Every scene, of every play or film, must answer three questions acording to David Mamet:
- Who wants what, and from whom?
- What happens if he doesn’t get it?
- Why now?
I took David Mamet’s masterclass four times in total. Why you ask because its the best class I ever took on screenwriting. I never went to film school, and most people that didn’t google about this most likely didn’t either if you did end up going to film school your still googling things like this because you want to learn from a master. David is a master storyteller and overall artist. In this post, we are going over the entire dramatic writing masterclass. But first, let’s talk an about why David Mamet is a legend.
Who is David Mamet?
If you read this section your not wholly familiar with who David is. Well, let me tell you. He is a:
Yes, that’s a lot of titles for one man to have. He’s famous for plays like American Buffalo and Oleanna. He’s known for screenplays like Glengarry Glen Ross, The Untouchables, House of Games and directed over ten films. Its safe to say David Mamet is a multifaceted person.
He directly influenced famous writers like Aaron Sorkin and Quintin Tarantino and many more. His teaching ability is what sets him apart from everyone else in this field, teaching at schools like Harvard and MIT. This Pulitzer Prize winner my option is the most decorated person to be teaching Dramatic Writing.
David Mamet in this class teaches you the rules of drama. Whether you are a screenwriter a novelist, playwright or a filmmaker the rules of drama always apply. Take the drama out of any movie, and it becomes boring. Drama is the essence of interest in the story.
David teaches you how to take life’s strangest moments and turn them into compelling stories. For example, name the time your girlfriend or boyfriend broke up with you how is it different from someone else’s story. Did you find the answer? Good now write that.
David is not only going to teach you what a story is hes also going to include the ingredients of a great one — hes going to the first time you how to cut the fat of any story staying true to Aristotle’s rules.
David Mamet’s Teaching Style
This is my favorite part about this class in particular. This guy is hilarious. Every lesson has a joke that not only keeps you on your heels but aids in the overall teaching of the video topic. Some might say he talks like he writes, very witty with a pinch of dry humor. Overall this keeps the class entertaining so you won’t be falling asleep.
David teaches Drama by telling stories. Most of the lessons are wrapped up in a story itself to keep you enthralled. Each lesson might start with a joke or a story; then he will flat out tell you what he means just in case you didn’t get it the first time. But even with this method hes not repeating information. It’s like hes giving you the pieces of a puzzle thought a 12-minute video. So by the end, there wasn’t a word wasted.
Master Class Lessons
There are 26 lessons in this class each ranging from 7 to 22 minutes. those lessons are:
01 Introduction – 6:49
02 Purpose of Drama – 12:22
03 Purpose of Drama (Cont’d) – 8:10
04 Dramatic Rules – 11:47
05 Dramatic Rules (Cont’d) – 8:21
06 Story Ideas – 10:36
07 Character – 11:34
08 Plot – 16:13
09 Structuring the Plot – 13:48
10 Structuring the Plot (Cont’d) – 10:32
11 Case Study: Structuring the Plot – American Buffalo – 21:29
12 Case Study: Structuring the Plot – Glengarry Glen Ross – 21:44
13 Dialogue – 7:21
14 Dialogue (Cont’d) – 13:35
15 Narration & Exposition – 14:15
16 Scenes – 8:57
17 Writing Process – 9:26
18 Writing Process (Cont’d) – 12:26
19 The Audience – 9:28
20 Lies & Truth – 9:55
21 Lies & Truth (Cont’d) – 11:48
22 Actors – 11:42
23 Actors (Cont’d) – 7:27
24 Life of a Dramatist – 7:06
25 Life of a Dramatist (Cont’d) – 8:20
26 Closing – 7:27
Total runtime: 4 hours and 52 minutes.
1.) Basics to Story
One of the biggest pros of this whole class is that it teaches you story, which is the essence of screenwriting and playwriting. A lot of people brush over this just wanting to shoot the film and make the movie. If you don’t know what compelling conflict is then your movie will be trash.
2.) He can Teach
He can make complex ideas very simplistic. I remember watching these videos, and for the first time ever I understood what good dialogue really was. Something that seemed like a magic trick all of a sudden revealed itself. This is also true for other chapters like plot and the characters.
3.) Its a Beginners Course for Experts
Why I call this the beginning course for experts is because a lot of people write film books or make movies that don’t even understand the basic principles of a plot which makes them annoyingly boring. Most so-called experts that write film books don’t understand the need for these basics in this class there for they rewrite tired principles in a book for quick cash. Most people that teachers are not masters, that’s why they teach. Why is David different because hes still in demand.
1.) I wish it were longer
For some reason, it flew by to me, and I wish I had more. For instance, Aaron Sorkin class had 35 lessons a whole 9 videos more.
2.) No Student examples
I say this was comparing it to Aaron Sorkin’s masterclass which is loaded with examples from real students. He gives feedback right then and there about the stories they’re writing. Mamet doesn’t do this. He goes over two of his most famous works of his Glen Gary GlenRoss and American Buffalo.
3.) I can’t find the office hours
So in the master classes, the teachers have office hours where they log in live and talk to the students. For some reason this class has none. I can’t find them anywhere. Let me know after joining if you can for yourself. I don’t think he has any to be honest. But it was advertised like it was.
