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David Hines [userpic]

David Mamet, I love you

March 23rd, 2010 (09:55 pm)
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David Mamet created the TV show "The Unit." He wrote notes to his writers. In all capital letters. As you would expect, these are gold.

You've heard of the Bechdel Test ("I only go to a movie if it satisfies three basic requirements. One, it has to have at least two women in it who, two, talk to each other about three, something besides a man"). Now there's the Mamet Corollary, which is:

ANY TIME TWO CHARACTERS ARE TALKING ABOUT A THIRD, THE SCENE IS A CROCK OF SHIT.


Other wise Mamet insights:

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.


Originally posted here, picked up here, and transcribed fully and legibly (IMPORTANT) here.

Originally posted on my DW. | comment count unavailable people have commented there. | Do so yourself, if you like.

Comments

Posted by: Amberley (amberley)
Posted at: March 24th, 2010 02:48 am (UTC)
Not just yes, but hell yes.

As you know, it's Mamet's world, and we're just living in it.

His book On Directing Film is short and excellent; highly recommended!

Posted by: David Hines (hradzka)
Posted at: March 24th, 2010 02:56 am (UTC)
Re: Not just yes, but hell yes.

Own it, dig it muchly. Though my favorite Mamet story of all time is from producer Art Linson's first book. Mamet had just won the Pulitzer for the play GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS, and Linson had decided he wanted Mamet to write the screenplay for the film of THE UNTOUCHABLES, which Linson was producing. So Linson flew out to Mamet's neck of the woods, and they went to dinner. The catch: Linson really wanted Mamet for the job, and had no idea how to sell him on it.

Linson had prepped extensively. He'd devoured information on Mamet, Mamet's career, Mamet's interests, thought of and discarded a thousand openings, and now David Mamet was looking at him with an expression of mild interest across the table in a restaurant, and Linson had no idea what to say. After an uncomfortable interval of groping for words, Linson said, "David, don't you think the right career move for somebody who just won the Pulitzer Prize is to adapt an old TV show like THE UNTOUCHABLES for a *shitload* of money?"

Mamet said, "Yes, I think so."

Linson said, "Good. Let's eat."

Edited at 2010-03-24 02:57 am (UTC)

Posted by: Amberley (amberley)
Posted at: March 24th, 2010 03:16 am (UTC)
Re: Not just yes, but hell yes.

That's a great story!

Now I can't help but imagine Mamet commenting on Spartacus: Blood and Sand.

Posted by: Sinanju (sinanju)
Posted at: March 24th, 2010 07:28 am (UTC)

Wow. "If you pretend the characters can't speak, and write a silent movie, you will be writing great drama."

Holy shit. When I stand in front of my PC tomorrow to write, that sentence is going to be tacked above my monitor. That one line will cut the hell out of a lot of dross in my writing.

Posted by: Richard D. Fox (rdfox)
Posted at: March 24th, 2010 03:30 pm (UTC)
Mechanical

Ever wonder what made "WALL-E" such a tour de force for Pixar? This--the main characters could make a few sounds, but for the most part, it was an almost-silent film.

Posted by: SithRose (sithrose)
Posted at: March 24th, 2010 03:41 pm (UTC)

Every bit of sound in the movie had *some* kind of meaning. There was no drivel. No random mouth diarrhea. No blatant "because we can" profanity.

They did something quite similar in Up, and it also worked astoundingly well.

(Of course, the brilliance of animating the robots' eyes may have had something to do with it too. That and the fact that it was a cute, sweet, even optimistic dystopian movie.)

(Deleted comment)
Posted by: HJ (hjcallipygian)
Posted at: March 24th, 2010 04:10 pm (UTC)

That is awesome.

Posted by: A large duck (burger_eater)
Posted at: March 24th, 2010 06:32 pm (UTC)
Cooking with Pooh

For the life of me, I can't imagine who he was shout-typing this at. Not his writers; if there's a pro TV writer out there who doesn't already know this remedial writing advice by heart, they'll be culled in the first 15 minutes. So it's certainly not advice he should be giving to writers.

Was it for the suits who kept trying to push changes on their scripts? A lecture for the writers they were supposed to "overhear?"

Was it for himself and his ego?

Hey, it's always good to go over the basics, but if I heard a hospital administrator tell a surgeon to be sure he sterilized the scalpel first, I'd think they were being a dick.

Posted by: Grey Bard (grey_bard)
Posted at: March 26th, 2010 03:25 am (UTC)

And yet, many tv series have these scenes.

Posted by: ((Anonymous))
Posted at: April 1st, 2010 05:24 am (UTC)
HELL YEA!!!!!!!!!

SOMEONE HAS TO MAKE THE SCENE DRAMATIC. IT IS NOT THE ACTORS JOB (THE ACTORS JOB IS TO BE TRUTHFUL).

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