Saturday, August 26, 2017

David Mamet Masterclass Review - Is It A Scam?


Review by Sam Longoria

There has never been a better time in the history of the world to be a Screenwriter. Today all the movies in the world are on YouTube. You can look at movies all day long as reference, if you want to.

You can E-Mail, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, anyone on the surface of the planet for guidance, or advice, or even a structured Mentorship.

Here’s where a seasoned Professional Viewpoint will help you understand what actually you are trying to accomplish, with your story and your screenplay.

If you want to find, and approach, and then learn from a seasoned Screenwriting Professional, it would be good if his work is celebrated, and he has picked up an Award or two. I am thinking here of the Pulitzer Prize.

By those criteria, it would be difficult to find a Screenwriter in higher esteem than David Mamet.

In any review, a good and standard bit of advice is, “do your due diligence.” Look for other’s opinions and put them to service, in forming your own opinion. Get out there, do your homework. Any money you earmark toward it is an investment, so shop, shop, shop!

The Masterclass is an excellent brand. For Actors, Dustin Hoffman teaches Acting, Werner Herzog teaches Filmmaking, and Steve Martin teaches Comedy. Many other experts, each teaches his own particular field.

Today, I’m here to tell you about “David Mamet Teaches Dramatic Writing.”
Mr. Mamet has written 17 books, 29 screenplays, and 36 plays. He has directed 11 films, some of which are my own favorites, like “House of Games,” “Things Change” and “State & Main.” His credentials are solid, he is a recognized authority, and the chance to learn from him is, in my view, most worthwhile.

The Masterclass videos have several levels: The video itself, a community discussion arrangement, the class structure to process the Interactive Assignments, and an “office hours” setup, where you can query Mr. Mamet himself, and receive an answer.

The class will be achieved over six weeks, at a cost of $90. Compared to a Film School at $20,000, or any number of higher-priced college courses or institute seminars, it is a remarkable value.

For $90 you get about six hours of video, to be seen and reviewed, as often as you like. That’s about $15 a week. If you bought a ticket to a David Mamet lecture to cover some of the same material (and they won’t let you record it), that alone is a serious improvement.

Mr. Mamet starts with the basics, at the very beginning of Literature and Drama, at Aristotle’s Poetics! I read it in college, and now that I’m older and know more, it is wonderful to see how it actually relates to the movies and screenplays that I love.

My years in Hollywood, and working on others’ and my own films during those years, have taught me the importance of a good script. "If it ain't on the page, it ain't on the stage."

I value simplicity and what is a good Screenwriting class. This one is good. All the elements, and their underlying principles. It’s all here. And you can back up and replay, until you get it, which in real life only tends to annoy instructors in a classroom.

Mr. Mamet begins by discussing his theory of Drama and its rules. “The story has a Premise, and a Hero. The Hero wants something, just one thing. That is his Objective. He has to go through Hell to get to it. Once he achieves his objective, the movie is over."

He says that Structure dictates that every scene must be necessary to the play, and every word of the Dialogue must be necessary to move the story along. Or else, out it should go. What is the purpose of Drama? Mr. Mamet is very clear. The purpose of Drama is to hold attention, and fill the Audience with curiosity, as to what happens next.

He says, “The purpose of Drama is not to make people better, or to teach. It is not the purpose of drama to be cautionary tales." He says something I've not heard elsewhere, that the story must challenge the Writer, to the point where he doesn’t necessarily know the ending of his own story, or its resolution.

He says, "If you can't think your way out of it, the Audience can't either.” So, your job is to push past your own boundaries, write yourself into a corner, and then discover how your Hero can get out of it. That is the wonder that comes crafting your Writing, and to get good at it, is an Achievement.

I have heard some of this before. “If you think you can cut something, cut it," is standard, both relating to Film Editing and to cleaning out the refrigerator. Mr. Mamet says this is a lesson his Editor reteaches him by removing what usually is his favorite scene. That process actually is painful, but he says “there is only “one rule: Don't be boring."

No obligatory scenes, either! (Scenes which are there only because we expect them, like the scene where the characters stand in a room and describe the plan they have to follow, in order to save the world). Every scene must have the Hero’s attempt to achieve his goal. That goal, and that scene, must fit the overall structure. The Hero’s Journey — from Point A to Point B.

Every scene, of every play or film you write, must answer three questions:
1) Who wants what, and from whom?
2) What happens if he doesn't get it?
3) Why now?

Mr. Mamet says the Story must force a change in the Hero. “To manipulate the character is to manipulate the audience and I never manipulate the audience."

That may not be his intent, and I’m sure he probably wouldn’t call his Story Structure “manipulation,” but I sure have seen Mr. Mamet steer his Audience exactly where he wants them to go, even if it’s by causing a vacuum without comment, which leads rather than pushes them. I admire him for that, actually.

Class Assignments are clear and recognizable Screenwriting exercises. They require the Screenwriter to take actions which reveal his motives, and the forces which drive his Characters and Story.

Mr. Mamet has defined his Writing principles, and then refers to some of his most successful works, like “Glengarry Glen Ross,” Oleanna,” and “American Buffalo.” These now are in stark relief, and one can see how they were put together. Story and Structure, Dialogue, Action, and Exposition.

This is a good course, this is what you came here to learn. I think one of the strengths of it is, I felt I was in a room with Mr. Mamet, and he is intent on imparting to you what you want to know.

There's zero chatter or Audience distraction. We need to learn this to Write a great Screenplay, and here that is. What you need to know. Bing bang! It is most excellent.

Now, when I told friends I wanted to take this course, and learn from David Mamet, they said, in varying degrees of loudness:

“Why do you want to do that? These online class thingies are all a SCAM! They get your money, and you just hear some talk, and then you don’t really get anything. Everything there can be found for free on the Internet.”

Well, I took the course, and my friends did not. I know for sure what I learned is not found for free, unless one is privileged to sit at Mr. Mamet’s table at dinner for a series of evenings, and for some unknown reason, he tells you what you need to prevail, as his competition in a most competitive endeavor. That is, in my experience, most unlikely.

He said what he would teach, and he taught it to me. Entirely honest, in my view. Certainly not a scam. I didn’t discard my friends, but I know I’m better prepared for the Screenwriting game than they are. That is a hundred bucks well spent.

Here's my biggest Caveat Emptor: Know where you are now, and where you want to be, and with a few evenings of enjoyable video watching, and diligent follow-up you'll enjoy doing, Mr. Mamet will teach you what are the steps, and how to take them. He will teach you quickly and well.

Considering that your Screenplay, when it is purchased, is worth around $150,000 I think Mr. Mamet’s Dramatic Writing Course is a lot of value for only $90.

Mr. Mamet’s Screenwriting Course is linked here to

david mamet
online course

This post contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you 
make a purchase after clicking on my links. Bless you. Gesundheit!