March 25, 2010

"1) WHO WANTS WHAT? 2) WHAT HAPPENS IF HER DON’T GET IT? 3) WHY NOW?"

This is what you must ask yourself — scream to yourself? — about every scene in your screenplay, according to David Mamet.

Hey, I'm going to ask that about every scene in my life.  WHAT HAPPENS IF HER DON’T GET IT?

50 comments:

William T Sherman said...

Don't &%#@* with Mamet.

ricpic said...

If Mister Toad does not a motor car get he will tear down Toad Hall brick by brick!

Leland said...

If he has problems logging in; he should check that his "capslock" key is pushed.

Freeman Hunt said...

Good advice. Perfect timing since Script Frenzy starts on the first of April.

ricpic said...

Correction: If Mister Toad does not a motor car get HER will tear down Toad Hall brick by brick! Now!!

AllenS said...

Who he Mamet?

Chip Ahoy said...

Then each instance can be tweeted or posted on Facebook as my relatives do along with poorly lit phone camera snaps of an one of the five different ways they've found to mug for the lens.

Chip Ahoy said...

an = any

Lem said...

Do you wanna gossip or do you wanna shoot somebody?

Spartan (2004)

Balfegor said...

On the one hand, this all sounds like excellent advice.

On the other, writing it all in caps, except for the occasional bit all in lower caps, makes him seem like he's 14 and/or one of those cranks who sends out paranoid spam emails.

David Mamet? Is he liberal or conservative? Need to know that before commenting on his screenwriting advice and his strange use of pronouns.

My vague recollection is that he's one of those liberals who got mugged by reality. But I may be confusing him with another one of those modern playwrights. Since I don't go to plays, they all kind fo flow together. So he may be a very conventional bien-pensant sort of liberal.

But that has nothing to do with quality writing.

Alex said...

He's a Commie:

David Mamet on Huffington Post

EIDOLON said...

"BLUE-SUITED PENGUINS" SEEMS A BIT CLICHE FOR A WRITER INSTRUCTING WRITERS. MAYBE ARMANI MARMOTS OR WORSTED MOUNTAIN MICE?

Jeremy said...

AllenS said..."Who he Mamet?"

Duh.

Alex - "He's a commie."

Duh.

reader_iam said...

David Mamet: Glengarry Glen Ross, Speed-the-Plow, The Verdict, Wag the Dog ... for some examples.

Also: Why I Am No Longer a 'Brain-Dead Liberal'

Lamar63 said...

@ Reader_Iam

Dont have firefox but the new comments section almost always crashes my Blackberry.

ricpic said...

Will this Hemingway her-man crap never end?!

rhhardin said...

Thurber:

"In Chapter I, first paragraph, Dr. Shellow gives the dictionary definition of "personality" as follows: "The sum total of traits necessary to describe what is to be a person." Unless I have gone crazy reading all these books, and I think I have, that sentence defines personality as the sum total of traits necessary to describe an unborn child. If Dr. Shellow's error here is typographical, it looms especially large in a book containing a chapter that tells how to acquire reading skill and gives tests for efficiency in reading...If Dr. Shellow used this system in reading the proofs of her book, the system is apparently no good."

Bryan said...

David Mamet has come out as a conservative and thanks to reader_iam for the link. Judging by that piece, it sounds like he has been reading Thomas Sowell. Good for him. Oh, and that "her don't get it" looks to me like a word-processing error. Y'know, when you cut some words from a sentence and forget to change the grammar accordingly...

lemondog said...

if mamet filmed his memo, would it be an expositional crock-of-shit or drama?

ricpic said...

Mamet. Meh. What about this Jesse James dude: married to Sandra Bullock and with mistresses out the whazoo. Judging from his picture (nothing much) the guy must have an enormous schlong. Discuss.

Henry said...

1) WHO GET IT? 2) WHAT THE WHAT? 3) WHERE THE TURDS? This is what to ask about every Althouse comments section.

HKatz said...

Though I think capslocks are off-putting, I did like this question:

HOW DOES ONE STRIKE THE BALANCE BETWEEN WITHHOLDING AND VOUCHSAFING INFORMATION? THAT IS THE ESSENTIAL TASK OF THE DRAMATIST.

Also, for those of you claiming he's a commie, don't you remember his article last spring in the Village Voice?
Why I am no longer a 'brain dead liberal'
http://www.villagevoice.com/2008-03-11/news/why-i-am-no-longer-a-brain-dead-liberal/

My impression of David Mamet, and of course it may be incorrect, is that he's reached a state of mind in his life where he's not too worried about what others think of him.

HKatz said...

Sorry, two springs ago...

(Must remind self: the year is 2010, not 2009.)

ricpic said...

I always vouchsafe, with or without the goods.

Jeremy said...

HKatz - "My impression of David Mamet, and of course it may be incorrect, is that he's reached a state of mind in his life where he's not too worried about what others think of him."

I agree, but I also think that anyone who's followed Mr. Mamet's career knows that he's never been that concerned.

Joe said...

If Mamet wrote and/or directed it, I won't watch it.

Jeremy said...

One element of what he's written here is that it directly relates to writing a "teleplay" versus a "screenplay." He's basically telling his writers to "get to it."

There's nowhere near the time to establish characters or even plot in a teleplay.

An hour show has about 44-46 minutes of television screen time. A film can run from 90 minutes to more than 4 hours.

