Want to improve your dramatic writing skills? In this David Mamet Masterclass review, we explain what you can learn and if it’s worth it.
Are you trying to land a job as a screenwriter or playwright in Hollywood? There are few people more qualified to teach you a MasterClass on this topic than David Mamet. He wrote several world-renowned movies like Hannibal, The Untouchables, and Hoffa. You’ll notice these movies have one thing in common; they keep you on the edge of your seat. You’re always tense and never really know what’s coming next.
So if you want to sharpen your dramatic writing skills and hook your audience’s attention just like Mamet, then this MasterClass is for you. I spent almost 10 hours completing Mamet’s course and all the assignments that go with it, and in this review, I’ll share my honest opinion of this MasterClass with you.
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Who Is David Mamet and Why Should You Take His MasterClass?
Born on November the 30th, 1947, David Mamet is an American filmmaker, playwright, and author. During his long career, he won prestigious awards like the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and Best Screenplay Award.
However, he wasn’t born with this gift. Like you and me, Mamet had to learn how to write plays that people would pay to watch. He knows what it’s like to start from nothing, and in this MasterClass, he aims to help the viewer improve their dramatic writing skills. He covers basic topics like story ideas and building characters. He then moves to more advanced topics such as narration, working with actors, and structuring storylines.
Who Is This MasterClass For?
If you’re an aspiring author, screenwriter, or filmmaker, taking Mamet’s MasterClass is a must. This is because Mamet talks about the groundwork needed for a successful career in film. He covers screenwriting fundamentals while addressing exercises you can do to perfect your craft.
Even if you’re a copywriter and create ads and blog posts, you can take away a lot of valuable information from this MasterClass. Mamet reviews how to capture viewers’ attention, and you can use these teachings to sell your products.
What Is David Mamet’s MasterClass Like?
This MasterClass contains 26 video lessons that are four hours and 51 minutes long in total. The average lesson is around 10 minutes, but some case study chapters are 20 minutes. I found that this short format makes learning easy as you won’t have to tackle hour-long lessons at a time. Here are the titles and lengths of each video lesson:
- Introduction: 06:57
- Purpose of Drama: 12:22
- Purpose of Drama (Cont’d): 08:10
- Dramatic Rules: 11:47
- Dramatic Rules (Cont’d): 08:21
- Story Ideas: 10:36
- Character: 11:34
- Plot: 16:13
- Structuring the Plot: 13:48
- Structuring the Plot (Cont’d): 10:32
- Case Study: Structuring the Plot – American Buffalo: 21:30
- Case Study: Structuring the Plot – Glengarry Glen Ross: 21:44
- Dialogue: 07:21
- Dialogue (Cont’d): 13:05
- Narration & Exposition: 14:15
- Scenes: 08:57
- Writing Process: 09:26
- Writing Process (Cont’d): 12:02
- The Audience: 09:28
- Lies & Truth: 09:55
- Lies & Truth (Cont’d): 11:48
- Actors: 11:42
- Actors (Cont’d): 07:27
- Life of a Dramatist: 07:06
- Life of a Dramatist (Cont’d): 08:20
- Closing: 07:19
You’ll also find a PDF reference book that you can use to work through all the assignments and case studies. This is an amazing resource if you feel Mamet is moving too fast. You can go through the lessons in your own time.
How Much Does His Course Cost?
To access Mamet’s MasterClass, you must sign up for the MasterClass all-access pass. This pass costs $180 annually and allows you to watch all MasterClasse courses with zero restrictions. You’ll learn from some of the best filmmakers and actors, like Jodie Foster, Natalie Portman, and Werner Herzog.
If you aren’t a fan of MasterClass, you’ll be glad to know that they offer a 30-day money-back guarantee. All you have to do is contact the customer support team, ask for a refund, and you’re good to go.
What I Learned From The David Mamet MasterClass
Use Your Life Experiences For Story Ideas
The first lesson I learned is that you should take inspiration from your own life. You’re living through this drama first-hand, so who better to write about it than you? For example, Mamet mentions that when living in Chicago in his 20s, he played poker with a group of thieves. So he began writing about his adventures, and this is where the inspiration for American Buffalo came from.
