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Arts & Entertainment

Group Workshop: E is for Edie by Jeanie Bergen

Aaron Sorkin

Lesson time 29:12 min

The offbeat characters in Jeanie's script are a hit with Aaron, who warns about the dangers of getting feedback from close-minded studio execs. (Warning: explicit content).

Aaron Sorkin
Teaches Screenwriting
Aaron Sorkin teaches you the craft of film and television screenwriting.
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"E is for Edie," written by our own Jeannie Bergen. This is a half hour pilot. All right. Out of curiosity, because I don't know what you kids are doing these days. OK, I don't know what's down with the kids these days. I try to keep my finger on the pulse of the kids, but what's this internet thing, you guys? Internet? Is that what it's called? OK. Your 60 minute pilot. Is it 60 minutes or 42 minutes? Do you know what I'm asking? It's 60. OK. Your 30 minute pilot, is it 30 minutes or 22 minutes? 30. Streaming or cable network. OK. I'm Sorry. Your show again. Go ahead. All right. Exterior Wisconsin backroad, day. A wood paneled station wagon swerves wildly down the road blasting Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You," Super 1994. Rylie Barnes, 9, drives, not well, considering she can barely see over the steering wheel. She's plucky, selfish, determined, blonde, with a chipped front tooth. Edie Barnes, 10, intellectually disabled, stubborn, sits in the passenger seat smiling. She taps her foot to the music. Her shoes are Velcro, the easiest kind. Barney, a small, stuffed, purple dinosaur sits in the back. Rylie veers off the road, screeching to a halt. She gets out, unbuckles Edie's seat belt, tightens the Velcro on her shoe, and leads her into the corn. Interior station wagon later, Rylie peels away, happy. Interior cornfield, day. Edie stands in the middle of the cornfield alone. Interior station wagon, day. Rylie looks in the rear view mirror. Barney is still in the backseat, a smile plastered on his dumb little face. Rylie sighs. Guilty. Interior cornfield day. Edie sits in the corn, scared. A rustling. Rylie stands above her, blocking the sun. Here. Rylie hands Barney to Edie. Edie smiles. Then Rylie runs. Over the cornfield with the station wagon speeding away, and Edie alone, helpless, the title card, "E is for Edie." OK. And let's hang on there for just one second. I just want to make sure that I'm right in this cold open that when you say, "and leads her into the corn." OK, Rylie veers off the road, screeching to a halt. She gets out, unbuckles Edie's seat belt, tightens the Velcro on her shoe, and leads her into the corn. That's the very first mention of corn, right? OK. Got it. That's kind of a surprise. I would just, in the description, a wood paneled station wagon swerves wildly down the road with cornfields on either side. Is flanked by cornfields, or something. On each side the corn is as high as an elephant's eye. A reference to the musical "Oklahoma" by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, 1944. Boom. OK. It's very good. That was the only note on the cold open. Great. Go ahead. Exterior the Grove, Los Angeles, night. Barbershop quartet sings-- Here co...

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.

I love learning from Aaron. He's very engaging. He's a stellar writer and instructor with profound knowledge.

Awesome Guy! I'm off and running, again, the correct direction now armed with his course knowledge.

AMAZING. Aaron Sorkin is such a great teacher and I learnt so many things in every lesson. Thank you MASTERCLASS!

The class helped me sharpen my screenwriting skills and I enjoyed listening to Mr. Sorkin's insights.


Matteo P.

this is quite exciting knowing that E is for Edie has been picked up! I am quite interested what the show will end up to be.

Starla B.

I personally did not like the script, but I definitely appreciated Aaron Sorkin's critiques on the piece. It's difficult to create a story that is so close to you and characters as well, but I did admire it being autobiographical, in the sense where it was heartfelt. But I still didn't enjoy the humor and there was something about the love interest and Riley that I thought was bland. Maybe it was something about the dialogue? It felt like the script tried hard to be relatable and funny while Riley was living her everyday life, but it didn't. I'd be more interested in seeing the relationship between Edie and Riley and maybe even Riley spending time alone (seeing what type of character she is when she isn't striving for success).

