Much like a pair of Ugg’s on blond girl’s named Becky, I’ve been seeing ads for Aaron Sorkin’s Master Class on Scriptwriting everywhere. Obviously the internet knows me better than I do so I decided to watch it. This is my take away.
Aaron Sorkin is friggin’ adorable first of all. Kinda nerdy, kinda a badass, and very cool. Yes, he also knows some things about writing scripts.
What I liked about it was that it was really one successful screenwriters take on how they write. What works, what they look for, where they screw up, etc. It’s not a “this is the bottom line about screenwriting, all these rules must be followed” more like “this is what made me Aaron Sorkin”. So if you like play-like television scripted drama, this is your bang bus.
While watching I decided to take a few notes when something struck me as interesting or funny or both. Enjoy.
Advice from the Aaron Sorkin Master Class:
- You have to have conflict. Just a story about a bunch of friends on a road trip isn’t going to get people invested. There has to be conflict. Someone has to be somewhere on a certain date, and everything goes against that happening. Conflict.
- Press on it. Is the conflict strong enough. If 20 dollars or a phone call will fix the conflict, it’s not great enough. Never has it been said the obstacle is too great. They also don’t have to win. They just have to try.
- Set up intentions. Have your character say “I want” or “I need”. This is an easy way to tell the audience what we’re in for.
- Stories involve motion. If it’s not moving then you don’t need it.
- Probable improbability is better than an improbable probability. The fact that ET will follow a trail of Recess Pieces is a probable improbability that the audience will entertain. The possibility that a detective on a job is the only person the FBI can call at that given moment to disarm a bomb is an improbable probability that is just ridiculous and the audience will question. There is a fix though… having the character call it out. “I’m the only person you can call right now?” is all you need. Just have the character validate the improbably probability and all will be forgiven.
- Odd numbers and words with a K in them are funny.
- Aaron Sorkin does not know how to pronounce modernity.
- Aristotle is God and Poetica is his bible.
- Clear intention and obstacle is the root of story.
- Sorkin doesn’t visualize his scripts. He hears them. He writes as little description as possible. He relies on the Director to bring the visualization and the actor to bring the intention. His scripts are around 180 pages long therefor and still run 2 hours or less.
- Paraphrasing here, but when things are shitty, you are just more honest. You just don’t have the energy to sugar coat life, or your writing. So struggle is important for a writer/artist. That bartending job is actually doing you good.
- Why martin sheen smoked on the west wing as the president. (made him human)
- Although he talks a lot on the Bush / Gore race, the comments he makes about a country divided make more sense now than ever, as if we are reliving a more vibrant moment in history.
- Dialogue is music…the same rules apply. This reminds me of an Italian teacher that asked why Italian was generally so pleasing to the ear. The answer was in the word “melodia” (melody)… broken out it is “me lo dia” or “speak to me”.
- No lifelike line of dialogue ever began or ended with the word damn’t.
There you have it folks. Definitely worth the watch, it’s fun, fast, and there is a ton of good take away. He also does a segment with 6 students who read the opening of their scripts and he does a little analysis on them. It’s worth watching a master find the good and the bad in young writers.
Thanks Aaron Sorkin. Thanks for the walk and talk. You’re the bomb.
Roberto Serrini is a professional traveler who records his adventures in word, photography and film. He is a staff writer for Get Lost Magazine, a senior contributor to Trip Advisor, as well as a commercial film director and drone pilot. His work can be seen at www.robertoserrini.com where he can be contacted as well.