From Aaron Sorkin's MasterClass

Group Workshop: Untitled by JJ Braider

While workshopping J.J.'s script, Aaron shares his tips on writing action scenes that move as fast on the page as they will on the screen.

Topics include: Table read • Script feedback

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While workshopping J.J.'s script, Aaron shares his tips on writing action scenes that move as fast on the page as they will on the screen.

Topics include: Table read • Script feedback

Aaron Sorkin

Teaches Screenwriting

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You have each come in with a scene from a screenplay that you're working on. So we're going to read through the scene. The author is going to cast it for us. It's going to be the wrong cast-- we're not actors here, this is going to be like me playing the lead in Pretty Woman. But we'll just read it through out loud, so we get a sense of it. And then we'll talk about it. And J.J. Braider, we're going to start with you. You know what? I'm just going to read out loud the full script, a logline, OK? Do you mind? No, please. This is untitled by J.J. Braider. The full script logline is upon hearing, I'm sorry, upon learning that his absence from the battlefield has cost his beloved sister her life. Elijo? Yeah. Elijo, the most lethal soldier in a Mexican cartel is consumed with a rage for vengeance that knows no bounds. And this is adapted from Homer's The Illiad. Exterior, farmhouse, high desert, dawn. First light picks out the edges of a ramshackle farmstead-- satellite dish, cracked adobe, and ATVs in the yard. We're in-- Jalisco. Jalisco, Mexico. In an aged t-shirt, and carrying a steaming travel mug of coffee, a stout, middle-aged farmer emerges, slips on boots that he had left outside the door the previous night. His son and daughter, both in their 20s, follow him out of the house. The farmer climbs into one of the ATVs, its engines roar rips the silence. He leaves his children to start their days. Go to exterior fields. We're moving, moments later. The ATV's headlights cut through the receding darkness. We hear a corrido playing in the farmer's headphones as he drives out into his land. Am I pronouncing that right? Corrido, right. What is a corrido? It's a Mexican folk ballad. Still contemporary songs. We hear a corrido playing on the farmer's headphones, as he drives out into his land. He stops here and there to check a sprinkler head, or a readout on his laptop-- modern farming. At another point, he rips a rifle from its housing on the back of the four-wheeler, to try to pick off a jack rabbit. It vanishes before he can align his shot. Continuing, his headlights pick out a muddy puddle blocking the dirt path among the rows of agave plants. He stops and dismounts to investigate the flooding. He looks perplexed. He pulls a two-way radio from his belt, and removes the headphones, still playing. We've got flooding out on the north end, east agave fields. You see any irrigation issues on your end? He wades out into the water. No readings or problems in the remotes. How much flooding are we talking? He wades farther. The growing light of day reveals a vast overflow into his fields. Shit. It's a vast, muddy swath of this farm, sopping up the cacti. We'll come and check you out. The farmer takes in the terrible destruction. Exterior, flooded a...

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.

Learning the craft of screenwriting from one of the best, is its own reward. But in addition to that, when that writer is Aaron Sorkin, a professional who you respect and whose work you admire, tells me to keep doing what I'm doing, it reinforces the fact that I'm on the right track.

This was a super wrap-up. Sorkin is correct. Writers are exposed. Writing is surely the most personal aspect of any jobs I've held. I liked his final lesson, which was basically to block out the noise and just work to fulfill your passion. That's good advice in any field.

I am also a teacher, and what I know about student evaluations is that they either gush or flame. Just tell Mr. Sorkin "thanks."

An excellent class, with lots of very specific practical advice.

Comments

Eric G.

Spot on, again, Aaron. Whow. I had garnered from previous lessons he is a descriptive screenwriter as he talks about how some of his screenplays are two hundred or more pages. For us as writers who are only able to look at his status and have to entice investors, directors, and talent, the cardinal 120 page requirement rules. It is why I am thankful I decided to only undertake novel adaptations to begin and doubly blessed to be close friends with top, bestselling authors who coincidentally have cinematic (scene) styles of literary writing. My biggest problems have been the painful ones of deciding which incredible scenes to exclude to maintain the page count and not destroy the plot or character values. So far, so good...two films, two projects in pre=production financing...this was a great lesson, especially since one of my films is full-on action ...not what I expected from Aaron.

A fellow student

Good lesson! I read Poetic by Aristotle. Also William Goldman book (three quarters through) Adventures in The Screen Trade. The William Goldman book is gold dust. It's obvious he wrote this book because he wanted to! One of the few books I've read that I actually want to pick up and read rather than have to, or should do. Can I ask Aaron something? How much of Poetics were completely understandable or did he just 'get' the semantics? The bit I remember is "possible probability..." Not much else .

Judith M.

Thank you J.J. reading your script pages opened my eyes to the heroin underworld in Mexico and the Narcocorridos ballads. I also learned a few other things from you as I'd never heard a bundle of cash called a flat before, which is helpful to know, and that heroin is commonly called 'white' there. I think that I'd like to have known which of the ballads was playing though, as I got the impression that you had a very specific one in mind.

Stacy S.

First thought is wouldn't he shake his boots out bc desert spiders? Very minor detail.

A fellow student

Gary Thomas, WA Aaron reads a student;s script. This is new and partial. The script of rural action of a man who encounters a violent man who has been shooting. We get the impression that many people have been shot by a single man. J. J, finds that his action portrayed in his script comes easily. Aaron said that any action needs to be as long on the page as it will take to happen in real time.

Roy T.

I liked the flow. I agree with Aaron about the time taken to describe the action. I liked hearing it read.

Dennis F.

How great was this. JJ's action was very well written. We moved through the story as quickly as it was happening. The suspense of slogging up the river, blood and bodies were excellent.

Lisa

Great lesson. J.J. did a great job. I found Aaron's suggestions regarding direction very helpful. I didn't realize using my one word description was a good thing. CRASH!

Maurice Y.

Nice how JJ Braider's script brings you into the action in vivid detail of description.

Ramona T.

I finished this lesson with a sense of awe at JJ Braider's work. I was always told not to make action too wordy, but his was so balanced and easy to follow.