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Arts & Entertainment

Group Workshop: Untitled by JJ Braider

Aaron Sorkin

Lesson time 14:21 min

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.

Aaron Sorkin
Teaches Screenwriting
Aaron Sorkin teaches you the craft of film and television 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.


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

Liked the comment in the Time interview - "There are elements of it that are as old as storytelling: friendship and loyalty, class, jealousy, betrayal

I learned a lot more about conflict, structure, how a writer's room works, pitching & Aaron's techniques & advices were very insightful. The last lesson especially struck a chord with me. Thank you, Aaron !

Even though I write young adult fantasy novels, this class was super helpful about specifically writing characters and dealing with motivation for them. I loved the class! Very encouraging and helpful.

Aaron's movie/show examples aren't that interesting. Besides that we can get into his head, and touch his way of thinking.


Marta C.

I'm loving all the lessons, it's really inspiring and useful and most of all Aaron Sorkin is not just an incredible screenwriter, the teacher I was looking for, but it's deeply sincere, able to touch hearts. What a writer has to do. Thanks a lot.

Eros V.

I was surprised that everyone at the table understood the story. I couldn't keep up with the action and who was where, etc. But this looks promising.

A fellow student

It would have been nice to see the screenplays on the screen as they were reading.

Alexandros A.

Interesting class. The story was outright terrible. The Narco-Iliad story (disclaimer I am Greek and I know that story inside out) 1. can you really or should you even write a TV series focusing on Narcos in Mexico while Narcos Mexico is actually ongoing in Netflix? Aren't you obviously just trying to take advantage of a fad? And if you really want to write about Narcos aren't you running the risk of tackling an overly saturated topic? 2. The Iliad starts with the wrath of Achilles, when you read it for the first time it's surprising because you expect to read about good guys fighting the baddies. From the very beginning the heroes of Greece appear petit, mean, manipulative. Moreover, they hate each other, they are divided and these divisions will never be amended. Agamemnon even steals Achilles slave/love interest. These are some strong stuff. The Narco-Iliad we got here is just mindless action with an overly badass hero who just tries to be so cool at every scene. In fact violence scenes in the Iliad emphasize the tragic loss of human life and the darkness of the moment. No emotional depth here. Do you imagine how much more shallow would the Iliad be if Homer described battles in this style ".... and then Achilles puts on his favourite badass song, kills one enemy flexes his muscles, kills another enemy, ignores an explosion, flexes his muscles some more."

Edward F.

these workshop formatted classes are the most valuable parts of these masterclasses

Sarah A.

super important note about the chance you have to have a "readable" first shot ---

A fellow student

Excellent lesson. I feel lucky to get to sit in with a class workshop like this.

Nick F.

Wow, it was really hard just listening to that screenplay. Didn't like it one bit. Very messy. Very comic-bookish. But then again, he did say that it was based on Homer's Iliad.


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!

Eileen N.

Regrettably I cannot complete watching Alan Sorkin’s series despite his brilliantly creative mind and talent. I am now so distracted by his constant over dependence of fillers (“m-ummmm, ahh, ahh, ahhh) that I no longer hear the lesson). Noticed that this annoying use of crutches is infecting members of his group. I’ll just wait to watch his next Masterpiece. Mr. Sorkin, embrace the pauses please.