They showed me statistics and I slowed down.

I was doing about 70 MPH down the West Side Highway last week when I heard a public service announcement commercial on the radio about the New York City speed limit of . . . 30 MPH.

“Yeah, right,” I thought. Who goes 30 in the city?  The guys pushing their carts of fake Louis Vuitton bags probably get up to 35 MPH easy.

The ad continued, “It’s 30 for a reason.”

Ok, you’ve got my attention. Give it to me, NYC DOT.

“Hit someone at 40, there’s a 70% chance they’ll die.  Hit someone at 30, there’s an 80% chance they’ll live.  That’s why it’s 30.”

I put my foot on the brake immediately.

Why?

Because I, ignorantly, had always thought speed limits were arbitrary.  Just made up numbers designed to keep us all under a bit more control.

But no, there was a reason.  A reason, backed up by facts and figures that I certainly couldn’t argue with, and I’m not sure many people could.  And something I will never forget.

What does this have to do with what we do?

We work in a complicated industry with a lot of very passionate people on both sides of every negotiation.  Too often, “drama” gets in the way of swift, practical resolutions.

The quickest way to a mutual agreement is to help the other side understand why things are a certain way, and explain to them the statistical reasons behind it . . . not yell and scream and call them names.

Because the best result of a negotiation is when both sides win.

A TV version of the commercial I heard is below, which, coincidentally, has a Broadway theme.

 

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Last change to vote for Producer of the Year 2010!  Click here!!!

Next up in our reading series? Heartland.

The first play in the Davenport Developmental Reading Series, Alex Webb’s Civil War drama, Amelia, was, well, as much fun as Civil War Dramas can be.

We had a great time, learned a lot, and the post-reading survey results on the play demonstrated that Alex was really on to something.  I look forward to giving you updates on what he’s up to next with the play.

It’s already time for the second date in our free reading series.  This time, we found our writer north of the border.  Steven Owad hails from Calgary, Canada.

And next Monday, June 14th at 8 PM, at the Mint Theater thousands of miles from his home, some great actors will read his new play, Heartland.

Steven describes Heartland as “a drama about three men on the brink of self-destruction in middle America.  Loners in a small community, they form a deadly triangle tempered by violence, revenge and a ruthless alpha-male need for control.”

I describe Heartland as a Law & Order: Criminal Intent episode . . . before Vincent D’Onofrio shows up.

The reading of Heartland will be directed by another kanuck, Mr. Stafford Arima, known for Altar Boyz, Tin Pan Alley Rag, and an Olivier nominee for the West End Ragtime.  Stafford was also lucky enough to be the first to get his directorial mitts on Carrie, when he staged the reading of that horror show earlier this year.

Stafford got some great actors to play the three alpha males in Heartland, including Greg Stone (Pirate Queen, Miss Saigon, Les Miz), Peter Lockyer (South Pacific, Phantom, La Boheme) and Wes Seals (The Quest for Fame, Sex Drugs & Rock ‘n Roll).

Seating is very limited so if you’d like to come and support a new writer and his work, RSVP ASAP to rsvp@davenporttheatrical.com.  We expect the seats to go very fast, because, well, it’s free.

See you there!

Heartland
Written by Steven Owad
Directed by Stafford Arima
Featuring Greg Stone, Peter Lockyer and Wes Seals

Monday, June 14th
8 PM
The Mint Theater
311 West 43rd St. (between 8th and 9th)
#307

See you there!

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How to f-ing write! A mother f-ing missive by David Mamet.

David Mamet knows how to write drama.  Even in his memos!

Check out this recently leaked memo below from Monsieur Mamet to his writing staff of his now defunct TV drama, The Unit.  In the all-capped and over-hyphenated Mametesque decree, he calls TV executives “penguins,” uses words like “dickhead,” and more.

Oh yeah, and along the way, he doles out some incredible advice on how to write a scene.  Rookies and vets alike can learn from what he has to say.

The guy may drive us crazy sometimes, but he knows how to make a scene tick, that’s for f-ing sure.

