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Arts & Entertainment

Rewrites: Notes

Aaron Sorkin

Lesson time 16:34 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.

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


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

Just reaffirmed things I already knew and it was cool to get an insight into a writers room with Aaron Sorkin, and most importantly I learned some new things.

Love Aaron's passion and accessible style. Helpful case studies and simple rules to follow.

I learned exactly what I needed to know, but more importantly I was inspired to follow my dreams and my vision.

For me was great to know how a profesional script writer works. Sometimes I doubt if the methods I use to write are similar to the industry. This Masterclass helped me to see what I´m doing right and wrong when I´m writing a script.


David B.

Within the first 2 minutes of this lesson, I could have sworn that you were not you, but rather Mr. Rob Lowe...whom I also noticed was the first person to speak, as Sam Seaborn, on the first episode of West least according to the script. I watched every episode, but don't specifically remember how the first one played out. That said...why is it that you two look so much alike? Did y'all use trick photography? Anyway, you both should be happy to hear. :)

A fellow student

so if I write I wont have the ability to have a panel of advisors ... that is a glitch in this course.

A fellow student

Gather around you people to give you good feedback to refine the script. ( This works in other areas of one's life) Listen to the feedback and choose it if it is your point of view not the other person's style of writing. Ask for specific notes, not just "fluff it up". As you reread and rewrite a script, do your edits. Strengthen a line, again, and then do a final retype of the entire script ( to avoid being lazy with what needs to be refined.

Soha Z.

"I re-type the script just as a hedge to laziness" "In the hope that William Goldman will osmosis in them somehow!" My fav quotes from this lesson!!

Katrina V.

I received some really great pointers from this lesson. The takeaways for me were the importance of getting to the end of the story before you start rewriting it and being careful who you listen to. I agree, the person should understand scripts and also understand the way you write. I am an author and am in the process of drafting a script based on my book. So, these pointers among others are very insightful.

Judy M.

Here is a thought on the Fargo scene that Mr. Sorkin mentions. I disagree that it has nothing to do with the rest of the movie. I think it is a kind of turning point for Marge because by realizing her classmate is lying and unhinged, she comes to see that ordinary people can do hurtful things in a way that informs how she looks at the Bill Macy character and that resonates until the end of the film when she arrests the bad guy. Her meeting with her old classmate adds to her insight as a detective. I think it is a crucial and marvelous scene. Yes, it could be cut, but the film would lack some depth for it.


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!

Tara Jade B.

This one is one of the top lessons for me. I am fully aware that the first draft (or second or third) will not be as good as a manuscript that has been edited and looked at by a enthusiastic professional. Someone who will want your book to be better (rather then doing it only for a fee at the end) and who knows how to do it, who is a professional. And as Aaron says, it is not at all easy to find that group, but when you finally find them, keep them. I am soooo looking forward to finding my group!

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....