Before I get into the second week review of David Mamet’s Masterclass, let me be clear about what I consider great value.
Great value for me is nitty-gritty. It’s a world class writer, director, and teacher getting thoroughly stuck into the mechanics of storytelling.
If you’re ready to concentrate and actually learn something, you will love this MasterClass.
Personally, I love learning the mechanics of writing (and distrust any writers who scorn doing so). I’m currently writing yet another novel and having an intricate understanding of structure helps me write better. It helps me understand what I’m doing and makes me do it better.
If you’re looking for pure entertainment, you’re money is better spent on a night at the theatre.
That’s not to say David Mamet’s MasterClass isn’t entertaining. It is.
David Mamet is insanely charismatic, endlessly interesting, intelligent, and funny. But it can be easy to look at the MasterClass trailer, see the crazy good production value and expect this to be a product you just passively consume.
You can do that. But you’ll get way more out of the Masterclass if you treat it like a course and be an active learner.
That means doing the homework assignments!
That also means logging into the MasterClass hub and joining the community. MasterClass have done a fantastic job of installing a real community around their courses. When you buy a course, you’re not just getting the video lessons, you’re also getting an active, live, ongoing community with more assignments, webinars, chats, extras, bonuses, and more.
It really is a sweet deal if you’re a writing geek like me.
Now let’s get into the review for week two of the David Mamet Teaches Dramatic Writing MasterClass.
David Mamet MasterClass Review (Week 2)
I’m taking the David Mamet MasterClass concurrently with reading a few writing manuals (books by Donald Maass are always a winner) but I find myself enjoying the video format more.
There’s something more primal, personal, encouraging, and effective about having a mentor talking straight to you about the art of storytelling.
Maybe I’m more of a visual and auditory learner but I definitely love the process of having a class loaded up on my computer, pausing to take notes, and then finishing the week with the homework assignments, whilst looking forward to the next week.
As for the content of week two, David Mamet covered some great stuff:
- Character: what character is, the Aristotelian view of character (we are what we repeatedly do), character objectives, writing backstory, how to effect change in character.
- Plot: what plot is, precipitating events, second act problems (the mid-life crisis), getting to the real problem, how to learn plots by writing plots, how to find the plot.
- Structuring the plot: how to plot the journey, three uses of the knife (three act structure), American Buffalo case study.
David Mamet goes in-depth in the longest lessons I’ve experienced so far in MasterClass and nails the big two – character and plot – and rounds it off with a very involved analysis of American Buffalo so you can see how the mechanics work.
Two things continues to astound and impress me about the David Mamet MasterClass:
- The metaphors Mamet uses in order to teach writing.
- The range of literary history and theory Mamet crams into every sentence.
As I talked about in my week one masterclass review, Mamet compared writing to Jiu-Jitsu and comedy. In this week, Mamet teaches plot through aerial and naval navigation and drawing a big map on a board. Don’t worry, it’s very easy to understand.
Mamet always backs his points up from great philosophers from Aristotle to Daffy Duck (that’s right, Daffy’s a philosopher according to Mamet).
I love Mamet’s approach to character. It’s purely objective based. Mamet takes the view that creating character bibles and backstories is simply distraction from the main, important, difficult job of actually writing the damn story.
Mamet’s lessons on plot were very useful for me. I feel like I’ve learned a lot about character already but plot continues to elude and baffle me.
I’m happy to know I’m not the only one. Mamet believes you have to relearn plot with every story you write and even he finds it difficult.
The difficulties of the hero are the same thing as the difficulties of the writer.
It’s hard to describe what’s so great about Mamet’s approach to plot unless you’ve taken the lesson itself. But he basically takes this huge corkboard and massive sheet of butcher paper and shows the progression of the story as a journey – which is way more useful that looking at individual scenes, which can easily lose their way.
And, of course, in true Mamet style, his way of teaching is practical, visual, easily comprehensible and filled with an eclectic mix of literary and pop culture references from Dante to Shakespeare to the blues musician Leadbelly.
I particularly love Mamet’s recount of Leadbelly’s advice about writing the blues:
- Verse one/act one: You use a knife to cut some bread to feed yourself so you have the energy to get together with your girlfriend that evening.
- Verse two/act two: You use a knife to shave in the evening so you look good for your girlfriend.
- Verse three/act three: You arrive at your girlfriend’s house to find her in bed with another guy and you use the knife to cut her lying heart out.
I wish I could keep writing about everything contained within the course but the David Mamet Masterclass is overflowing with great lessons that demand experiencing yourself.
Am I having a blast?
Am I learning a lot?
Would I recommend you take the David Mamet Masterclass?
If you’ve got $90 to invest in your craft, definitely.
Like I always say to people though, if you can’t afford it, don’t slap it on your credit card and go into debt. You can study Aristotle’s Poetics, watch Shakespearean plays, and analyse Mamet’s work yourself. When you can afford it, get it.
I personally like to put some of my savings each month into an “education budget” that will help advance my writing career. It’s not too hard to save an extra hundred or so each month, especially if you cut out getting blind drunk at the club twice a month.
So that’s what I think of week two of the David Mamet Dramatic Writing Masterclass. Time to get into the third week! The syllabus is an analysis of Glengarry Glen Ross, writing dialogue (yay – this is why I bought the course), narration, and exposition.
More updates coming soon!
Keep writing, my friends.