I know it might not a very controversial position in 2018, but Chicago playwright, director and screenwriter David Mamet can really tell a story and hold your attention.
And he does it by being ruthless
He’s ruthless on himself, on his ideas, his scripts, on his actors and everything else he can be ruthless on.
All in service of holding the attention of his audience.
And that’s one reason he’s great. He is more impatient than the audience whose attention he is so desperately trying to attract and hold.
The prospect of losing an audience’s attention clearly causes him physical pain.
He understands that attention is the most precious and fleeting commodity.
If your audience has to think for even a second, you’ve lost them.
And his entire working method is built around the notion that attention is sacred.
It’s kind of common sense when you think about it. But it’s really hard to do in practice.
It’s tempting as a filmmaker, playwright or advertising or marketing person to delude yourself that you somehow have a right to people’s attention. Like they have nothing better to do than watch your shit just because you did it and you like it.
I highly recommend watching this video if you are a professional storyteller of any description.
Mamet makes a great point in this video that I figured out years ago. Thank god.
If you like an idea, tell it to someone who doesn’t give a shit and then watch their eyes as they react to your idea.
In other words, get out of your own head and see how the real world reacts to your ideas.
It’s brutally effective. And it keeps you honest. And you sell more ideas.
If their eyes don’t twinkle when you tell them your idea, throw it away. It’s worthless.
I figured this one out the hard way. When I first worked at a big agency on a big flashy account.
It was a very competitive situation.
So my ideas had to tell well in order to sell.
They had to get a positive reaction from EVERYBODY to make it into the presentation and then get bought by the client.
So out of sheer panic at not wanting to fail miserably, I would tell my ideas to anyone who would listen before I presented them to my boss.
Literally anyone. The Fedex guy. The receptionist. Didn’t matter. All I wanted was an honest reaction.
Let’s say I have five ideas I liked. I think they’re all good. Equally good? Probably not.
What I found was that in the process of telling random people my ideas I would automatically, and unconsciously, spit out the best ideas first.
Suddenly it was apparent that I didn’t have five good ideas. I had one good idea and two meh ones.
Simply because I wanted to make this person laugh/like me, I was now in the real world of storytelling,
I was on stage. I was performing. I really wanted to impress them.
Suddenly I got very ruthless on my own ideas. That way I wasn’t waiting for my boss or the client to be the first to get ruthless ony my ideas. I got there first.
This process can be painful but it never fails.
I encourage all junior creatives to do it.
Guess what, only the really hungry and desperate ones do.