Chapter 15 of 35 from Aaron Sorkin

Group Workshop: The Merc by Evelyn Yves


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

Topics include: Table read • Script feedback

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

Topics include: Table read • Script feedback

Aaron Sorkin

Aaron Sorkin Teaches Screenwriting

Aaron Sorkin teaches you the craft of film and television screenwriting in 35 exclusive video lessons.

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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. You’ll learn his rules of storytelling, dialogue, character development, and what makes a script actually sell. By the end, you'll write unforgettable screenplays.

Watch, listen, and learn as Aaron teaches the essentials of writing for television and film.

A downloadable workbook accompanies the class with lesson recaps and supplemental materials.

Upload videos to get feedback from the class. Aaron will also critique select student work.


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Great class! It was such a pleasure to learn how Aaron thinks about things...

Great class for writers in a broad range - and not just screenwriters. I highly recommend for novelists as well. Enjoyed hanging out with AS & co.

I am super excited to fulfill my dream as a screenwriter thanks to this course.

I have an idea for a interesting story. I belive that it's a unique look at a very old conflict. I have never writren before, and I believe that this class is very I seful to first tine writers who's default mode in writer's block


A fellow student

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

A fellow student

Does anyone have a screenplay who would be willing to help form a focus group? I've got a TV pilot I'm working on and would really appreciate the opportunity to share and receive feedback.

Judith M.

First I did like the dialogue between the traders, it sounded quite authentic. The police dialogue however felt a little stilted and too much of a caricature. I loved Evelyn,s ability to draw a scene visually in the mind, which is a nice bonus for anyone reading her scripts. You can visualize the traders easily as a varied group brought together by their work rather than friendships. The script also came across as heavily targeted at the male audience, and not because of the subject matter but because of the scene descriptions. Aaron was right in his suggestion of giving a clue to the viewer about the Merc (sadly that title to me means mercenary rather than the Mercantile Exchange). You could do a flashback to its heyday at the turn of the century and connection to agricultural trading with a fade or transition to your version of the 1978 American one, before the yacht scene. You might also want to double check the Oil-Gold ratio for that time period, because for most of 78-80 gold out performed oil due to the Iranian Revolution. There was no bear market in 1978, although there was a minor 4 month slump in the markets where you could have set this as an interesting movie idea. I suggest The History of Gold-Oil ratios: 1970-2018 by Mickey Full on might be helpful. Brent crude oil futures were already being sold on the London Stock Exchange. Regardless of the minor errors though, I'd say you had an interesting idea, I hope it went well.

Maros M.

Even though it was a bit harder for me to follow, as I am not very familiar/interested in the stock exchange world, I still was able to feel being pulled in, by the dialogues which were plausible - believable and seemed real. That is my take away and also the desire to achieve goal - I liked her tenacity and will.

A fellow student

Gary Thomas, WA This phenomenon, the "merc" is brought out by this script. This should be interesting to a t.v. audience who knows very little about the "stock exchange." The merc deals in commodities, and oil is a commodity and so far a bone of contention. Andy's dad heads up the merc and Andy and his dad don't get along. Andy's mentor has a daughter .Corina, whom Andy digs. Our mentor, Aaron advises Miss Yves to hold off on the Wolf of Wall street venue until subsequent acts or scenes. Now, she is advised to tell us more about Andy and to explain why the merc is valuable to him

Giovanni T.

Very interesting feedback session. One question I am left with is: if someone doesn't have first-hand experience of a complicated environment such as stock exchange markets (but it can also apply to politics, technology and other fields) how can a writer, just from research, come up with characters able to plan their moves in surprising and unexpected ways that the other around them couldn't? Is the narrator's omniscience about the plot enough to overcome this obstacle? Do you make your main character (or your main villain?) the smarter around by making everybody else a little bit dumber?


Those opening scenes are really important. Give those characters some dignity!

Ananth A.

did she write it to specifically impress Sorkin? the back-and-forth and cross-talk seems to be very Sorkin-esque.


This script was AMAZING! I agree with Aaron Sorkin, this is Evelyn's true talent to pursue.

Raffi S.

The story grabbed my attention, she's talented, I loved the character descriptions, even without knowing their names. However, a quick note, commodities are regulated by the CFTC (commodity futures trading commission), not the SEC; may seem like an unimportant detail, but I think it would help in selling the "appearance of reality" as Aaron described in a previous lesson.


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 ...