My experience with the class
I’ve never learned this much in one class before. Also including college, unfortunately. I am always feeling lost when it came to many aspects of a film, writing being one of them. I’ve never understood it. For me, I have always been an artist when It comes to movies meaning I wanted to learn color to be a colorist to influence the overall style of a piece. Just look here at my first film Shadow of the Oberon Moon.
No word is involved just the feeling is left. But because of this writing course, I feel confident enough to at least try my hand at writing. I understand drama I feel like my characters will be realistic. This class gave me the confidence to be a filmmaker or in other words a writer/Director.
Why I watched it 4 times
I’ve seen this class four times, and probably I will watch it more because it to me is masterful. It’s the building blocks of my screenwriting. After I’ve written something, I go back to this to make sure Its all shaved down and trim for producers. Since it is 26 lessons long you forget and revert to old ways. Rewatching this keeps your mind sharp on the story at hand.
What is Masterclass.com
Masterclass.com is a hub of professional information. Think of youtube if it had all paid content and looked professional. They add a new instructor every couple months. Anywhere from TV & Film to cooking. They recently just came out with there apple and android app that lets you learn on the go — making it very convenient for anyone on a train or long uber commute to work.
How much are these masterclasses?
Every single class they offer is here is $90.00. You will get access to this class forever or as long as the masterclass platform is around. Now that’s a deal. There’s something better than that. For $180.00 you can get access to every single masterclass for an entire year. This includes all the film and television classes.
All 12 filmmaking courses. If you are an indie filmmaker any and all information will be beneficial to you. As well as cooking, photography, games & sports and so much more you might be interested in learning.
What comes with it?
Along with the class, there is a comment section at the bottom of each video where you can interact with your fellow classmates. Bouncing ideas off each other and becoming stronger writers. Next, there are class workbooks that come with each lesson worked out by the instructor. They usually are summaries of the teaching and other material to help you work out your scripts as you along.
Finally, there are office hours that the instructor lays out to the students. Times where they are online to interact and ask questions. Yes, you can talk to David Mamet and ask him anything.
Why Take this class In the first place?
You should take this class because I guarantee there is something that’s holding your screenwriting back you might not be familiar with. If you’re not already hired on a show or someone hasn’t given you money for your movie you probably need this. Mamet will find that source of your stories problem and crush it. In one of the 26 lessons holds the answer to fixing your story or ultimately making it better.
When is a great time to take this class?
You should take this class right before writing your screenplay and right after. I say this because before writing you have an excellent idea in your head and its burning to express itself. You have so much energy that you end up writing on tangents and dead ends. You might write things that sounds cool but means nothing in the end. This class will ground you and help you find a core for this journey for your hero. Watch this after to reform your story make sure it’s tight and grounded. This alone will save you money on script note services.
How to take this class?
The first time you take this class does it at a slow pace. Don’t ever do it on the first day. The problem I had is I rushed through it. The information is meant to be compounded, and you can’t do that if your halfway through the course in a day but if you’re unsure I don’t suggest it. Watch about 30 minutes a day.
So if by now your not convinced and decide not to take the class I still want you to learn something from this post. I want you to take something away with you. So here are the key things I learned from this class:
1) Drama is all around you
Mamet has done everything from driving cabs to cold calling in a real-estate office. The inspiration for Glengarry Glen Ross came from that cold calling experience. Think about that before you write your next film. Then dramatize it, meaning make it more exciting than what happened. Example “I waited for the bus” is different than “I waited for the bus for 2 hours in the cold.”
2) Drama is to entertain not to inform
He breaks Drama down to its purest form a Joke or people sharing stories around a campfire. Not always is it to teach someone something but to entertain should be the first goal. If you can treat somebody and take away the burden of their consciousness for a while, you’ve done your job
3) Aristotle’s Rules are the dramatic structure
The hero has to be transformed from a beggar to a king or from king to a beggar, and the hero must undergo recognition and reversal there are more rules but just read Aristotle’s Poetics for that.
4) Drama is simple as Hell
A story needs only three things a beginning, a middle, and an end. Again think of the pot of a joke everything tends to the punchline.
5) Characters are only what they do other than that there nothing
All the audience knows about the role is what they do. Each scene should move each character closer to what the character wants. Does the character get it no then we have to go towards the next stage? Once the character gets what they wish to the movie is over.
Backs story is just procrastinating from what you need to be doing which is writing. “Actors used to ask where a character would’ve gone to school, or what was their favorite kind of car; It’s an excellent tool because it keeps them from rehearsing.
6) Dialogue is the icing on the cake
Mamet thinks narration and exposition are where good films go to die. People only talk to each other to get something from one another that’s it, and that’s all “They don’t speak to get or to give information. They speak to get a result.”
7) Just do it #NIKE
You could be envious of other writers, but you have your level of talent. “Do you have a girlfriend” “Yes” “is Brad Pit better than you” “Yes” “Then he should be going out with your girlfriend” “No.” In other words, focus on getting yours not what everyone else has.
In a moment I will shut up. You already had your mind made up whether this is a class for you by the first two paragraphs, so I just wanted to leave you with some final words. Smart men learn from there mistakes, wise men to learn from the mistakes of others. Learn from David on what not to do so it doesn’t take you decades to achieve what you know you can in years. Cheers.