Chapter 28 of 35 from Aaron Sorkin

The West Wing Writers' Room: Part 4


How can research drive the plot forward? Aaron and the students discuss the limitations of the 25th Amendment as a plot point.

Topics include: Virtual writers' room

Aaron Sorkin

Aaron Sorkin Teaches Screenwriting

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I was thinking about this last night. All I heard yesterday were good ideas. Let's hear some bad ideas so we can talk about why they're bad. Let's learn from some mistakes. OK? I also had another idea that I was certain I didn't need to write down, because I was going to remember it. Just hang on a second. Goddamn it. OK. All right, let's go back to where we were. I remember what my idea is now. I think we do have to start that the logical place to start is in the press briefing room in the middle of the night. The last briefing CJ gave, does anybody remember? Here's what I remember, because I haven't seen-- you guys have seen it more recently than I have. Leo told CJ she's got to give the best briefing of her life. When did that happen? Early. It happened after Zoe was taken, right? OK, that's happened. Abbey, Stockard Channing, then, who has been sedated, nonetheless shrugged off-- barreled through the sedation to go into the press briefing room to make a personal plea from a mother. All hell broke loose instantly. I remember in the script I wrote a stage direction. This has gone from 0 to 60 instantly with CJ and with Mary Louise Parker trying to stop her. Abby gets a couple of feet into the press briefing room. Everyone starts screaming to get her out of there. But CJ's briefing was prior to the president stepping down. OK, the press needs to be briefed again. It's the middle of the night right now, right? Midnight, 1:00 AM somewhere around then. OK, so great. We've got that press briefing room to handle exposition for us. And that's what's going to happen. CJ Is going to go in and brief the press on the fact that a short while ago, the president called his cabinet together, requested that they invoke the 25th Amendment, the president believes he does not have the mental capacity to do this. And according to the Constitution, the following has happened. People will have a ton of questions. Reporters will have a ton of questions. We'll decide what questions we want to hear answered, that kind of thing. And I think it's a good idea to let the audience know that we expect this to be wrapped up soon that The West Wing, that the series, has not gone into a permanent condition of John Goodman being the president, Martin Sheen being in the East Wing, and worse yet, that World War III is about to happen. I remember early on at the end of the second episode of the first season, a US Air Force plane carrying a bunch of military doctors, including the president's personal physician, accidentally wandered into Syrian airspace and got shot down by the Syrian air space or Libyan air space. I think it was Syrian air space. I can't remember. I believe so. And they got shut down requiring military action on our part. And the head of NBC at the time, Scott Sassa, who was a big champion of th...

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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. You’ll learn his rules of storytelling, dialogue, character development, and what makes a script actually sell. By the end, you'll write unforgettable screenplays.

Watch, listen, and learn as Aaron teaches the essentials of writing for television and film.

A downloadable workbook accompanies the class with lesson recaps and supplemental materials.

Upload videos to get feedback from the class. Aaron will also critique select student work.


Aaron Sorkin

Aaron Sorkin Teaches Screenwriting