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CLASSROOM: Screenwriting Lessons From ‘Madmen’

20 June 2019

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CLASSROOM: Screenwriting Lessons From ‘Madmen’

Film acquisition executive, Evan Littman writes:

A behind-the-scenes storytelling breakdown from the creator of one of the most beloved television shows of all time, “Mad Men.”

Don Draper. The name alone evokes nostalgic images of the 1960s, back when everybody smoked and nobody cared. But there’s a ton of screenwriting work that went into creating Mad Men’s central character. So, what screenwriting lessons can you take away from the iconic AMC show?

Let’s take a look at Matt Weiner’s 6 screenwriting lessons:

Dramatic Irony

Pop quiz: what’s dramatic irony? It’s when the audience knows something that the characters don’t. Matt Weiner uses dramatic irony to create interesting situations between characters because when there’s an information gap like that, it builds tension within a scene. Often, the audience is waiting to see what will go wrong.

Make Every Episode A Finale

One thing you’ll notice when you watch Mad Men is that events are permanent. Matt Weiner did this deliberately; he wanted each episode to feel like a finale. Characters don’t stay in one place, story-wise. The reason this happens is that each episode has its own self-contained story and theme. The “soap opera” aspect of it will continue, but there’s a beginning and a middle and an end to every episode.

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Photo credit: No Film School

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