Excerpts: Bambi vs Godzilla by David Mamet

This is probably the most brutally honest perspective of the film industry I’ve ever read. I will undoubtedly read this book time and time again, but when I don’t have the time, I will refer to this page for my excerpts below.

Speaking on the truth in Dramas:
The audience has a right to these dramas, and filmmaker and the studios have a responsibility to attempt them.

*Page 78 subtext

The Three Magic Questions:
1. Who want what from whom?
2. What happens if they don’t get it?
3. Why now?

Stay with the money. The audience came because you advertised the star. Shoot the star.

Burn the first reel. Almost any film can be improved by throwing out the first ten minutes.

If you think that perhaps you should cut, cut.

If you laughed at the dailies, you aren’t going to laugh at the picture.

If you can’t figure out what the scene is about, it’s probably unnecessary. If it is necessary, it’s necessary only once.

The scene that works great on paper will prove a disaster.

If enough people tell you you’re dead, lie down.

Individually they’re idiots. Collectively, they’re a genius. Anyone who speaks of the audience’s understanding as diminished has never had to make a living by appealing to them.

When your plan of battle is proceeding perfectly, you have just walked into an ambush.

Life, in the art of drama or of the carver, cannot be aped, and the attempt to remove the element of chance must doom the project absolutely. For another name for “chance” is “mystery” and another name is art.

On the other hand, there are films of which we, quite literally, applause the grosses, while the films themselves are unwatchable (e.g., Titanic).

Now, the more the audience is told about the hero – the more their legitimate, indeed, induced desire is gratified – the less they care.

As we enter the cinema, we relax our guard. We do so necessarily, because to resist, to insist on reality in the drama, is to rob ourselves of joy. For who would sit through a cartoon thinking constantly, “Wait a second, elephants can’t fly!”

A traditional recipe for genius: inspiration, a plan, not enough time.

These men, and their performances, are characterized by the absence of the desire to please. On screen, they don’t have anything to prove, an so we are extraordinarily drawn to them. They are not “sensitive”; they are not antiheroes; they are, to use a historic term, “he-men.” How refreshing.

For if a regular person wandering in a mall somewhere may be shanghaied into watching a test screening, and if his opinion, and the opinions of his like, are the basis upon which executives determine how to place their bets, why not eliminate the executives entirely and proceed directly to the mall wanderer? Which is effectively what has happened in the casting session.

Feel free to treat everyone like scum, for if they desire something from you, they’ll just have to put up with it, and should they rise to wealth and power, any past civility shown toward them will either be forgotten or remembered as some aberrant and contemptible display of weakness.

Stanislavsky wrote that the last ninety seconds are the most important in the play.