Arts & Entertainment, Writing
Dialogue Case Study: The West Wing
Lesson time 12:09 min
Aaron does a deep dive into the musical nuances of dialogue in the Bartlet–Ritchie scene.
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Topics include: S3E21 of the West Wing
When I talk about dialogue being musical, most of the music-- I mean, sometimes there will be a line or a speech which by itself has the kinds of musical qualities that I'm talking about. But in order to create that music, you need-- So in order to create music-- literally, real music-- you don't just need the first note. You need the second note before it's music. [HUMS ONE NOTE] That is not music. [HUMS TWO NOTES] It is music. Or [HUMS NOTES] You need the second note for it to become music. With dialogue, you generally need the next line for it to be music. It's going to go back and forth. [MUSIC PLAYING] Caught me. Mr. President. Governor. You enjoying the play? I am. How about you? Well, we just got here. We were at the Yankee game. We got, you know, hung up in traffic. Yeah, I know. Listen, politics aside-- and I don't want to make a big deal out of it, but you probably insulted the Church. And you can head it off at the pass if you speak to the Cardinal tonight. Well, I didn't mean to insult anybody. No. And it's a baseball game. It's how so ordinary Americans-- Yeah. No, I don't understand that. The center fielder for the Yankees is an accomplished classical guitarist. People who like baseball can't like books? Are you taking this personally? Something horrible happened about an hour ago. CJ Craig was getting threats, so we put an agent on her. He's a good guy. He was on my detail for a while, and he was in Roslyn. He walked into the middle of an armed robbery and was shot and killed after detaining one of the suspects. Oh. Crime? Boy, I don't know. We should have a great debate, Rob. We owe it to everyone. When I was running as a governor, I didn't know anything. I made them start Bartlet College in my dining room. Two hours every morning on foreign affairs and the military. You could do that. How many different ways do you think you're going to find to call me dumb? I wasn't, Rob. But you've turned being unengaged into a Zen-like thing, and you shouldn't enjoy it so much, is all. And if it appears at times as if I don't like you, that's the only reason why. You're what my friends call a superior sum bitch. You're an academic elitist and a snob. You're, uh, Hollywood. You're weak. You're liberal. And you can't be trusted. And if it appears from time to time as if I don't like you, well, those are just a few of the many reasons why. [MUSIC PLAYING] They're playing my song. In the future, if you're wondering, crime, boy, I don't know, is when I decided to kick your ass. I'm looking at the beginning of the scene. And at least at the beginning of the scene, I am making a concerted effort for it not to be musical. I want to be stilted and awkward between these two. I want it to be slightly formal. And I'm lookin...
About the Instructor
Aaron Sorkin wrote his first movie on cocktail napkins. Those napkins turned into A Few Good Men, starring Jack Nicholson. Now, the Academy Award-winning writer of The West Wing and The Social Network is teaching screenwriting. In this class, you’ll learn his rules of storytelling, dialogue, character development, and what makes a script actually sell. By the end, you’ll write screenplays that capture your audience’s attention.
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