David Mamet on Storytelling’s Importance to Marketing

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Even if you don’t know a proscenium from a gobo template, you know who David Mamet is.

Whether you think he’s a misogynist or “America’s Greatest Living Playwright,” or anything in between, he’s got some insights about business you should listen to, or at least when filtered through copyblogger.com it bears paying attention to. Plus, if nothing else, he’s a local boy who made good for Chicago: Mamet was born here, and one of his first jobs was at Second City as a busboy. (Hey, he’s just like me!)

Well, a few months ago a memo from Mamet to his writers on The Unit, a drama about the lives of highly trained members of a top-secret military division -- and their families -- surfaced. The show has been canceled, and this isn’t really about the show. Well, it sort of is, because this memo is being considered a “master class” on writing, and that’s what marketing ultimately boils down to. Consider, as copyblogger suggests considering: 

The audience will not tune in to watch information. You wouldn’t, I wouldn’t. No one would or will. The audience will only tune in and stay tuned in to watch drama.

This is a much smarter version of what I tell my students: It’s not so much about what actually happens, but the way in which it happens. We don’t watch commercials or read billboards, usually, to get sold on a product. But if the advertisement is clever, sincere or somehow surprising it’ll stick with us. Maybe it’ll translate into a purchase, maybe not, but if it’s remembered at all, that’s a victory.

It’s true of all media.

Again, from Mamet: 

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 back in the breadline.

Which is to say: Let’s all stop passing the buck. Stop thinking the next notch in the workflow is going to gussy stuff up and fix our shortcomings. Although Mythbusters proved you can, indeed, polish a turd, why would you start with cow plop when you can start with filet mignon?

Read more of the analysis over at copyblogger.com

David Wolinsky is a freelance writer and a lifelong Chicagoan. In addition to currently serving as an interviewer-writer for Adult Swim, he's also a comedy-writing instructor for Second City. He was the Chicago city editor for The Onion A.V. Club where he provided in-depth daily coverage of this city's bustling arts/entertainment scene for half a decade. When not playing video games for work he's thinking of dashing out to Chicago Diner, Pizano's, or Yummy Yummy. His first career aspirations were to be a game-show host.

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