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.

David Mamet
Teaches Dramatic Writing
The Pulitzer Prize winner teaches you everything he's learned across 26 video lessons on dramatic writing.
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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...

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.


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

Mamet's greatest gift is sharing with the audience his own self doubt, struggles, defeats and hurdles. He connects on a base level and let me know I'm not alone.

succinct, filled with insight...in a word, Mametesque

Mr. Mamet, thank you for the wonderfully enriching time I had the privilege of spending with you. Perhaps our paths will cross again some day.

This was AWESOME! David is brilliant. Watch this! You do NOT need to be interested in writing. Whatever you aspire to, or want to do with your life - take this Masterclass!


Carolyn G.

David has led an interesting life and has a vast knowledge of people, life and his craft. He is inspirational and I love his delivery. A lot of what he says is pretty logical and obvious which is what makes it so important.


I am glad to know that I am not the only one who spends a lot of time thinking about writing.

Richard D.

My favorite takeaways from this video include. Just write it down. Dreaming, and that's what I've done all my life; I think we all dream, the only difference I wrote it all down. You cannot subvert the process. And my all-video favorite has to be: You have to stand being bad if you are going to be a writer. If you don't you will never write anything good.

Mike E.

"What I am for you terrifies me; what I am with you consoles me. For you I am a bishop; but with you I am a Christian. The former is a duty; the latter a grace. The former is a danger; the latter, salvation." -St. Augustine of Hippo

Mike E.

"There is no fairy dust. There's just a story. If you can't tell it to the next guy, you can't make a movie out of it."


Important footnote to class:: Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo - explained https://youtu.be/VNKuARjkWEg

Thomas C.

I have quite a rational process of writting. Every day I handwrite on a notebook with a fountain pen during twenty minutes. 20 min is a small, regular amount of time. It helps me no to be too affraid of what is happening and how bad it can be. At the end of those twenty minutes, I read what i just write, correct the grammar, cut the useless and leave it for the day. The next day I try to continue. On my best day, I manage to do that process twice a day.


Is curious to me that David Mamet focus so much in the importance of the unconscious in drama, because all his works looks very rationals to me. Not just his works, even his way to explain how to build a story is very rational and dogmatic. "A + B = C", he said. I think theres no room to the freedom of the unconscious in this concept. Anyway, I am loving this Masterclass. PD: Sorry about my english, I used google translate ;)

Robert Lewis H.

Can someone please explain Mia Shaw? All I know is I have now completed 5,000 words about someone who must type every word she hears! Go figure...

Mia S.

"Write it down. Is there magic involved? Probably. But all you guys have to write it down. There's no way you can subvert the process. There are many ways you can try - one is to stay in school. One is to get better or trickier software. They say in the screenplay the hardest two words to write are 'Fade In.' At some point you've gotta say, 'OK it's going to be bad.' You've got to stand being bad if you want to be a writer. If you don't, you're never going to write anything good. I used to beat myself up constantly, because I said, 'Oh you don't have any discipline. Sometimes you go to work and you just stare at the thing.' Discipline was a rod used to beat dreamy kids back in the day. I have the discipline to look at something truthfully and say, 'I can do better.' You have the discipline to stick with it until you're done. Because when you put your name on it, that's your name on it. He's dreaming. I think we all do to a certain extent. The difference in me is that I wrote it down."