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Arts & Entertainment

Group Workshop: The Merc by Evelyn Yves

Aaron Sorkin

Lesson time 16:53 min

Evelyn's TV pilot kicks off a conversation about opening scenes and the importance of showing your audience something they've never seen before.

Aaron Sorkin
Teaches Screenwriting
Aaron Sorkin teaches you the craft of film and television screenwriting.
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Good afternoon, guys. It's good to see you again. We're going to start off with "The Merc." It's a one-hour pilot from Ellen [? Eaves. ?] Over black. Say you buy 1,000 shares of Coca-Cola from your client, each valued at $42? So that's 42 grand. Stock goes up to 43, 44, 45. Let's say it goes all the way up to 47, like it did last June. Fade in on flashes of skin, sex, top shelf bottles, lewds, nudes, and coke, cut into neat white lines on the bare stomach of a blue chip hooker, an almost super model. Your commission off that $5,000 profit is 1%. You just spent six months trying to make $50. And you have 100 other stocks and 100 other clients to worry about. But hey, that's Wall Street, right? A line zips through the coils of a $100 bill up the nostril and grinning face of a Wall Street stockbroker, who's pushed out of the way by more brokers just dying to get a hit. We pull back to see the full extent of this debauchery. Exterior, Battery Park marina, yacht, night. Three blue chips to every horny broker on 100 foot yacht cruising along the marina against the backdrop of the financial district and the World Trade Center. Title, Battery Park, New York, 1978. The only man lucid and taking advantage of their high is Andy Marks, 30, boyish Brooklyn charm and a sweet face that belies any trace of darkness or genius. In this crowd of suits, he's the only other jacket, out of place, but completely at ease. So let's say you convince your clients to bet on oil at the Merc, where you don't even have to worry about stockholders or a board of directors or the FCC. You get to drive the price up and down a million times over, and the only constant is that everybody, everybody, needs oil. Now, you're making 20% off $200,000. You made $200,000 in one morning? Yes. Bullshit. That's not what you said. This killjoy is David Bursar, 34, Lehman Brothers broker. Unbelievable good looks, money, a perfect storm of cocaine and self-loathing. What I said was-- Flash back to Wall Street, two months ago. A series of shots-- the street sign, the bull, the New York Stock Exchange. Interior Lehman brothers [? bullpen ?] day. Box-sized computers, index cards, telephone cords 10 feet long, all top of the line technology. In the midst of this chaos is David, unsettled, fixated on-- I made more money trading oil futures than I did my first three years combined. Nobody's trading oil. I am. And so can you. Cut to Merrill Lynch, day. Andy is now facing an uptight Merrill Lynch broker with a serious combover. All right, who else? Forget who else. You want the entire city to get [? on ?] this before you do? Interior, JP Morgan, different firm, different broker. This one has three chins and no neck. We have to see the contracts. I'll show you the contracts. But let me ask you this. What is your top priority as ...

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 was inspired by the new learnings I have acquired while watching the lessons.

Alan was great. He is very thorough in his approach to screenwriting. I find this approach very helpful.

Aaron Sorkin being the genius that he is gave me some great advice and I'm sure to thank him when my Film becomes a hit.

My experience was great! Aaron has a point-of-view which tells us not only what he has learned through his career, but what we might expect from our own. The writing room exercises were probably the most impactful. These gave me the chance to see what might happen in a real writing room, and how I might pitch my work.


Stacy T.

That's so funny, I just auditioned for a big Hollywood movie (that got postponed because of Covid-19) and was to play 'Vendor Lady'. Of course, my family had a field day with that: Vendor Lady! Hey, Vendor Lady! Reminded me of 'Guy' in Galaxy Quest. And so this statement from Aaron is absolutely spot on and I thank him for it. I loved the lesson for that and a lot of other reasons.

Alexandros A.

Like the narco-iliad script it sounds like a wolf of wall street copycat. I didn't get the stakes, I wasn't really invested in the character and I wasn't interested to find out what's happening next.

Glen G.

Interesting. I thought her use of metonymy in naming characters was clever and effective. But I also appreciate the notion of giving even minor characters a name. I went back through my script to try to balance that out - give characters a name but also have a visual shorthand so they're recognizable to the audience. She is a great writer but I wondered what kind of legs this idea would have. I'm just now watching Breaking Bad. I'm in season 3 and it's lost me for the same reason Lost did years ago ... just feels like the show went on longer than what the concept can sustain.


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!

Antony P.

The most engaging and snappy screenplay of all the workshops and Sorkin definitely noticed. Brilliant episode with excellent table reading skills and great feedback given,

Wenna P.

Sounds like a lot of the model of her pilot was inspired by the second "wall street" film.


I really appreciated Aaron's comments about dignity for the actor. During the read, I felt the indignity of the nameless character. Aaron made a good point and his comments model recognition that a show's production is a team effort.


He has a remarkable way of delivering critical feedback that doesn't sound "harsh" and "negative". I think that's important for new writers.

Chad E.

It's great to listen in on these table readings. Great writing great dialog. Maybe technicalities aren't that important to the show.. I saw 1990's headlights and taillights on that 70's show. Just popped into my head that the Bull wasn't on Wall Street in the 70's

A fellow student

I have been disappointed by not being able to download the scripts, as the links suggest!