Wednesday, March 24, 2010

David Mamet explains how not to write a crock of shit

My roommate keeps IMing me various parts of David Mamet's memo to the writers of THE UNIT (you can read the whole thing on Moveline). Here is her favorite section:


ANY TIME TWO CHARACTERS ARE TALKING ABOUT A THIRD, THE SCENE IS A CROCK OF SHIT.
ANY TIME ANY CHARACTER IS SAYING TO ANOTHER “AS YOU KNOW”, THAT IS, TELLING ANOTHER CHARACTER WHAT YOU, THE WRITER, NEED THE AUDIENCE TO KNOW, THE SCENE IS A CROCK OF SHIT.
DO NOT WRITE A CROCK OF SHIT. WRITE A RIPPING THREE, FOUR, SEVEN MINUTE SCENE WHICH MOVES THE STORY ALONG, AND YOU CAN, VERY SOON, BUY A HOUSE IN BEL AIR AND HIRE SOMEONE TO LIVE THERE FOR YOU.


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6 comments:

Katie said...

That girl is so right. That is the funniest thing I've ever read.

- Not Amanda's Roommate

Sasha said...

Wow.

DAMN.

Rewrite time

Sasha said...

oh, and thanks for posting that, Amanda!

Dan Williams said...

Thanks for the tip! I like David's stuff, especially the movies "House of Games" and "Glengarry Glen Ross."

He's right about exposition on TV--it's not necessary in the dialogue, I think, because the camera can do it with pictures.

For instance: how many scenes on KNOT'S LANDING begin with one character stalking across the street to another character's house, wanting something, or wanting to say something? No verbalizing is needed because the way they walk gives you everything to setup the scene.

Only the X-FILES really had a scene crammed with exposition and that was the first scene after the intro and commercial where Muldar gives Sculley the background on the case. It's good because of the passion of Muldar, I think.

Otherwise, on SEX AND THE CITY, lots of early scenes set up "the question" that Carrie is asking herself each episode. And these scenes usually show a character walking into a setting, and again, all the viewer needs for the setup is to see how the character is walking.

maria said...

i ruv me some mamet.

Sexy Isra said...

A few months back, I wrote a screenplay. After reading it, an actor friend said, "It's all dialogue. Nothing happens. Your characters never do anything but talk." I thought, what if I had to tell a story but I couldn't use dialogue? Could I still convey my story? Now I read Mamet suggestions to think of the script as a silent movie. When I did it, I thought it was odd, but great to see even a great one such as Mamet does it too.