I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw the announcement: David Mamet Teaches Dramatic Writing Masterclass.
But when I saw that MasterClass managed to snag David Mamet too, my jaw was literally on the floor.
Edit: I have now reached week 3 of the David Mamet MasterClass and I’m blown away. It was the best week so far and I’m very happy I invested in this course. Week 3 deals with dialogue and exposition. It’s a must-watch for the beginning and intermediate writers. Check out my week 3 review here.
David Mamet has been my writing hero for over 10 years.
I spent my teenage years visiting the theatre to absorb plays like Speed-the-Plow and Glengarry Glen Ross. I pored over Mamet's scripts into the early hours of the morning trying to unlock the secret to his masterful dialogue. I put on plays and acted out different Mamet characters just to feel the dialogue in my mouth.
And now the Pulitzer Prize winning playwright, director, screenwriter, and personal hero of mine is sitting down in front of the camera in the longest Masterclass yet (6 hours) to spill everything he knows about the craft.
Needless to say, I dived right in. And so far, I'm blown away.
If you're not already familiar with David Mamet's work, here are a few plays and films that you should totally check out:
- The Spanish Prisoner
- Glengarry Glen Ross
- The Untouchables
- American Buffalo
Notice the dialogue? Mamet is the master of writing speech like street music. Gritty melodies? Check. Realistic and sharp as a knife? Check. Every syllable pregnant with meaning? Oh, check.
If you know me, you know I am obsessed with dialogue. So who better to learn from than the legend of dialogue, David Mamet himself?
To be upfront, this review contains affiliate links. I loved this masterclass so much that I wanted to make it one of the few products I officially recommend. I wrote this review before promoting it and this review certainly is not paid for but I'll get a commission if you buy based on my recommendation, which I then use to keep this site up and running.
David Mamet Teaches Dramatic Writing Masterclass Review (Week 1)
With the other Masterclass courses, it took some deliberation before handing over the cash. After all, $90 is a big enough price tag that most people have to think about it.
Even if you subscribe to the philosophy that you would have to pay David Mamet a hell of a lot more than that for him to teach you for several hours across a six-week course.
It took a couple of days before I decided to buy the Aaron Sorkin Masterclass. About a week before I bought the Werner Herzog Masterclass. And several months before I finally bought the James Patterson Masterclass.
But the David Mamet Teaches Dramatic Writing Masterclass?
It took less than 1 minute to decide 'yes'.
Having already taken several Masterclasses, I already knew that the quality wouldn't be in question. The company have delivered a stellar product in terms of production and content every single time. Coupled with the fact that it's THE DAVID MAMET, it was a pretty easy decision.
And the first week has already exceeded my expectations and is on track to be my favourite Masterclass so far.
The course opened with breathtaking production value - sound, lighting, set - that physically gave me chills and was a nice glimpse of the quality to come.
In the first week of the David Mamet Masterclass, we covered:
- The purpose of drama: entertainment, myth, and the effect of drama.
- Dramatic rules: beginning with Aristotle's rules and unities, moving through the hero's journey, how to edit, and which rules to master.
- Story ideas and themes: case studies drawing from Mamet's American Buffalo, Sexual Perversity in Chicago, and Oleanna.
This might be the most comprehensive Masterclass so far.
Mamet really goes in depth and gives a solid grounding in the theories of drama and then shows you exactly how you can apply the theories to your own writing.
He analyses the systemic study and development of writing in a way I haven't heard before - namely, discussing a unified field theory where we can regularise the way we perceive with the way that we write. And write because we understand the way that humans perceive.
In the first lesson of week one alone, Mamet hits hard on:
- And structure
There are whole lessons devoted to these topics in week 2 (which I'm already getting stuck into) and yet week 1 gives you a thorough enough grounding to immediately go off and write.
Mamet, like Sorkin, goes heavy on the rules of drama. In fact, I think he goes a little heavier. Many of the lessons are split into several videos, making this a much longer, more detailed masterclass.
Mamet's belief is that if you nail a few core principles of drama - such as Aristotle's unities - you can mess everything else up and still have a pretty good story.
He goes into great depth about exactly what story is and, even more importantly, what story is not.
This has been extremely useful for my writer's mindset and it immediately helped reign in a few hippy-dippy ambitions I've had recently to 'teach a lesson' through my stories (a big no-no).
Another aspect that I love about the David Mamet Teaches Dramatic Writing Masterclass is how he makes comparisons between storytelling and joke-telling. This isn't a cursory analogy. Mamet goes deep on this and creates an extremely effective mnemonic for writers to remember exactly what they should be doing when telling a story.
Mamet also draws comparisons between writing and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. This is the first I've heard of anyone doing this and it stood out. In BJJ, just like in writing, if you master 5 basic moves, you will be unbeatable.
The David Mamet Masterclass has been a goldmine of information so far. I've learned so many cool and practical things (e.g. always save your biggest laugh for the second act; remind the audience who they love and hate at the beginning of the second act; stop giving your best lines to secondary characters; and more). And it's only the first week of the masterclass!
I can't wait to keep progressing with this course.
Masterclass arouses two conflicting emotions in me:
- I want to binge it and tear through the course because it's so beautifully presented and the information is so entertaining and educational.
- I want to savour it and slowly sponge it up over a long period of time.
Luckily I can do both because when you purchase the course, you purchase it for life.
This is great because I like to go through the Masterclass following the six-week structure and take notes but I like to give a lot longer time, care, and attention to the assigned homework.
Would I recommend the David Mamet Teaches Dramatic Writing Masterclass to a fellow budding writer?
In a heartbeat.
Invest in yourself. Invest in your craft. Take the plunge. And reap the reward.
Make sure you let me know what you think of the Masterclass. Whenever I take these Masterclasses, I always love to hear from people who got tons out of the course too. I'm hoping to meet some likeminded people and make some writing friends so let me know!
November 2017 Update: Now, for $180, you can get access to the entire MasterClass course library with the All Access Pass. This is a total non-brainer and incredible value for money. Just check out their line-up.