To submit requests for assistance, or provide feedback regarding accessibility, please contact support@masterclass.com.

Arts & Entertainment

Group Workshop: Pitch Session

Aaron Sorkin

Lesson time 13:44 min

You've got a screenplay—now it's time to pitch. Learn what questions Hollywood's decision makers will ask you during a pitch and how to effectively answer them.

Play
Aaron Sorkin
Teaches Screenwriting
Aaron Sorkin teaches you the craft of film and television screenwriting.
Get Started

Preview

I'm terrible at pitching and, fortunately, I haven't had to do it that much. And I'm really terrible at describing what it is that I'm going to do. So all I can do to help you is try to anticipate what you would be asked in these pitch sessions. [MUSIC PLAYING] -Go ahead. -I'll get it out of the way. So after college, I got a Fulbright grant to go and do research in Italy. I was studying the history-- Sorry, yes? I was-- -I've never come close to getting a Fulbright grant. Go ahead. -But I was studying this practice in the 17th century in European cities, where they would stage these really highly ritualized and elaborate public anatomy lessons. They were these really bizarre events. In Bologna, they would do it during Carnival, so people would be-- doctors and scholars-- looking at the body, but you'd also have people in masks drunk in the back. You'd have burly students at the door to fight off the people trying to come in and reclaim the body of their loved one. And out of these stories that I was getting doing this archival research this thing eventually evolved. Yeah? -When would this happen? -This would happen during Carnival in the 17th century. -In the 17th century. OK. Go ahead. -So in the context of all this, I wound up eventually coming up with this idea for a mini series. And so just sort of for the pilot episode of the series, called The Anatomist-- -Does this series take place in the 1600s? -In the 17th century, yeah. -Yeah, OK. Go ahead. -So it follows the official dissector for the public anatomy, a guy named Niccolo Segni, who finds himself on the trail of a killer who is staging a sort of very public perverse anatomy of its own by killing anatomical abnormalities and then staging them around the city. But the real challenge and the sort of central idea of the thing is that Niccolo, in order to catch this guy, has to invent forensic science. There is no such thing and so he has to sort of invent tools along the way to figure this out. In an era where even empirical thinking was slightly dangerous and new. So, there's my pitch. -Why, I think that's really cool. I've never heard of what you're talking about. I think it's really cool. I think that just 10 or 15 years ago, you'd get laughed out of any room that you pitched that in. But we're no longer living in a time of, it's got to be ABC, CBS, or NBC. And there are cable networks that would do that kind of work. So I think it's terrific. If you were in an actual pitch session, they would ask you to describe some future episodes down the line. But because I want to get to everyone who has a pitch, I want to move on. But I totally wasn't expecting that. And I think it's cool as hell and keep thinking the way you think. OK. Who's next? [MUSIC PLAYING] -So I have been my sister's guardian since I was 20 years old. ...


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.



Reviews

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

Confirmed a lot I already knew and added more than I didn't know that I can now take forward to my current and future screenplays! The only fault I give in this course is how the assignments are handled. I hope someday I'll get some sort of mark for the assignments I do.

Great class. A lot is about Aaron, but given his remarkable talent, that's okay. He engaged and put genuine effort into the class.

Learn screen/television writing from a master.

Brilliant class. Really loved seeing the live feedback on scripts and the live writers' room. This was absolutely life-changing!


Comments

Kelley B.

Favorite pitch was for the Anatomist! Very well done, and he was respectful of listeners time, and informative. Most important- I would watch that show!!

A fellow student

Hey @Masterclass , this is one of the most invaluable videos in the class. Can you please add his feedback to each pitch and the other two people whose pitches are not shown? Hearing his questions and reaction to each pitch is extremely useful.

Michael

One thing that Evelyn Yves did not say, nor did Aaron Sorkin ask, is how do butchers and other blue collar people come to understand the intricacies of the stock market "in the way drug dealers know blow?" It seems odd to blindly accept that people "who barely graduated high school" somehow know more about Wall Street than the people on Wall Street do. Well, how did that happen? How did they educate themselves? Did anyone else feel the same way? Great episode, though. Just a little something that stuck in my craw.

Florian E.

I like this session a lot, but, we already had listen to that (except for the first one). Very usefull anyway.

Jess

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: https://community.masterclass.com/c/film-tv/as-workbook 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: https://community.masterclass.com/t/contest-win-tix-to-aaron-sorkin-s-latest-broadway-show-to-kill-a-mockingbird/35249 Contest closes this Sunday, Nov 24 at 10pm PT. Can't wait to see your submissions!

Rubens J.

The Anatomist is almost the same idea of The Alienist. Great show by the way.

A fellow student

This is all gold. As I watch Aaron come up with the direction of the episode, I'm curious to know if the show runner is ever involved in what will or won't be included in an episode?

Nolan J.

The information on in-person pitching is very useful; however, I am curious how those that don't live in Los Angeles can get producers to read their work. Do you have any information for sending query letters? Would you recommend those without many contacts in the industry using sources such the Virtual Pitch Fest?

A fellow student

G. M. Thomas, WA We witness three student pitching their stories. What will the producers ask of my original idea for a series? They listen to J.J. Braider, his pitch. It is about fornsics of 17th. century Europe. Second is Jeanne Bergen.She tells a story about a twenty year old girl who has to raise her sister while schooling herself and making a living. Next: Evelyn Yves, The Merc vertrss Wall Street. Aaron is amazed at the original writing.

Lisa

Pitching is so hard for me. I've listened to videos and read all about it. I'm pretty good at telling my stories to my cat, but as soon as I'm in front of a human it sounds like Charlie Brown. My hats off to the students. Years ago, I was watching a girl pitching her work on Project Greenlight. She was amazing, like it was a walk in the park. She's my motivation to keep practicing and know I can be close to her level someday.