On Adding Drama: Point/Counterpoint

Two links came my way today.

In this ad for TNT’s Belgium launch, an “add drama” button triggers a tightly choreographed action scene:

http://stimulantonline.ca/2012/04/13/dramatic-surprise/

In this all-caps memo to the writing staff of “The Unit”, David Mamet lays down the law about making scenes dramatic:

http://www.movieline.com/2010/03/23/david-mamets-memo-to-the-writers-of-the-unit/

What’s interesting here is the way “drama” is defined so differently. The TNT ad never defines it explicitly; the implicit message is “hanging around this beautiful town would be a stone-cold bore if you didn’t have an action movie to watch, so here’s a bunch of action for you”. Drama is defined as spectacle.

Mamet, being no slouch when it comes to dramaturgical tradecraft, defines drama as “the quest of the hero to overcome those things which prevent him from achieving a specific, acute goal”. He goes on to list a series of tests and tools to see whether a scene is dramatic or is “a crock of shit”. The toolkit he lays out is a little all over the map – it’s obviously a Dramaturgy 101 memo written in a hurry – but we’re far better off with Mamet’s toolkit than with allowing ourselves to accept the TNT definition of drama as an artful display of screeching tires and blank-firing pistols.

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