Film & TV

Scene Case Study: Steve Jobs

Aaron Sorkin

Lesson time 8:35 min

In a study of a scene from Steve Jobs, Aaron explains how high stakes, strong intentions & obstacles, and competing tactics make for an exciting scene to write.

Aaron Sorkin
Teaches Screenwriting
Aaron Sorkin teaches you the craft of film and television screenwriting in 35 exclusive video lessons.
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We're there? Hey, Chris. Hey, Andy. How are you doing? Terrible. You guys caught up now? Excuse me for saying hello to my friend, who thinks you're a dick. I don't think you're-- We're there. No. It's got a one in six chance of working. God damn it. We're not a pit crew at Daytona, this is can't be fixed in seconds. You didn't have seconds. You had three weeks. The universe was created in a third of that time. Well, someday you'll have to tell us how you did it. Here's what I'm going to do, I'm going to announce the names of everyone who designed the launch demo. I'm going to introduce everyone and ask them to stand up. The bag was designed by Susan Kare. The Macintosh font that's scrolling across the screen was designed by Steve Capps. The Starry Night and Skywriting was Bruce Horn. MacPaint, MacWrite, Alice, down to the calculator. And then I'm going to say the voice demo that didn't work was designed by Andy Hertzfeld. Steve-- Five and six is your chance of surviving the first round of Russian Roulette, you reverse those odds. So unless you want to be disgraced in front of your friends, family, colleagues, stockholders, and the press, I wouldn't stand here arguing. I'd go try and get some more bullets out of the gun. Do it, Andy. I like this scene. It's the first act scene with Steve and Andy Hertzfeld. Andy Hertzfeld can't make the voice demo work, and Steve threatens him by saying, listen I'm going to introduce everybody who had everything to do with this. And I'm going to get to the voice demo, and I'm going to say it was Andy Hertzfeld, and it's not going to work, and you're going to be humiliated in front of everybody. I should tell you that the idea for the scene came from Andy Hertzfeld. In an email exchange, I just asked him, in this situation tell me what would happen. What would be Steve's reaction? And he said he would say, he would say what happened. You'll get bored of hearing the word "conflict," you'll get bored of hearing "intention" and "obstacle," but the scene works because the conflict is clear, because the intention and obstacle is clear. Writing intention and obstacle with Steve was fun because of his famous reality distortion field, which is to say that to Steve there was no such thing as an insurmountable obstacle. Someone-- an expert-- can say what you're describing is impossible, and Steve would say do it anyway, or in this case, I'm going to embarrass you. So clear intention and obstacle, it revealed a lot about Steve. Remember you don't want to tell the audience who a character is, you want to show the audience what a character wants. And we do that with Steve. What he wants at that moment is for the voice demo to work. So Steve's tactic is to threaten Andy with humiliation out there. Remember, there are people watching this scene, too, not just what'...

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.


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In every way imaginable I have improved. Cleared away the rust and tightened the screws. Thank you Masterclass, thank you, ​Aaron Sorkin.

Really in depth and practical. Very inspiring.

Excellent. Down to Earth, nothing withheld, insightful advice delivered with a quick wit and smart humor. Highly recommend! Thanks Aaron!

Fantastic class! Loved Aaron's teaching style! Highly recommend!



Mr. Sorkin, you nailed it in that scene (Jobs / Hertzfeld). There are many types in Silicon Valley; the egotistical CEO, the tech-driven visionary, the reclusive engineer, to name a few. I lived down the street from Andy Hertzfeld in those days. You could tell when he was under fire (and he kind of invited and liked it) because normally his windows would be bare to the world. But when the broiler was on, the bed sheets would be pulled over (the windows) for days. But then, Andy could bang out code like nobody else -- working code.

Gustavo F.

fix the subtitles.... in the las part of this class Aaron talk about Molly´s Game, great movie!

A fellow student

Spanish Subtitles are wrong. They are lesson 18 subtitles, by the way that will explain why the spanish subtitles in lesson 18 are in another language...

A fellow student

G.M. Thomas, WA Aaron Sorkin writes as little description as possible. This interesting scene between Jobs and Andy is done enhancing visual and with auditory work. In the scene Steve Jobs demands the impossible. He will embarrass Andy in front of his crew as he urge the impossible. Sorkin is delighted when he sees the director understands and does the work as intended.


The Steve Jobs scene is brilliant. I was curious, so I looked up the scene in the script so I could read Mr. Sorkin's description. "It should be noted there are a number of people--YOUNG ENGINEERS--standing around and witnessing Steve beat up Andy." Thanks for the reminder on high stakes, strong intentions, obstacles and tactics of a scene. I need practice on tactics. it's one of my weaknesses.



Ramona T.

I thought he was speaking of Molly's Game. Useful lesson on subtext as well.

K.L. G.

I love this example from Steve Jobs. In studying it, I get an idea of how to frame a scene from three points of view, which helps me with dialogue. Wonderful class.

Lisa W.

It's interesting (to me) that my favorite Aaron Sorkin film, Molly's Game, is the one he directed. I hope he'll direct more of his future screenplays.

Emilio F.

Great example of subtext in this scene of Steve Jobs and this is a good example of tactics which every scene in a movie has to have.