Seema I.

I loved this lesson. As someone trying to write about some complicated life experiences it was really valuable to hear this feedback and inspiring too. It's given me food for thought and made me a lot less worried about whether these are ideas that will be picked up.

A fellow student

Watching Aaron question and encourage his student was heartwarming. He could see where the script might go even though it deals with a very heavy subject.

A fellow student

That sex filled script is probably the worst student draft I've ever heard. And I've had very lazy classmates. Wow Aaron should've been constructively harder on it.

Allison A.

I really appreciate how Aaron is gentle with his critique, but illuminates the issues with the writing. I could totally be into this TV show. I think the challenges the young woman will face is the story and Eddie is the catalyst to those challenges, but is a whole human being herself. Very interesting. I hope it gets to TV!

Alexandros A.

Again, I wasn't that crazy for the story. I think we can learn a few things out of this story. 1. Never make yourself to be the heroine of your story. The protagonist/author is just oh so cool, has an awesome sex life, super good at class and she is going to get an awesome internship. The protagonist comes across as an uninteresting middle class white american studying in an expensive college with no real struggle in life, other than the tragic coincidence that her sister is dying. 2. The topic of terminal illness and being a carer is treated so superficially and the story from what we can get is almost a story of self-martyrdom. Tragic and devastating life experiences don't immediately translate in interesting stories. The perspective of the sister would have been interesting, reflecting on the hate a carer might feel for the cared could have been interesting. 3. You need an appropriate tone and a fast introduction that captures attention. What's up with that intro to the story? So slow and devoid of any suspense. A very predictable "heroine has attachment issues" b-plot, a very slow scene about an internship, a confusing image about someone slapping someone else with their penis. I mean I guess she is trying to convey that the heroine has it all before tragedy strikes, but it just comes across as silly. It doesn't feel that tragic that she has to loose on an internship or casual sex and penis-slaps to care for her dying sister. For example imagine they had to go broke to pay for the caring of the sister, or they couldn't possibly afford the only treatment available. Yeah hated the stories, but I loved this class.

Dan U.

I can not believe Sorkin failed to edit this material presented by these two Manson like want to beeeees and why anyone would encourage this lateral that belongs on the pages of Hustler magazine not for consideration among the Hollywood elite. The first reading was a story about a vengeful mercenary type whose relative, a female, was mistaken for him if I got this correct and a blooded massacre occurred between he and his compadres vs. another drug running cartel. The second, and mind you I had a difficult time following the narrative of both stoires...A woman ... a wanton woman and her wants friends and this wanton woman suddenly must care for her handicapped sister. At one point Sorkin wondered where a cluster of Jewsi fit into the story and a call from a relative who disguised his voice to appear Hispanic telling the woman who was to eventually take in her developmentally disabled sister the guardian was ill or some such thing. Shame on Sorkin for failing to edit out such garbage and how sad such very bright youth waste their time and efforts spinning their wheels hardly tweeting or coming up with something new.

David L.

Great episode. Most constructive one so far. Delighted to find out that E is for Edie (great title, by the way) HAS been picked up and is already in production. I thought Jeannie's dialogue was super sharp and very witty. Yes, her descriptive could have been more tuned in, as Aaron proved, but it genuinely read like a series that would get picked up. Not only was the dialogue sharp and funny, but it just brought a whole tone to the show, even within those few pages we heard read. This was so impressive it kinda makes me feel inadequate. I get a lot of compliments on my dialogue, on my 'voice', but there is no way my dialogue is this at this level.


A very important piece of information that Arron brings out in reviewing the script, is whether, "You were able to bring that brilliant piece of information that's in your head down onto the paper." On that point, my understanding is, only an outstanding writer, is able to do that. Which is very different from someone verbally telling a great story. The words you choose to describe your story must clearly evoke the ideas and feeling that needs to be communicated it to the reader. I'm still trying to get my head around what Jewish people look like, for instance.