Film & TV

Rewrites: Notes

Aaron Sorkin

Lesson time 16:27 min

Rewrites aren't a sign of a bad script; they're a sign of a good writer. Hear how Aaron reworks and strengthens his screenplays with help from trusted advisors.

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Aaron Sorkin
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As a writer, you're going to develop, over a course of time, a relationship with someone-- hopefully two, three, four people-- who you really like talking about your work with. They're speaking in a vocabulary you understand. You trust their taste. It takes a while to collect them. I would say that for me, the big people for me obviously, Bill Goldman, who you've heard me mention. But then came along a guy with a funny name-- Tommy Schlamme, OK? He's Thomas Schlamme professionally, but everybody knows him as Tommy. Why he doesn't call himself Tom-- he's a big, 6 foot 5 inch Texan, and for my money, the best director in television. He and I did Sports Night together. He was the other executive producer and principal director of Sports Night-- same thing on The West Wing, same thing on Studio 60. And with Tommy, I felt I had a great creative collaborator, that we understood each other. We had respect for the other person's job and knew that we couldn't really do the other person's job. We understood and respected the way the other person worked. And I liked talking to him about my material. Another person is Scott Rudin, the producer of The Social Network, Moneyball, Steve Jobs, and I expect a lot of things that I'll do in the future. Scott's one of the best producers of both plays and movies around. And he is, for me, a great script editor. And then one or two civilian friends-- for instance, my assistant Lauren , who's not quite a civilian. She's in show business. But you know, I'll give her pages. And her reactions will range from, I'm faking it, polite-- you know, good job-- to I can tell when she genuinely likes something. But I can also tell, again, if it's comprehensible, if the story landed, or did too much of it stay in my head and not make it onto the paper? So those are the people. [MUSIC PLAYING] You really want to be careful about who you're listening to. Be polite to everybody. You can pretend you're listening to everybody, and be polite and thank them. But you really want to be careful about who you're listening to. If you're lucky, you're talking to someone, whether they're your producer, your director, your friend-- you're talking to someone who's smart, who understands scripts, and who understands the way you write. What you don't want in a script editor-- if you're talking to your friend who's also a screenwriter, you want to make sure that they're not trying to write your script the way they would write it, you know? Boy, there's an awful lot of talking in this thing. And you've got to cut out that talking and put in more action. You're probably not going to find that person right off the bat, much like you're probably not going to marry the first person you went on a date with. But try to find that person. And once you find that person, keep them in your pocket. Don't lose them. ...


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.

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.

Brilliant, informative, and motivating. Arron Sorkin is incredibly open and precise about his own journey and approach to writing. Thank you!

I highly recommend this class. Even when he is covering things you already know, his take is invaluable. So many insights and helpful tips.

Easily the best masterclass here. Aaron's down to earth honesty and simplicity helped me to really understand where I was weak and what to focus on. Thank you!


Comments

A fellow student

Good lesson on how to know if your story needs upgrading even if you think there is nothing to check. Some people night think that. Great insight.

Doha I.

Absolutely LOVING this Masterclass. I feel like Mr Sorkin is talking directly to me....

A fellow student

Gary Thomas, WA I thin it is a B plus. A big part of the writing process is going over the finished and good scrip with one ore more trusted editors. The one chosen to work with is a pro. You, the writer, are not assigned someone to work with you. Rather, you pick who you want to work with. You probable have worked with this person before. The editor chosen will probably find a place where thetwo of you can work together for an extended time. There is a story of a singer who is moved to tears by an aria she performs . Maria Callas walks over an slap;s the p;erformer. Callas declares:" I am the one to be moved, not holj."

Maros M.

I really found this lesson very helpful, as it not only explained the step by step process how to rewrite and how to get feedback but also the very practical way to start learning. I enjoyed the last part very much, as it encouraged me and gave me idea to sit down and start somewhere, even if that somewhere may be a script of a movie I like ... so I plan to start with some of my favs eg. Fountain, Tree of life, etc.. Thank you Aaron for the applicable information.

A fellow student

Tons of notes this time around. Also, I am definitely going to try the retyping thing.

Lisa

Great lesson. I agree with Aaron on retyping the script once you worked out all the bugs. It really does work. You get some better ideas on scenes.

Sarah M.

I am learning a ton and re-learning even more. And I gotta say, Mr. Sorkin, Sir, you are delightful. Thank you.

James P.

The danger of copying Butch and Sundance is it probably won't be a first draft you are copying verbatim. The scripts available are not for the most part first drafts. They are shooting scripts which is not what writers present to agents, producers, or directors. The bigger Gorilla in the room is the script you've downloaded has style and syntax that may be out of date or worse wrong. BOLD TYPE is a rookie mistake for loud conversation is a good example. I really like the idea of retyping the script again simply to create an improved version almost in flow with original​ creativity that now has a sharper, cleaner story and character arcs. Notes of the caliber presented from various sources that support Arron would be outstanding vs. an unknown Contest reader.

Dennis F.

I like the idea of retyping and fixing AFTER the rewrite is finished. Then write it from memory and I think he said one more just for good measure. I like to type so it's not a problem. Good advice. And the copying great writers is also a good exercise. I retyped E. L. Doctorow's work and marveled at its elegance. There is a place for melodrama. When you want to punch the audience in the gut, the story needs it but it has to be used wisely.

K.L. G.

Even if all Aaron did was provide that definition of melodrama, I'd have learned EVERYTHING I needed to know to make sure my project did not include it. People like drama. People HATE melodrama. Melodrama is a soap opera. Real drama is real life.