Aaron Sorkin Teaches Screenwriting

Aaron Sorkin Teaches Screenwriting

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

LESSON PLAN

  • 01
  • Introduction
  • Meet Aaron. He’s an Oscar winner, a TV hitmaker, and the writer of some of the smartest dramas ever to hit the screen.
  • And now, he’s your instructor.
  • 02
  • Intention & Obstacle
  • Every great story is born from intentions and obstacles. Learn how to build the “drive shaft” that will set your script in motion.
  • 03
  • Story Ideas
  • How do you know if your idea is good enough to turn into a script? Aaron walks you through the steps every writer should take to test an idea—and decide whether it will work best in TV or film.
  • SHOW ALL 35 LESSONS
  • 04
  • Developing Characters: Part 1
  • Aaron shares some of the decisions he made to develop some of his most unforgettable characters—like The Social
  • Network’s Mark Zuckerberg and The West Wing’s Toby and Leo.
  • 05
  • Developing Characters: Part 2
  • Your characters don’t have to be like you—or even likeable. Drawing on examples from A Few Good Men and Steve Jobs,
  • Aaron explains why he always empathizes with his characters even if he disagrees with them.
  • 06
  • Research
  • Good research is the key to a great script. Bad research is a waste of time. How can you tell the difference? Aaron shares
  • lessons from Malice and The Social Network to help you gather the information you really need.
  • 07
  • Incorporating Research
  • You have pages of research—now what? Avoid clunky exposition and learn how to seamlessly weave research into your story.
  • 08
  • The Audience
  • Aaron knows that the audience isn’t just watching his work. They’re participating in it, too. Learn how to write stories that will keep them engaged and entertained.
  • 09
  • Rules of Story
  • The rules of great drama aren’t new. Here, Aaron explains how most of them were laid out more than 2,000 years ago by
  • Aristotle in his Poetics, and how to use those lessons to become a diagnostician for your own story ideas.
  • 10
  • Film Story Arc
  • Page numbers don’t sound exciting, but they’re a great tool for tracking the act-structure and pacing of your story.
  • 11
  • Writing Habits
  • Even Aaron gets writer’s block. Learn how he gets unstuck and what writing tools he uses to make sure he’s ready when inspiration strikes.
  • 12
  • Group Workshop: Untitled by JJ Braider
  • While workshopping J.J.’s script, Aaron shares his tips on writing action scenes that move as fast on the page as they will on the screen.
  • 13
  • Group Workshop: E is for Edie by Jeanie Bergen
  • The offbeat characters in Jeanie’s script are a hit with Aaron, who warns about the dangers of getting feedback from close-minded studio execs. (Warning: explicit content).
  • 14
  • Group Workshop: Chronic by Roland Zaleski
  • Discussing Roland’s script, Aaron reveals a simple trick that writers can use to justify improbable events in their stories.
  • 15
  • Group Workshop: The Merc by Evelyn Yves
  • Evelyn’s TV pilot kicks off a conversation about opening scenes and the importance of showing your audience something they’ve never seen before.
  • 16
  • Group Workshop: From Here to Alli by Corey Wright
  • After workshopping Corey’s script and learning about his background, Aaron discusses the importance of having confidence as a writer, and shares his own origin story, starting with his days as a struggling New York actor.
  • 17
  • Writing Scenes: Part 1
  • A great story is more than just a collection of great scenes. Learn how to give your script momentum from one beat to the next.
  • 18
  • Writing Scenes: Part 2
  • Your script only has one opening scene. Make it memorable by introducing your theme, grabbing the audience, and setting up your characters’ intentions and obstacles.
  • 19
  • Scene Case Study: Steve Jobs
  • 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.
    20
  • Scene Case Study: The West Wing
  • Aaron analyzes a classic scene from The West Wing: the scathing confrontation between President Bartlet (Martin Sheen) and Governor Robert Ritchie (James Brolin).
  • 21
  • Writing Captivating Dialogue
  • If you want to write Aaron Sorkin-worthy dialogue, learn from the master himself on how to make music with your words and put them to the test by performing your own scenes out loud.
  • 22
  • Dialogue Case Study: The West Wing
  • Aaron does a deep dive into the musical nuances of dialogue in the Bartlet–Ritchie scene.
  • 23
  • Rewrites: First Draft
  • 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 during the rewriting process.
  • 24
  • Rewrites: Notes
  • 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.
  • 25
  • The West Wing Writers’ Room: Part 1
  • Aaron creates a virtual writers’ room to “break” part of the Season 5 premiere—an episode he’s never seen.
  • 26
  • The West Wing Writers’ Room: Part 2
  • Aaron discusses what is needed in the teaser of the show and how to reverse engineer a plot.
  • 27
  • The West Wing Writers’ Room: Part 3
  • Aaron and the students continue to work together to break episode 501 of The West Wing.
  • 28
  • 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.
  • 29
  • The West Wing Writers’ Room: Part 5
  • Take Aaron’s advice: When you have great characters, use them. Learn how to keep your protagonists active.
  • 30
  • 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.
  • 31
  • The West Wing Writers’ Room: Part 7
  • As Aaron says, “You don’t have to assault the audience with plot.” The writers discuss the value of pacing—plus the limits of reality within fiction.
  • 32
  • The West Wing Writers’ Room: Part 8
  • Aaron and the students wrap up the virtual writers’ room and discuss lessons learned.
  • 33
  • Group Workshop: Pitch Session
  • You’ve got a screenplay—now it’s time to pitch. Learn what questions Hollywood’s decision makers will ask you during a pitch and how to effectively answer them.
  • 34
  • Group Workshop: Aaron Pitches Mission to Mars
  • Aaron turns the tables on his writers and pitches them his idea for a brand-new TV series called Mission to Mars.
  • 35
  • Closing Thoughts
    In the final lesson, Aaron offers his parting wisdom and leaves you with one more assignment that will last the rest of your life.

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