Arts & Entertainment, Writing

Writing Process (Cont'd)

David Mamet

Lesson time 12:02 min

David tells us that there isn't a fairy dust that will fix your script and explains the simple difference between him and an artist who spends his or her days simply dreaming about becoming a writer.

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Topics include: Outlines • Rewriting • Write it Down


There's an old joke about-- they used to have the writers' rooms at the studios, where they put the writers in these rooms-- they're kind of prisons. And they put 10 of them there. And they used to have studio spies. And a spy-- one day, he came around, and he reported to his boss. He says I stood outside the writing room, and there was one guy in there. He wasn't writing for three whole minutes. As far as I know, writing is mainly thinking. It's thinking and worrying and writing and thinking and worrying and taking a nap and trying to jump out the window and, eventually, something gets done. You're not quite sure how. I try not to write on the weekends. But other than that, I just write every day. And I used to work in his cabin, very much like this, in Vermont. And one day, I got up, and I tried to get through 9:30, 10:00 o'clock in the morning. I got my little mug of tea. And my daughter, who's now 33, was 10. And she says Dad, where you going? I said I'm going off to write. She said nighty, night-- because a lot of my writing those days just consisted of taking a nap, because, sometimes, you just get burnt out. Well, eventually, you have to end up with an outline for a play-- eventually and especially for a movie. So I don't know if I mentioned before, but what I try to do is take an unformed idea and write scenes and notes and blah, blah, blah, until I can get the outline down to 15 lines on one page. And that's going to be the movie. And so what I do when I direct a movie, written and directed a movie, I've gotten the script, and I've rewritten the script. And I've reduced the script to a series of sequences that I can remember. And I reduced the sequences to the scenes. And I reduced the scenes to the shot list, so that I know every shot in the movie before I set foot onto the set. And when I set foot onto the set, of course, I never look at the notes. Why-- because I know them. Because if I don't know them when I stand up on the set, I've done something wrong. Now, I may and many times will come off the shot list. But if I don't got the shot list and get a better idea, or somebody might say what about this? But if I don't got the shot list, if I don't have an outline, what am I shooting when I get onto the set? I was talking to some executive from a studio, I said how are you doing? He said oh, I've got this big movie coming out, this $150 million movie coming out on Friday. I'm concerned about it. I said well, why are you concerned about it? He said well, the ending doesn't work. And I thought well, why didn't you fix it? If you know the ending doesn't work, who's going to sprinkle fairy dust on your movie? If the outline doesn't work, the movie's not going to work. And so there's this thing called the pitch process, where you come in and you talk to some executive for 10 minutes or f...

About the Instructor

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.

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David Mamet

The Pulitzer Prize winner teaches you everything he's learned across 26 video lessons on dramatic writing.

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