Jeremy said...

Joe said..."If Mamet wrote and/or directed it, I won't watch it."

Yeah, you certainly wouldn't want to waste your time watching "The Verdict" or "Speed The Plow" or "Glengarry Glen Ross" or "The Prisoner" or "The Edge" or "House Of Games" or "The Untouchables" or "Hoffa."

And I bet he loses sleep over your boycott.

bagoh20 said...

I never read that Mamet article in the Voice before. Surprisingly he gets a lot of the conclusions right despite having about half the facts wrong. Listening to NPR takes a long time to rinse out, but at least he in the shower now. Good for him and it sounds like it makes him happy. It has that effect on most people mugged by reality

Methadras said...

Is this ebonics?

Saint Croix said...

Mamet is awesome. His best movie? State and Main.

Saint Croix said...

Sue me in the World Court.

David said...

If Her don't get it, maybe Her go get it with someone else. (The plot of numerous screenplays.)

MamaM said...

The fact that most of the time "her" seems to get it, is what makes this blog interesting.

But so is her willingness to act as if she doesn't and encourage comment, speculation, and consideration.

Interesting link, but then I enjoy information and drama.

Calypso Facto said...

David's simply espousing common spousal knowledge:

What happens when her don't get it? She ain't happy. And if Momma ain't happy, ain't NOBODY happy.

And certainly the making of good play...

Calypso Facto said...

And Reader, I haven't had any Firefox issues...

Any new add-ons?

E.M. Davis said...

"One element of what he's written here is that it directly relates to writing a "teleplay" versus a "screenplay." He's basically telling his writers to "get to it."

There's nowhere near the time to establish characters or even plot in a teleplay.

An hour show has about 44-46 minutes of television screen time. A film can run from 90 minutes to more than 4 hours."

This is an interesting point, however, I would counter by offering that most TV dramas (such as The Unit) have 23 total hours each season to set up and define characters, and plots.

I think he's really stressing that there are better ways to illuminate the audience rather than the conventional expository scenes so prevalent in procedural-type shows like The Unit.

wv: Comine. Like Raguso.

Lynne said...

Ok, I realize this is not going to make me Miss Popularity, but I'm going to 'out' myself.
I studied theatre in school. (Yes, I'm now crouching behind a large piece of furniture, awaiting the rotten tomatoes)
The writers posting here are exactly correct, as is Mamet.We were taught to bring to every script exactly what Mamet described: you pick over it with a fine toothe comb, sifting, discovering which character wants to do what to whom, and why. You're taught to look for the means the characters are using to manipulate each other: fear. flattery. lies. pity. And then figure out just exactly what your character wants the most and just how far they'll go to get it.
Who wants what?
What if they don't get it?
Why ?

The reason I mention this is because, long past my school years, it's still a very useful tool. Every time someone says they've discovered a new 'meme' in a political narrative, they are using the very same skills I was taught. Every time anyone begins to speculate about the true motivations of any politician, they are using the same tools.
Sifting for ultimate motivation, manipulative technique, and intensity of desire are tools that can be brought to any form of printed word, and often to spoken word as well.

They are very, very handy.
And I might add that successful politicians excel at them.

Lynne said...

FWIW-
My background in theatre is partlywhat put me off the Obama campaign from the get-go.
The self-conscious cadence of the speechifying, the fainting ladies at the rallies, the Greek columns in the stadium- none of that stuff was ever new to me.
Watching so many other people fall for it was frightening.

reader_iam said...

Everything old is new again.

Sixty Grit said...

"We're adding a little something to this month's sales contest. As you all know, first prize is a Cadillac Eldorado. Anybody want to see second prize?
[Holds up prize]
Second prize is a set of steak knives. Third prize is you're fired."

Awesome quote. That's all the Mamet I know, need to know or want to know.

reader_iam said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
reader_iam said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Beta Conservative said...

Mamet has a new play on Brodway about (and called, I think) Race. I would like to see it later this year when I visit my East Coast daughter.

I have always enjoyed the crisp pace of his work.

former law student said...

I think he typed the whole thing out in one continuous burst. That explains the extraneous R, the lack of apostrophes, and the ALLCAPS.

Or... could this be the result of a speech-to-text conversion?

Paul said...

Bryan said... David Mamet has come out as a conservative

I think Mamet is a liberal who is occasionally appalled by the lunacy of other liberals. I don't think that makes him a conservative, but at least he deserves some credit for being appalled.

His play "Race" does not challenge pc thinking one iota. Who's the bad guy at the end? The white guy, of course. Otherwise, liberals wouldn't go.

Pete said...

"What happens if her don't get it?"

The new Althouse banner headline.

veni vidi vici said...

"If Mamet wrote and/or directed it, I won't watch it."

really? that's mighty worldly of you.

While I generally don't pay attention to such things and was thus surprised by the list (the Untouchables???) someone posted in response to your declaration, the one thing by him I know of as "by him" is that film from the early 90's about the homicide in an orthodox Jewish enclave; I think it was called "Homicide". It was really good.

don't much care about what his politics are, frankly. more importantly being her get it what if's.

if you know what i mean.


wv: "crotalc" -- What people with crow's feet put between their toes.

Balfegor said...

Or... could this be the result of a speech-to-text conversion?

Shouting into the microphone, then?

ken in sc said...

Did no one think that her was supposed to be hero, since he was talking about the hero right before that?