View Full Version : Mamet film making theory

01-03-2005, 10:27 PM
Anyone study Mamet's ideas of directing? I know he is controversial, so I must admit there's something I like about his wiley nature.

What I really enjoy is his book, On Directing Film. I've read over about 20 times & always find something new in it.

To me it's the best book out there because he focuses on understanding the essence of the scene, each beat and using theory of montage to build the scene in uniflected shots.

I find his questions are to the bone and cut short shallow analysis.

01-03-2005, 11:04 PM
Interesting, I always thought Mamet as a writer than a director.

Does he mention anything about directing actors in that book?

01-03-2005, 11:19 PM
Yes, keep em simple & direct to their objective and make sure they don't help the picture, in other words, be simple.

Actors are just a part of the overall architecture of a motion picture story. They have a placein how the story is told, but the cuts...(not the shots, the cuts).... (remember... theory of montage) will tell the story, the actors don't.

Actors just need to be direct and go after what their character is after. Each character wants something, everything else doesn't matter, they just need reach their objective. Conflict will occur and ..wha-la! we have drama.

The director will direct the story through the cuts using the juxtaposition of shots.

01-04-2005, 01:11 AM
Ya.. I always thought Mamet was a actors director, he probably goes more detailed about it ?

01-04-2005, 06:04 AM
"What do you want? How are you going to get it?" is a somewhat universal concept in acting and directing that is often lost.

I also understand what you're saying about the cuts, but I really think that more defines presentation then story. Of course, for mamet, the presentation is largely the story...for others, this is not the case, which is why he can be seen as controversial.

01-04-2005, 10:45 AM
Mamet's writing is so precise that maybe directing actors seems to be somewhat a technical exercise in blocking, getting the rhytms of the dialogue, etc. It's all about the plotting for Mamet, which makes sense when he says that the cutting is what will define the story. I wouldn't say it's the right or wrong directing philosophy, but for a Mamet script, I think it works.

01-04-2005, 11:17 AM
Directing is about directing the presentation of a story (at least it is to me). Directing actors is one part of the overall puzzle. Directing is really about interpreting the story script and putting together the shot list.

Hitchcock use to tease and say, he could write up the shot list & have someone go film it and it'd still be his film.

Directing is about creating the plan, shots, feel, presentation of the story. It's really in the storyboarding, shot list phase where the vast amount of the work is. The work needs to be completed prior to production, because once you're on set, you have no time to figure things out.

After pre-viz.... find the locations, actors, etc... schedule it & shoot it according to the plan,
Remember these guys are edit in camera type thinkers...the tough difficult approach that comes from either writing or editing...esstentially they're one & the same craft. Their approach is somewhat different than many film makers.

Let me use a Mamet example (if I can reacall) to illustrate what I can remember of his philosophical approach to directing the film. This is only a tiny portion of his view.

Take a nature documentary. Shots are collected from all sorts of occurances, such as: a shot of a wolf, another shot could be of a large number of birds suddenly flying up off the ground, another shot of a deer quickly lifting it's head, another of a young fawn scrambling away, another of a crow in the tree tops calling out, another of ... you get the idea.

These shots could have come from different places hundreds of miles apart, taken months/ even years apart from one another... they are basically random shots. Using montage we simply put them together (nothing revolutionairy yet)

Lets 1st use a shot of a deer lifting it's head, cut to the birds flying up, cut to the fawn running away, cut to the wolf, cut to the crow, cut to wolf again, cut the deer frozen to galloping off..........what does this say? ....in the mind of the audience....DANGER. This never happened in reality but in the movies this becomes the truth. Words don't need to be spoken, the mere images convey the message when they appropiately arranged.

The shots provide information but the cuts connect the shots so in the mind of the audience a new piece of information is created each time a new cut brings a new shot with it. This is what a good film maker does. Give just enough information so the audience will complete the thought. This creates 1+1=3. The audience creates 3. then add the next shot and it continues.... This is a little different than many other film making strategies that use mass coverage methods without knowing what they are after. I have to admire their rigor! that's a lot of work.

Back to the nature piece, the director establishes the beat, danger and then goes on to establish other beats that collectively will tell a story....essentially it's bread crumbs to the climax.

This is the Theory of Montage, that Eisenstein & Pudovkin experimented with back in the 1920s. It's what Hitchcock used as a basis for all his work too. Hitch use to complain that American movies were just talking heads, the directors didn't really use Cinema technique. Instead they think following around the protagonists with a camera is film making. Hitch, Mamet & others would argue that these film makers are missing the point, film making isn't following someone around *with a camera & recording them, it's contrasted juxtaposition of the shots created from the script that move the story forward in the mind of the audience.

Thanks for letting me ramble.... :)

01-05-2005, 10:19 PM
lol great stuff man, that makes great sense.

I just bought mamets book only a few days ago, but am still reading Lumets book right now. Cant wait to here more from mamet

01-05-2005, 10:29 PM
Lumet is excellent! .... happy Mamet reading...over & over... It's like peeling an onion, there seems to be multiple layers of depth. Just when you think you understand it, you realize there's so much more...it's a great journey!

01-14-2005, 12:55 PM
I personally beleve Mamet (or Sergiej Eisenstain) way of making the movie (telling the story in cuts) is the way to go.

I have Mamet's 'On Directing" on my shelf. Worth reading. And practicing. It is not easy to write a script which will tell the story in cuts. Directing would be easy if the script would be written in this way. That's why I am writing my own script. Learing to tell this story in cuts. Not easy. But rewarding when I manage to write two scenes together and suddenly I have a third one not on the paper but IN THE READER"S MIND. That moves the story forward.