– – – – –

TO THE WRITERS OF THE UNIT

GREETINGS.

AS WE LEARN HOW TO WRITE THIS SHOW, A RECURRING PROBLEM BECOMES CLEAR.

THE PROBLEM IS THIS: TO DIFFERENTIATE BETWEEN DRAMA AND NON-DRAMA.LET ME BREAK-IT-DOWN-NOW.

EVERYONE IN CREATION IS SCREAMING AT US TO MAKE THE SHOW CLEAR. WE ARE TASKED WITH, IT SEEMS, CRAMMING A SHITLOAD OF INFORMATION INTO ALITTLE BIT OF TIME.

OUR FRIENDS. THE PENGUINS, THINK THAT WE, THEREFORE, ARE EMPLOYED TOCOMMUNICATE INFORMATION — AND, SO, AT TIMES, IT SEEMS TO US.

BUT NOTE:THE AUDIENCE WILL NOT TUNE IN TO WATCH INFORMATION. YOU WOULDN’T, I WOULDN’T. NO ONE WOULD OR WILL. THE AUDIENCE WILL ONLY TUNEIN AND STAY TUNED TO WATCH DRAMA.

QUESTION:WHAT IS DRAMA? DRAMA, AGAIN, IS THE QUEST OF THE HERO TOOVERCOME THOSE THINGS WHICH PREVENT HIM FROM ACHIEVING A SPECIFIC,ACUTE GOAL.

SO: WE, THE WRITERS, MUST ASK OURSELVES OF EVERY SCENE THESE THREE QUESTIONS.

1) WHO WANTS WHAT?
2) WHAT HAPPENS IF HER DON’T GET IT?
3) WHY NOW?

THE ANSWERS TO THESE QUESTIONS ARE LITMUS PAPER. APPLY THEM, AND THEIR ANSWER WILL TELL YOU IF THE SCENE IS DRAMATIC OR NOT.

IF THE SCENE IS NOT DRAMATICALLY WRITTEN, IT WILL NOT BE DRAMATICALLY ACTED.

THERE IS NO MAGIC FAIRY DUST WHICH WILL MAKE A BORING, USELESS, REDUNDANT, OR MERELY INFORMATIVE SCENE AFTER IT LEAVES YOUR TYPEWRITER. YOU THE WRITERS, ARE IN CHARGE OF MAKING SURE EVERY SCENEIS DRAMATIC.

THIS MEANS ALL THE “LITTLE” EXPOSITIONAL SCENES OF TWO PEOPLE TALKING ABOUT A THIRD. THIS BUSHWAH (AND WE ALL TEND TO WRITE IT ON THE FIRST DRAFT) IS LESS THAN USELESS, SHOULD IT FINALLY, GOD FORBID, GET FILMED.

IF THE SCENE BORES YOU WHEN YOU READ IT, REST ASSURED IT WILL BORE THE ACTORS, AND WILL, THEN, BORE THE AUDIENCE, AND WE’RE ALL GOING TO BE BACKIN THE BREADLINE.

SOMEONE HAS TO MAKE THE SCENE DRAMATIC. IT IS NOT THE ACTORS JOB (THEACTORS JOB IS TO BE TRUTHFUL). IT IS NOT THE DIRECTORS JOB. HIS OR HER JOB IS TO FILM IT STRAIGHTFORWARDLY AND REMIND THE ACTORS TO TALK FAST. IT ISYOUR JOB.

EVERY SCENE MUST BE DRAMATIC. THAT MEANS: THE MAIN CHARACTER MUST HAVE A SIMPLE, STRAIGHTFORWARD, PRESSING NEED WHICH IMPELS HIM OR HERTO SHOW UP IN THE SCENE.

THIS NEED IS WHY THEY CAME. IT IS WHAT THE SCENE IS ABOUT. THEIR ATTEMPTTO GET THIS NEED MET WILL LEAD, AT THE END OF THE SCENE,TO FAILURE – THISIS HOW THE SCENE IS OVER. IT, THIS FAILURE, WILL, THEN, OF NECESSITY, PROPELUS INTO THE NEXT SCENE.

