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Arts & Entertainment

The West Wing Writers' Room: Part 3

Aaron Sorkin

Lesson time 16:32 min

Aaron and the students continue to work together to break episode 501 of The West Wing.

Aaron Sorkin
Teaches Screenwriting
Aaron Sorkin teaches you the craft of film and television screenwriting.
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OK, so I want to hear from you guys. I just want to hear your off the top of your head, unformed, bad ideas. OK? This is the time now for bad ideas. And feel free to reach outside the box. There is no reason-- we've done this several times on the show. And I like it when we do. There's no reason why this episode has to begin 2 minutes after the last episode. It can. That was my first thought. It can begin five years ago. It can be a flashback episode. If we hadn't done it already, and we've done it twice, you could cut back and forth between the campaign when everything's great to now when everything is terrible. But we did that with the top of season 2 with . Let me hear from you guys. What do you think so far? I have two intertwined story lines. So one of them is related to Zoe's boyfriend waking up and CJ and the West Wing crew finding out that his drug dealer is basically linked to this white supremacist group of, like, Christian fundamentalists. And they're trying to resurrect this group called the Covenant, the Sword, and the Arm of the Lord. And so they're basically-- That's a real group. That's a real group that basically went defunct in the '80s. So these are basically young Christian fundamentalists who supposedly have kidnapped Zoe. But they don't know yet that she's been kidnapped. They just know that this might be a link that I think Nancy McNally had alluded to at the end of season 4. So that's the information that they have right now is that they have this drug dealer. There's a supremacist group that he's linked to. And maybe they have Zoe. And then the other story is linked to John Goodman's character as the acting president. And the Qumari terrorists, or Bahji operatives. Have basically sent a video to the White House claiming responsibility for Zoe's kidnapping. And the footage basically shows a captured girl, who kind of resembles Zoe. But they can't confirm for sure that it actually is her. But going off of this video basically that is not leaked to the press yet, Leo and Glenn Allen Walken and the situation room, basically, are forced to decide whether or not to storm the place, because the CIA is located-- they pinpointed where this place is, where they shot the footage and where Zoe might be located. So the question is whether or not to stage this rescue mission, which may very well incite a war between Qumar, which is a US ally at the moment in order to save the president's daughter. There's a lot of interesting stuff in there. But I'm confused about one thing. They've got footage of someone who's going to turn out to not be Zoe. Right? Yes. But based on where this footage was shot, they were able to somehow recognize this place, which I buy. If anybody has seen the movie The Good Shepherd-- Yes. In that movie, there is-- and this is talking about te...

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.

Be prepared to sleep on the lounge and fail :)

This was my first round of simply listening. I will begin my second round with the goal of completing the exercises. Watching this has made screenwriting feel more accessible. Thank you.

Dear Mr. Sorkin, Thank you, thank you! Your class was clear and very engaging. I loved your honesty. Thank you

It taught a whole lot about developing scripts but didn't go into unnecessary details. Very well done. It covered probably exactly what I needed. The simplicity of the lessons were the best part about them


A fellow student

Sorkin is right/wrong on 25th. Woodrow Wilson wasn't the reason for the 25th, it was Eisenhower's heart attack in the 1950's and also Kennedy's death, leaving a President who had had heart issues with no VP. Senator Robert Kennedy was instrumental in pushing it forward, as was Birch Bayh. But Wilson's example was brought up during the Senate debates.

A fellow student

I think that was johnson that was reinstated into office after having to remove Edwin Staton Secretary of war


Wow, I am currently taking this course during the COVID 19 pandemic, and hearing Aaron talk about how Trump's "Watergate" will come has my jaw on the floor. Many people predict Trump will not leave the office easily. I wish this were just a TV show brilliantly written with a resolve that brings hope.

A fellow student

Aaron doesn't pretend to know it all. He shares that with the students which gives them permission to not know it all...but to ask questions, turn to others, do research.

Michele M.

He basically predicted Trump's impeachment! Also, I did not expect to enjoy these writer's rooms sessions as much as I am

J R.

Wow, his prediction of Trump is spot on. Aside from that, I am really enjoying this writer's room conversation. His humbleness is a beautiful thing too.


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!

M. Casey M.

Accurately depicting the 2019 administration and T. It’s time to resurrect The West Wing—call it Wing Nuts???😎

Juan Carlos E.

I find interesting how Aaron uses his own political views to pull threads of real-life events that give fiction some substance. I may or may not agree with him, but I definitely learned a lot from the exercise. I mean, the thought process is really how things happen in a brainstorming session for an advertising campaign. Thanks.


I have really enjoyed this video series but I think it's in poor taste to bring into the discussion our president and thoughts on the crisis they feel he is causing/or will cause. This webinar should be for learning about screenwriting period.