By the end, his answer is that what potential screenwriters need the most is the ability to not cow tow. What comes in between is a mixture of good advice, personal hyperbole, and an incoherent divergence or two that don't seem to fit anywhere in the text.
Let's start with the good. Mamet doesn't profess to have all the answers. In fact, he advises that trial and error will be a big part of successful writing. He writes, "And like the Gospels or the Torah, child rearing, or marriage, anyone truly interested can and will have to figure out the rest" (62). This is good news for writers. No matter how many books are published on the subject, there are no magic formulas for a career in screenwriting. It is exciting to know, though, that a bit of tenacity will go a long way in a business that is inundated with scripts from amateurs and seasoned professionals alike.
He also writes, "It is laudable to resist this nagging invitation to sloth and predictability" (65). This statement is made in reference to screenwriters who use the usual formulas to tell a story. Although uninspired, or uninteresting, writers might sadden him, he doesn't blame them. In fact, he claims that those in the biz oft times make the same mistake. He asserts, "If the audience is financially involved (the studio executives), suborned (the 'invited' carded test-group screening), or hired (the university professors), one will learn nothing from their responses except obedience" (67). He is saying that those particular groups of people expect to see a certain thing on screen, or will presume that every audience will expect to see those things on screen, and will therefore always choose in favor of the predictable. The numbers of movie critics who review movies prior to the box office openings, and call the movies predictable (even movies they like or think will do well), are a testament to Mamet's supposition.
The third thing Mamet does well here is to give actual screenwriting advice about what a writer should do if he is stuck in a place, or finds that she has too much material. He writes, "When in doubt, cut to the chase" (67). The translation: The more action the better. "Stay with the money," (67) he scribes. His meaning: The more face time the star of the movie gets, the more satisfied movie goers will be. There is also, "You start with a scalpel and you end with a chainsaw" (67). Or, rather, once all the writing and filming is done, there is going to be plenty of material that is not directly related to the story, and can be excised. This is all good, unbiased advice for a new screenwriter. It reeks of one professional advising another, instead of one professional with a microphone, and an axe to grind, on a soapbox. Unfortunately, this isn't true of the whole chapter.
In one such moment, for example, Mamet writes that all humans need to indulge in drama, and basically states that everything we do is directed at taking part in dramatic situations. In several different ways he claims, "We human beings delight in drama we will fight in wars whose benefit, in hindsight, consisted solely in the dramatic confection of national unity" (63). He furthers that we go to the theater out of the desire for drama, that journalism is drama cloaked as "formalized gossip," and that