ALL THESE ATTEMPTS, TAKEN TOGETHER, WILL, OVER THE COURSE OF THE EPISODE, CONSTITUTE THE PLOT.

ANY SCENE, THUS, WHICH DOES NOT BOTH ADVANCE THE PLOT, AND STANDALONE(THAT IS, DRAMATICALLY, BY ITSELF, ON ITS OWN MERITS) IS EITHER SUPERFLUOUS, OR INCORRECTLY WRITTEN.

YES BUT YES BUT YES BUT, YOU SAY: WHAT ABOUT THE NECESSITY OF WRITING INALL THAT “INFORMATION?”

AND I RESPOND “FIGURE IT OUT” ANY DICKHEAD WITH A BLUESUIT CAN BE (AND IS) TAUGHT TO SAY “MAKE IT CLEARER”, AND “I WANT TO KNOW MORE ABOUTHIM”.

WHEN YOU’VE MADE IT SO CLEAR THAT EVEN THIS BLUESUITED PENGUIN ISHAPPY, BOTH YOU AND HE OR SHE WILL BE OUT OF A JOB.

THE JOB OF THE DRAMATIST IS TO MAKE THE AUDIENCE WONDER WHAT HAPPENS NEXT. NOT TO EXPLAIN TO THEM WHAT JUST HAPPENED, OR TO*SUGGEST* TOTHEM WHAT HAPPENS NEXT.

ANY DICKHEAD, AS ABOVE, CAN WRITE, “BUT, JIM, IF WE DON’T ASSASSINATE THE PRIME MINISTER IN THE NEXT SCENE, ALL EUROPE WILL BE ENGULFED IN FLAME”

WE ARE NOT GETTING PAID TO REALIZE THAT THE AUDIENCE NEEDS THIS INFORMATION TO UNDERSTAND THE NEXT SCENE, BUT TO FIGURE OUT HOW TOWRITE THE SCENE BEFORE US SUCH THAT THE AUDIENCE WILL BE INTERESTED INWHAT HAPPENS NEXT.

YES BUT, YES BUT YES BUT YOU REITERATE.

AND I RESPOND FIGURE IT OUT.

HOW DOES ONE STRIKE THE BALANCE BETWEEN WITHHOLDING AND VOUCHSAFING INFORMATION? THAT IS THE ESSENTIAL TASK OF THE DRAMATIST. AND THE ABILITY TO DO THAT IS WHAT SEPARATES YOU FROM THE LESSER SPECIES INTHEIR BLUE SUITS.

FIGURE IT OUT.

START, EVERY TIME, WITH THIS INVIOLABLE RULE: THE SCENE MUST BEDRAMATIC. it must start because the hero HAS A PROBLEM, AND IT MUST CULMINATE WITH THE HERO FINDING HIM OR HERSELF EITHER THWARTED OR EDUCATED THAT ANOTHER WAY EXISTS.

LOOK AT YOUR LOG LINES. ANY LOGLINE READING “BOB AND SUE DISCUSS…” IS NOT DESCRIBING A DRAMATIC SCENE.

PLEASE NOTE THAT OUR OUTLINES ARE, GENERALLY, SPECTACULAR. THE DRAMA FLOWS OUT BETWEEN THE OUTLINE AND THE FIRST DRAFT.

THINK LIKE A FILMMAKER RATHER THAN A FUNCTIONARY, BECAUSE, IN TRUTH,YOU ARE MAKING THE FILM. WHAT YOU WRITE, THEY WILL SHOOT.

HERE ARE THE DANGER SIGNALS. ANY TIME TWO CHARACTERS ARE TALKING ABOUT A THIRD, THE SCENE IS A CROCK OF SHIT.

ANY TIME ANY CHARACTER IS SAYING TO ANOTHER “AS YOU KNOW”, THAT IS, TELLING ANOTHER CHARACTER WHAT YOU, THE WRITER, NEED THE AUDIENCE TOKNOW, THE SCENE IS A CROCK OF SHIT.

