David Mamet on How to Write for Television

"If the scene is not dramatically written, it will not be dramatically acted."

Star Wars prequals! Especially that "Revenge of the Kiwis" one.

Posted by at March 27, 2010 2:42 PM

Excellent... Thank you for this little piece of knowledge.

Posted by Captain Dave at March 27, 2010 3:06 PM

A man is leaving a Manhattan theater when a bum accosts him on the street, and asks him for a dollar.

The theater-goer replies, "In the words of Shakespeare, 'Neither a borrower nor a lender be.'"

To which the bum replies, "In the words of David Mamet, 'F*ck you.'"

Posted by at March 27, 2010 6:34 PM

Flame wars, huh?

I can do that.


Posted by jwm at March 27, 2010 8:45 PM

"Listen up, you prolapsed blathering rectum recycling dinosaur dung from your hovel in the downtown trailerpark of Upper Babboon's Asshole, California, I believe you need to learn a few of the actual facts about this issue which you seem to have overlooked because you are a flaming fascist piece of junk that I wouldn't shit on if you were the last wheat seed in the known universe."

Oh, really? Well, calling that mass of revolting sludge of yours a story about how to write better is like calling a bucket of putrid, stinking, maggot-infested garbage a steak dinner. Like rotting garbage, there’s occasionally some recognizable trace of what it was supposed to be, which only makes the rest of that disgusting sack of offal posing as information just so much worse. Then you have the utter gall to expect people to praise your efforts, as though you actually made some effort instead of just scribbling down your brain drool and contaminating the Net with it. Nobody with the brain of a body louse would pretend that this item displayed any intelligence. In fact, I owe your lice an apology for saying that. I’ve had toenail fungus that was smarter than you. I’ve read better advice in random combinations of words made from old bills that have gone through the paper shredder. You would have to get smarter to become a drooling idiot. Whoever deluded you into believing you could write ought to be flogged. Not only do you expose unsuspecting readers to the foul mess of slaughterhouse waste you call helpful advice, but you cry like the whiny little baby you are when people don’t tell you it’s the best counsel ever. I bet you’re crying right now. You’re an infected boil on the buttock of a diseased whore. Your momma curses herself daily for ever letting a stupid brat like you be born. I hope you someday have the decency to blow your own head off and put yourself out of our misery.


P.S. I stole and revised the material from Wandering Critic

Posted by viktor silo at March 27, 2010 10:05 PM

Dear Mr. Vanderleun: Disagree with David Mamet on dramatic writing? Dangerous. Nevertheless, being doomed, I march up to the scaffold, adjust the noose, then see your Mamet with Charles Beaumont. Beaumont wrote for the original TWILIGHT ZONE, and knew something about writing for the screen. His summation of all his years in Hollywood? "Writing in Hollywood is like climbing a mountain of cow flop in quest of one perfect rose. Those who reach the summit pluck the rose---and find they've lost their sense of smell."

The old boy knew something, more than Mamet does. The DailyKos has tons of traffic, but the price they pay in understanding is obvious. I will now raise you with H.L. Mencken, who knew something about attracting audiences. From his preface to A MENCKEN CHRESTOMATHY:

"Let them [critics who objected to the word CHRESTOMATHY] continue to recreate themselves with whodunits and leave my vocabulary and me to my own customers, who have all been to school."


Let the trap swing.

Sincerely yours,
Gregory Koster

Posted by Gregory Koster at March 27, 2010 10:35 PM

Interesting. Alas, I'm not a writer, I mostly just make blog comments, and I'm not sure how that relates to writing for TV.

I'll try to keep Mamet's advice in mind, though.

Posted by rickl at March 28, 2010 12:11 AM

And oddly enough, I find The Unit unbearable to sit through yet I can watch reruns of NCIS indefinitely and often shout at the TV "that's genius storytelling."

Posted by bonny kate at March 28, 2010 7:43 AM

Drama is when a character, on an ordinary day, turns a corner and meets face to face with a conflict that pressurizes and transforms him and makes it impossible for him to ever unturn that corner. At the end, he is elsewhere.

The audience goes there with him. In the greatest of dramas, they can never unturn that corner either.

Posted by Martin McPhillips at March 28, 2010 8:16 AM

Tonto not realizing that the Lone Ranger had disguised himself as a pool table, racked his balls.


Posted by toad at March 28, 2010 10:28 AM

Blah, blah, blah. Horace gave writers the perfect advice for success thousands of years ago. It still works, but few take heed.

Omne tulit punctum qui miscuit utile dulci, lectorem delectando pariterque monendo.

Posted by Helen RW at March 28, 2010 8:42 PM


Here, I'll do the dirty work:

"He wins every hand who mingles profit with pleasure, by delighting and instructing the reader at the same time."

Posted by vanderleun at March 28, 2010 9:43 PM

I am so going to steal this idea.

I have started my own blog recently. It's emphasis is on work I do in kitchen design and remodeling. This little part of the internets could definitely use some Mametfication in its posts and comments. Everybody is so nice to each other. This has to stop in the interest of driving traffic.

If you go take a look, you will see that the thefts have already begun.

Posted by Mike at March 29, 2010 6:50 AM

As I said at your shop: "Go for it. Attitude pays off more than gratitude or giving kitchen designers latitude with platitude."

Posted by vanderleun at March 29, 2010 11:18 AM

One respondent here positions NCIS at the top of the mountain. He's kidding, right?

Having watched every episode of Bones and Criminal Minds three times I have lately moved to Law & Order, which shifts mid-episode from formulaic to ADA Sam Waterston, who doesn't always get his way or his man.

Of course I only watch this because I can't find The Gong Show. Did they take it off the air? When did that happen?

Posted by Terry at March 29, 2010 12:02 PM

Great piece - though I do find it depressing that I seem to violate every one of its directives. Alas and alack. Thanks for posting it.

Posted by GW at March 31, 2010 10:59 AM