Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Quotations from Chairman Mamet, Part II

More quotations from David Mamet's book Bambi vs. Godzilla: On the Nature, Purpose and Practice of the Movie Business.
"As the writer changes, year to year, his or her perceptions and interests change. At twenty he is interested only in sex, at thirty in sex and money, at forty in money and sex, at sixty in money and validation, et cetera."
And this:
"The filmed drama (as any drama) is a succession of scenes. Each scene must end so that the hero is thwarted in pursuit of his goal -- so that he, as discussed elsewhere, is forced to go on to the next scene to get what he wants.

If he is forced, the audience, watching his progress, wonders with him, how he will fare in the upcoming scene, as the film is essentially a progression of scenes. To write a successful scene, one must stringently apply and stringently answer the following three questions:

1. Who wants what from whom?
2. What happens if they don't get it?
3. Why now?

That's it. As a writer, your yetzer ha'ra (evil inclination) will do everything in its vast power to dissuade you from asking these questions of your work. You will tell yourself the questions are irrelevant as the scene is "interesting," "meaningful," "revelatory of character," "deeply felt," and so on; all of these are synonyms for "it stinks in ice."
These magic questions and their worth are not known to any script reader, executive, or producer. They are known and used by few writers. They are, however, part of the unconscious and perpetual understanding of that group who will be judging you and by whose say-so your work will stand or fall: the audience."
And this:
"a. Make them wonder.
b. Answer their question in a way both surprising and inevitable."


David Nethery said...

Good quotes from a good book. I've enjoyed Mamet's other books such as his "On Directing Film".
Even when I don't totally agree with him he makes me think and that's the best thing I can ask for from a writer or film maker.

On Directing Film link

pappy d said...

That "surprising & inevitable" business is the real nut to crack in story. You can't be anticipating a character's behavior but you have to say in reaction, "Of course! Given everything I know about this guy, that's the only choice that he could have made."