A few days ago, Â via twitter, Â I saw an article showing a letter that David Mamet wrote for the writers of the Unit, which serves as a master class on good writing for film and television. Â You can see the article here.
There are little gems here like:
– Any time two characters are talking about a third, the scene is a crock of shit.
– Any time any character is saying to another â€œas you knowâ€, that is, telling another character what you, the writer, need the audience to know, the scene is a crock of shit.
– Remember you are writing for a visual medium. most television writing, ours included, sounds like radio. the camera can do the explaining for you. let it.
This is great stuff.
After reading this article, I watched a couple of the shows that I watch regularly: Flash Forward and V. Â Both of these shows I’ve been watching not because I find them particularly gripping, but rather because I want them to be good television (also, I admit to watching V because of my fond memories of the 80s miniseries).
Unfortunately, both shows fall victim to the very things that Mamet is warning against. Â I have often watched an episode and thought to myself “something is bothering me about this scene” but not been able to put into words what was not working. Â Mamet’s words point out exactly what is wrong. Â Both of these shows could do with a good read of the Mamet letter in question. Â In fact, pretty much every TV drama writer should read over Mamet’s letter and take it to heart. Â The shows will be better for it.