In this Aaron Sorkin Masterclass Review, we take a look at whether the $ 300-a-year price tag is worth the money for aspiring writers looking to learn some tips and tricks from the man himself. But who exactly is Aaron Sorkin?
About Aaron Sorkin’s
Aaron Sorkin is an award-winning writer and producer whose career spans over 25 years. He wrote the screenplay for The Social Network, which earned him an Oscar nomination and five Primetime Emmy nominations.
He was nominated for the Writers Guild of America Award for Outstanding Drama Series twice, winning once for The West Wing.
In addition to writing for film and TV, he co-created Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip, which garnered three Emmys and one WGA Award.
He directed the feature adaptation of Moneyball, starring Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill, and the HBO miniseries The Newsroom.
He is currently working on the script for a third feature film based on the life of Phil Spector, starring Al Pacino. He has a wealth of experience in the industry so what can we expect from his masterclass?
Aaron Sorkin’s MasterClass spans 35 videos covering topics such as writing captivating dialogue, and character arcs, and creating memorable scenes. The course costs $25 per month and lasts around eight hours.
Talking directly to the camera, Aaron Sorkin creates the impression that you’re having a one-on-one lesson with him, while clips from his screenplays occasionally break up the talking and demonstrate the points he’s making, such as the importance of research.
Lessons 1 & 2
After an introduction, the first proper lesson kicks off with a discussion on how to come up with a logline. This is followed by tips on structuring a story, character development, plotting, and researching.
Aaron starts by explaining what we need to set out before we start writing: obstacle and intention.
In doing so, he introduces some terms that will help us understand how to make sure our stories are intentional and avoid getting stuck in the mire of obstacles.
He dives straight into what he wants to accomplish here and explains why it matters. Then, he gives us some tools to use to figure out what our intentions and obstacles really are.
We’ll find out how to identify both, and how to see where we need to improve.
Aaron Sorkin’s masterclass shares his approach to finding ideas and teaches you how to identify whether or not you’re on track.
You’ll learn about the “baseball pitch,” a metaphor he uses to describe what happens when someone catches onto an idea. He breaks down the steps to identifying an idea and helps you to see if you’re on track.
Developing Characters and Research
In Lesson 2 we discussed the importance of developing characters. In this lesson, Aaron explores what it takes to develop a character, and how to do it effectively.
We start out looking at the difference between creating a character and developing a character.
Then, we look at some of the ways in which you can use intention and obstacles to develop characters. Finally, we explore the role that actors play in bringing characters to life.
Aaron talks about the two different kinds of research you can do and what you gain from each. He emphasizes the importance of talking to people and finding networks of stories. He gives an example of doing this while researching Steve Jobs.
Aaron discusses how he communicates with his audiences because he utilizes similar methods to those used in art such as Seurat’s.
Aaron shares his thoughts on how to read a screenplay, and why it’s important to know the rules of storytelling. He explains the difference between “rules” and “guidelines.”
He uses examples of classic stories to explain the concept of drama. He says that while you don’t want to follow every single guideline, knowing the basic rules helps you understand how to tell a story.
The course continues with his discussion of structure and narrative. He begins by explaining the difference between a screenplay and a film school, and why he prefers to write screenplays rather than films.
Next, he explains what a dramatic arc is, and how it relates to the three basic elements of storytelling: plot, character development, and conflict.
Finally, he teaches us how to establish the rules of drama—the things that are true in every story—and apply those principles to our work.
Good Writing Habits
In this lesson, Aaron discusses his writing process. He describes what tools he uses and how he organizes his notes.
He also talks about his outline approach and offers some advice on how to get started. In Lesson 11, he shows you how to write a good logline.
In Lesson 12, he demonstrates how to write an effective elevator pitch.
Finally, in Lesson 14 he teaches you how to create a winning pitch to Hollywood executives.
Workshops cover a large part of the masterclass courses. It includes table readings with a small group of writers in a “writers’ room” setup. Each writer gets one turn to read aloud while the rest of the group listens. They discuss the story and give feedback to each other.
After the group has finished their read-through Aaron focuses on giving feedback and discussing what works well and what could improve. He tells them what they did well and what they need to work on.
Aaron shares his approach to writing scenes. This lesson focuses on the purposeful use of movement within scenes in order to better tell the story. Aaron explains why we need to move between scenes and how to best make those transitions happen.
Next, he provides several real-world examples from popular TV shows to demonstrate how he applies this technique.
Writing Interesting Dialogue
Aaron shares how dialogue is just as important as action. In fact, it’s even more important. And he explains why.
We learn about the difference between good and great dialogue, and Aaron shares his favorite example of compelling dialogue. Plus, we hear about the challenges of writing dialogue and see some examples of his own work.
In Lesson 26, we are taught how to rewrite our scripts. We learn why it’s important to rewrite, and how to go about doing it effectively.
Sorkin’s class also covers some of the most common mistakes people make while rewriting, such as overusing clichés, adding too many words, and creating unnecessary subplots.
Aaron explains the importance of knowing where your story is going before you start writing, and how to determine whether something serves the story or not.
Is It Aaron Sorkin MasterClass Worth It?
There are fewer lessons in the course than in some other MasterClasses we’ve seen, and many of those lessons are shorter than usual.
But Sorkin manages to pack a lot into each lesson, including examples from his own career. And he does it while keeping things interesting and engaging.
Those who follow the workbook’s tasks correctly will find the class the best value. You’ll learn about what makes a good screenplay, and why you might want to change your approach.
For example, Sorkin covers the importance of establishing the main character early on, and why you shouldn’t rely too much on exposition.
The Aaron Sorkin masterclass is ideal for anyone who wants to become a professional screenwriter. It is recommended if you want to get started in the industry.
If you already have experience, then you will still find this class useful. You will be able to take away valuable lessons that will help you improve your craft.