DO NOT WRITE A CROCK OF SHIT. WRITE A RIPPING THREE, FOUR, SEVEN MINUTE SCENE WHICH MOVES THE STORY ALONG, AND YOU CAN, VERY SOON, BUY A HOUSEIN BEL AIR AND HIRE SOMEONE TO LIVE THERE FOR YOU.

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. WHAT ARE THE CHARACTERS DOING -*LITERALLY*.WHAT ARE THEY HANDLING, WHAT ARE THEY READING. WHAT ARE THEY WATCHING ON TELEVISION, WHAT ARE THEY SEEING.

IF YOU PRETEND THE CHARACTERS CANT SPEAK, AND WRITE A SILENT MOVIE, YOU WILL BE WRITING GREAT DRAMA.

IF YOU DEPRIVE YOURSELF OF THE CRUTCH OF NARRATION, EXPOSITION,INDEED,OF SPEECH. YOU WILL BE FORGED TO WORK IN A NEW MEDIUM – TELLING THE STORY IN PICTURES (ALSO KNOWN AS SCREENWRITING)

THIS IS A NEW SKILL. NO ONE DOES IT NATURALLY. YOU CAN TRAIN YOURSELVESTO DO IT, BUT YOU NEED TO START.

I CLOSE WITH THE ONE THOUGHT: LOOK AT THE SCENE AND ASK YOURSELF “IS ITDRAMATIC? IS IT ESSENTIAL? DOES IT ADVANCE THE PLOT?

ANSWER TRUTHFULLY.

IF THE ANSWER IS “NO” WRITE IT AGAIN OR THROW IT OUT. IF YOU’VE GOT ANY QUESTIONS, CALL ME UP.

LOVE, DAVE MAMET
SANTA MONICA 19 OCTO 05

(IT IS NOT YOUR RESPONSIBILITY TO KNOW THE ANSWERS, BUT IT IS YOUR, AND MY, RESPONSIBILITY TO KNOW AND TO ASK THE RIGHT Questions OVER AND OVER. UNTIL IT BECOMES SECOND NATURE. I BELIEVE THEY ARE LISTED ABOVE.)

The next play in the reading series is . . .

Last night we inaugurated the Davenport Developmental Reading Series with a terrific performance of Alex Webb’s Amelia.  Thanks to everyone who came and participated in the terrific conversation that occurred afterwards.

And now it’s time to announce the next play!

The 2nd in the 2010 series will be . . .  Steven Owad’s Heartland.

Heartland is . . . “ a drama about three young men on the brink of self-destruction in
Middle America. Loners in a small community, they form a
deadly triangle tempered by violence, revenge and
a ruthless alpha-male need for control. To save themselves, they will have
to scrape together an inner strength that has eluded them all their lives.”

This play came to us via submission from up north.  The author, Steven Owad, lives and writes in Calgary, Alberta.  His works include the
novels Bodycheck and Brother’s Keeper and short stories and
poetry in U.S.
and Canadian literary magazines. As a journalist, he has published news,
business and feature stories as well as more than 300 film, book and theater
reviews.  You can learn more about Steve at www.stevenowad.com.

Heartland will be directed by my ol’ Altar Boyz pal and the director of the recent Roundabout production of The Tin Pan Alley Rag, and the reading of Carrie, Stafford Arima.

Actors TBA.

The reading will take place on Monday, June 14th.  Place TBD.

To RSVP, email rsvp@davenporttheatrical.com.

For more info on the series, including how to submit for consideration for the September 13th reading, click here.

You want drama? You got it.

The biggest drama of the last decade is occuring right now.

The Producer?  Mother nature.

What’s happening in Haiti is one of the most dramatic tragedies the world has seen in a long time.

Unfortunately, we’re only at the end of Act I.  Act II is about to begin.

How will it end?  That’s up to all of us.

Give today.  Visit RedCross.org.

(Or try the Red Cross “Ten Dollar Texting” campaign.  Donate $10 immediately by texting “Haiti” to 90999.)

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