Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Mamet's Three Magic Questions

I was skimming through a book by David Mamet called Bambi vs. Godzilla: On the Nature, Purpose, and Practice of the Movie Business and I found the following nugget on page 85:

"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 . . . is forced to go on to the next scene to get what he wants. . . . 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?"

Now, I'm not a huge fan of Mamet as a filmmaker; I find his pacing dreary and the acting wooden and way too mannered. He has, however, written some great scripts.

Regardless of his merits (or lack) as a filmmaker, what really interests me is the applicability of the "three magic questions" to the study and teaching of theater. Does this work as a good way to approach dramatic tension in Golden Age plays?

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