Chapter 30 of 35 from Aaron Sorkin

The West Wing Writers' Room: Part 6


Who's got a bad idea? Aaron and the students run through various plot ideas as the writers' room continues.

Topics include: Virtual writers' room

Aaron Sorkin

Aaron Sorkin Teaches Screenwriting

Aaron Sorkin teaches you the craft of film and television screenwriting in 35 exclusive video lessons.

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Class Info


These index cards are too small for our purposes, but we're going to go with them anyway, index card junkies back there. You have no idea how much index card stuff we went through. You're the one with the handwriting. You blew it on day one. Would you just write, C.J. Press Briefing Room? [SOUNDS OF WRITING ON PAPER] We don't quite know-- we know a little bit about what that scene's going to be. We don't know everything about what that scene's going to be. But watch how good we're going to feel when we put up-- [LAUGHTER] --an index card. And wait, we even get to do another one. We'll do it on the white index card. Would you write, teaser, on that? [SOUNDS OF WRITING ON PAPER] Were you worried for a second that you weren't going to be able to fit the whole word, or did you feel like you had it all the way? I had it. [LAUGHTER] Let me tell you something. At S, I thought, she's worried. But she didn't show it. All right, you showed nothing but confidence. But at S, I knew you were worried. [LAUGHTER] You didn't have it all the way. Look how well we're doing. Does anybody have any general thoughts? Did anybody have any ideas overnight? Here's the overnight idea I had. We've seen this plot before in various different forms. Let's explore it, and see if we can do it in a way that we haven't seen before. There is the illusion of some kind of international threat out there. It's not real. It's an illusion that's been created by the rapturists. That's what they're called, right? Am I using the right name? Does anybody know? I think so. Yeah, yeah. Well, that's what we're calling them here. There's an illusion that's been created by the rapturists. We're going to make that clear, in our story, that some actual terrorist group, or even a country, has abducted Zoe and is making certain demands. There's an easy way to explain this by just talking about what we're ripping it off from. So let's just talk about Crimson Tide for a sec. The movie Crimson Tide, does everybody know it? Um-hum. In Crimson Tide, they get a message to launch nuclear missiles. And they get another message that's cut off in the middle. Gene Hackman says, that message was cut off in the middle. We're going to launch these missiles anyway. Denzel Washington says, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, we can't launch the missiles. We've got to wait and see what this other message is because it might be saying, don't launch the missiles, everything's OK. And the movie is, essentially, a race with time to see if they can get the second half of that message, that was cut off, before the moment that they're supposed to launch the missiles. So what if we have, roughly, the same race that if we devise-- and we're going to need some military consultants in here to make this all legit. But we have John Goodman and his peop...

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. 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