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Arts & Entertainment

Group Workshop: Chronic by Roland Zaleski

Aaron Sorkin

Lesson time 20:58 min

Discussing Roland's script, Aaron reveals a simple trick that writers can use to justify improbable events in their stories.

Aaron Sorkin
Teaches Screenwriting
Aaron Sorkin teaches you the craft of film and television screenwriting.
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The next one is Chronic. Roland Zaleski, you're up. It's a feature script. The full script log line is, "A former explosives expert is kidnapped and wakes up to learn that every time his heart beats 1000 times, a bomb will detonate somewhere in the city of Los Angeles." That's pretty cool. Sample scene description. Flight attendant attempts to disarm a smuggled explosive on a passenger flight with the instructions of Alex Quinn, former bomb expert, who is in the middle of his own mission to track an arms dealer. OK. Interior. Airplane, day. A 747 passenger aircraft, 20 minutes into the air. Sunshine pouring through the windows. Insert Friday at 10:35 AM. Down the aisle-- mothers, fathers, businessmen, tourists, children, brooding teenagers. At the end of the plane-- storage areas, attendant seating, and bathrooms. Lily Thompson-- late 20s, a flight attendant-- knocking on one of the bathroom doors, her patience quickly wearing down. Sir, the pilot has turned on the seat belt sign. I need you to return to your seat, sir. A male attendant breezes past really holding a bag of trash. He stops, recognizing her frustration. Half the time it's a medical issue. And the other half? Masturbation. Oh, sorry. Masturbation He's been in there since take off. You just got excited, that's all. Please be medical. Come on, man, wrap it up. Hello? No response. The attendant removes a key chain from his pocket, singling out a plastic hook device. He wiggles it inside the handle, unlocking the door. James Bond in occupied bathroom. A smirk from the attendant as the door clicks unlocked. Lily pushes it open. Sir? Reveal inside the bathroom-- a middle-aged man crumbled on the floor, his wrists bleeding. Pool of blood all around. Pale skin, dead. Lily screams. Holy shit! The attendant rushes in, checking the man for signs of life. Nothing. He rushes back out, panicked. Close the door. I'll see if I can find a doctor. Lily, stunned, nods. She enters the bathroom, door closed. The hum of the turbines in the BG and a beeping thing. Lily looks around confused. Lily kneels, removing the small trash container from under the sink. The beeping's louder now, coming from inside the trash. Lily roots through the garbage, finding an electronic box, wired plastic molding attached to the back, a countdown on the tiny view screen in the corner-- 4:02, 4:01, 4:00, 3:59. Lily's face turns white as the turbines noise intensifies, merging with the mechanized screeching of-- Interior. Los Angeles subway, day. A subway charging down a passenger platform. Focus on the back of a man waiting for the train. He's off to the next station. Insert 10:37 AM. The man's right arm moves covertly for his ear, listening to the instructions through an earpiece. The man move...

Your script starts here.

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.


Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

This class really revived my passion to write. Aaron have great anecdotes and reminded me is ok to fall. I finished getting motivated to finally push through to that second draft, and to hurry into failure I'm on some first drafts. It was more motivational than instructional but that was ok. I plan to re-take the class and participate more in the community the second time around.

Very Informative. Although I feel like some things need to be improved. More stuff on how to write action properly. And I wish this had more movie talk instead of Tv talk.

So inspirational! I've learned so much, as a new writer with a busy personal life the ability to come and learn when I have time and re-watch when need be is amazing. The instructor was even better than expected haha.

This class was great! From this class I have learned a good amount about writing and finding the confidence to begin writting.


Starla B.

I liked this script a lot better than I've liked the others so far! The action and dialogue was a lot easier to to understand and, Aaron Sorkin is right, this work caught my attention right away. I love these kind of lessons, and I hope to see more MasterClasses with screenwriting doing similar workshops. These are super helpful!

Henry W.

the probable impossibility reminds me of a scene in Spiderman:Far From Home when Peter questions why anyone else isn't avaidible to help fight the Elemental creatures in their base. I remember spider-man admitting that why can't the avengers help, with Sorkin's advice of admitting and explaining why, being used to say the other avengers are off world.

A fellow student

I will never see a movie or TV show the same again. Aaron guides us toward the probable impossibility is preferable to a possible improbability.

Mercedes S.

As an actual flight attendant I would just like to say he was pretty damn close on protocol for that situation.

Glen G.

I've admired the work of all these writers so far in terms of their handling of the action and the formatting. I've noted disparities in how some of them handle the formatting, which is a course in an of itself. They all also do a good job of tersely presenting action. That's helped me re-evaluate and improve my own action sequences. This script was like an episode of 24 to me - high-octane, for sure - and it's a cool idea, but there's so much of that anymore.

A fellow student

Could you imagine this script in the hands of someone like the Safdie brothers? You'd need a defibrillator to watch it.


Hi everyone! Message from the MC Community team -- make sure you join Aaron Sorkin's Class Community! There you can discuss writing techniques and other class material, network with other students, trade tips and reviews, and stay up to date on class contests & activities. Link here: Also, FYI! We recently launched a contest to win 2 tix to Sorkin's latest screenplay adaptation on Broadway, To Kill A Mockingbird. Learn more and enter here: Contest closes this Sunday, Nov 24 at 10pm PT. Can't wait to see your submissions!

Tara Jade B.

Really good trick of how to still leave in the possible improbability (not having to have to re-write it)! I found it interesting thought that out of all the scripts this group of writers did, this one was the only he wasn't complementary about, and - for me, this was the only one I would have like to see done, or at least read the book. What an amazing idea! If Roland didn't get it into film yet, I hope he writes a novel.

M. Casey M.

The workshops are helpful. Practical, and additional information being shared. These sessions reinforce some of the earlier lessons. I would love to see the script for the play, “To Kill a Mockingbird”. Just saw the production in NYC, and loved the play on words and would enjoy seeing the play on the page.

A fellow student

The credit intro should be the sequence explaining how he got it on the plane and the end of the credit would be him walking into the restroom and shutting the door.