Don’t Ignore Problems
A common mistake Mamet sees is writers glossing over and not addressing problems in the script. For instance, Mamet talks about the 2016 film Arrival, about aliens who come to Earth and want to communicate with us. But the movie never addresses exactly how we communicate with these aliens. They try to use fancy scientific terms, but at the end of the movie, the viewer is left wondering how the humans communicated with the aliens.
So never ignore problems in your script, regardless of its size. Writing an engaging story is about creating a problem and finding a creative solution that nobody saw coming; you don’t want to leave your audience hanging.
Learn By Writing Plots
Mamet is a big believer in learning by doing. You can only learn so much by watching a course. Most of your storytelling lessons will come from writing bad plots, making mistakes, and learning from these mistakes.
Don’t fall into the trap of analysis paralysis, and try to watch every course online. Use your life experiences to write plots and recognize areas for improvement. Everybody starts somewhere; it doesn’t matter how bad your writing is. You’ll reach your goals as long as you learn from your mistakes.
Give Every Character An Objective
The key to writing good dialogue is having a clear objective from the beginning. There’s nothing more entertaining than watching characters wanting something so bad and doing everything in their power to get it. This is where many writers fail. They’ll write dialogue just for the sake of writing dialogue, which comes across as stale and boring.
You’ll even find this in popular Hollywood movies. Characters will talk about points that have already been made. In other words, they are talking without a clear objective. Instead, give everyone an objective and only add something to the plot or dialogue if it helps your character achieve this objective.
Every Scene Must Answer Three Questions
According to Mamet, every scene must answer these three questions, or else it’s an incomplete scene:
- Who wants what from who?
- What happens if they don’t get it?
- Why now?
The first question introduces the characters in the scene and establishes a relationship between them. For example, Mark kidnapped Jane and phoned her husband, John, asking for a ransom. We know that Mark wants ransom money, Jane wants to escape to a safe place, and John wants his wife back.
The second question addresses urgency. What is a stake? If someone phones your main character telling them their wife is kidnapped, they’ll have a different energy level than if they are late for a meeting.
The last question tells the audience why the characters are acting now. What event triggered their actions and why? Using the example above, maybe John backstabbed Mark, and now he wants revenge.
My Testing Criteria
I spent almost 10 hours testing and reviewing this MasterClass. In these 10 hours, I used these criteria to see if it’s a valuable option for writers:
- Ease of learning: The first factor I looked at was how easy Mamet’s lessons are to understand. Although an instructor’s knowledge is essential, he must communicate this knowledge concisely.
- Knowledge: Next, I considered the lessons I learned during this MasterClass. I wrote down all the key teachings and noted how these lessons inspired my creative process.
- Real-world exercises: You can only learn so much from watching videos. Most of your learning will come from gaining real-life experience. So I completed the case studies to see how they benefited me.
- Additional tips: Lastly, I thought about how Mamet’s advice translated into other forms of writing, such as copywriting and content writing.
Why You Can Trust Me
I’ve been writing professionally for around five years now. During this time, I’ve created various types of content, from product reviews to how-to guides and sales copy. However, I wasn’t confident in my writing skills at the beginning of this writing journey, so I took countless writing courses. None of them were as valuable to me as MasterClass. MasterClass allowed me to learn from my idols and transfer this knowledge into my writing process.
Even today, I still use MasterClass to learn new skills, whether screenwriting, poetry, movie making, or songwriting. This experience with MasterClass gave me a good understanding of the platform. I used this knowledge as a baseline of what to expect and compared Mamet’s MasterClass against this baseline to see how valuable it is.
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David Mamet Teaches Dramatic Writing
The Bottom Line
Overall, I’m satisfied with the David Mamet Masterclass. His teaching style is easygoing, and the assignments allowed me to practice my storytelling skills. The only shortcoming is that Mamet doesn’t go as in-depth as other Masterclasses. He’d skim through topics quickly, sometimes leaving me with more questions than answers. However, it’s still a solid starting point for many aspiring screenwriters and playwrights. You’ll learn about the basic rules of dramatic writing, and you can always conduct your research to dive deeper into individual topics. Interested in learning more? Check out our Steve Martin MasterClass review!
- You gain insight into Mamet’s creative process
- The chapters are around five minutes long, making the lessons easy to understand
- His advice transfers well into copywriting and content writing
- The assignments provide real-life practice
- The lessons don’t dive deep into individual topics
- He doesn’t address how to land a job as a playwright