believe, Swinburne said, is a raging fire. We have all these ideas all the time. What if that person turned around and said, I love you. What if we got a thing in the mail saying that it's not your real father. What about if I found a wallet with a billion dollars? That's how we go through life all day. We're fantasizing. I mean, it's kind of a shame that people are on these, the little machines everybody uses all the time, just because they spend less time fantasizing. It fantasizes for you. At the beginning of my life, I was living a rather interesting existence in Chicago, and earning my living doing various things, and playing a lot of poker, and hanging out with a bunch of thieves. And I also working in a prison for a couple of days a week, two prisons, and I was fascinated by everything that I saw. So I wrote about it. And the milieu, which I was writing at that point, was kind of the underbelly of a big city, which I was involved in. That's what I was doing when I was 20 and 30. Later on in my life, I was doing different things, and I got interested in different subjects. And I wrote about them. I think it was a famous story about Stanislavski. Someone said-- some woman was preparing a part, and she said, should I use my own life experiences? He said, what choice do you have? So I mean, my own life experiences are somewhat similar to everybody else's, and sufficiently different that they, at least, interest me. The questions is, what choice do you have? I'm not trying to make a point. I'm just trying to get the voices in my head to shut up. The American Buffalo, I was playing-- I used to play a lot of poker. This is in the days when nobody played poker. But it started again, I think, in the 80s. But in those days, poker was just played in home games and illegal games, and a lot of them were run by the mob, especially in New York. And in Chicago, a lot of the illegal games were kind of a crossbreed between a legal game and a home game. And I used to play in this one game that was all thieves. And they played poker all day, because they didn't go to work until the sun went down. So I hung out with them, and I was very inspired by them. And one of the kids said something once about-- it was the son of one of the owners. He said, if I didn't know better, I would think that you guys was cheating me. And I thought, oh, that's interesting. That's very, very provocative. Because he is both accusing them and not accusing them. He can't figure it out in his own mind. So I started writing about those guys at the poker game. The inspiration for Sexual Perversit...

Write great drama

David Mamet sat in on a poker game full of thieves and left with the inspiration for American Buffalo. Now, the Pulitzer Prize-winning writer of Glengarry Glen Ross takes you through his process for turning life’s strangest moments into dramatic art. In his writing class, he’ll teach you the rules of drama, the nuances of dialogue, and the skills to develop your own voice and create your masterpiece.

Reviews

4.7
Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

Truly blessed to have been able to listen to such a great mind. Even if writing weren't on my docket, this class is a great lesson in the process of thought and life. Honestly, I'm going to have to watch it again. So motivating. Thank you, Mr. Mamet. Truly an honor.

I am still following the lessons but each time that I watch them I find something new to learn.

Great Insights from one of my favorite playwrights. I am just starting to write my first play. I have passed through the side door marked No Admittance! No turning back.

I Love the way that he made the introduction. he caught my attention

Comments

Jaime P.

I am writing a screenplay that I want to shoot later this year. After watching and listening to Aaron Sorkin, Ron Howard, David Lynch, Neil Gaiman, and now, David Mamet—I am finally enjoying the chaos of my writing that is turning into an actually decent screenplay. All I can say is thanks David and all the teachers I have found and continue to find here in Master Class.

A fellow student

Is it possible to tell a story without committing to a theme? Perhaps he means to tell a story and not concern yourself with a theme. I'm having a lot of trouble wrapping my head around this because in my own process, the thematic backbone to the story I'm trying to tell is paramount to the play.

A fellow student

I kept thinking that he would open the safe and find out the the safe had in fact been robbed, and that the Locksmith was the culprit.

ShelbyLaneMD

My life has been a crazy and often messy journey that I just want to forget or dismiss. So I will rethink my mess and make/create some damn good stories. I found the key. Great stuff.

Jamie M.

I really enjoyed this lesson. I especially like that 'the key to the safe is in the room'. This simple analogy is easy to remember and packed with meaning.

Robbo

I love the analogy about the civil war safe. That alone could be the centrepiece to a story, the 'parakeet' as it were.

Anastacia S.

Thank you, Mr. Mamet -- "theme" has always tripped me up as an unintelligible concept, or one that I could never seem to grasp. It is a relief to not feel like a literary idiot any longer!

Nina T.

As a writer, and currently working on a screenplay, I have found Mamet's class to be very educational and inspiring. I knew I would take this class after viewing a short video clip (on FB) of Mamet describing the class and the one thing that stood out and grabbed my attention was when he said, our minds are a raging fire. I knew what he meant, because the characters and scenes were pouring out of me. I was and am still astonished at what our minds are capable of creating through imagination.

Gus C.

I found it interesting to hear that Mamet was involved with poker players who thought about cheaters, and he also observed prison life. I write a movie bog called My Meaningful Movies, and I have analyzed several of Mamet's movies. He explores how people cross the line between what is legal and what is criminal, or what is civilized and what is savage. Despite what he said, I do think this theme crops up often in his work.

Scott Edward S.

Inspired by finding ideas where we least expect them. The parakeet is very revealing in taking the story to an unknown, unexpected, interesting place. A nice surprising turn of events. I imagined that becoming a primary point in the storyline. Taking the story to a very unexpected place. A new starting point if you will. Suddenly a normal familiar chain of events has a very interesting opportunity for character development