Are you ready for my Aaron Sorkin Masterclass Review?
In this post, I’m going to review the class, break down its contents for those curious to know more, share the highlights, and offer my (few) criticisms.
I’d also like to take the time to explain who Aaron Sorkin is, why he is important, and provide the opportunity for everyone who is taking the class to get even more out of the experience.
Aaron Sorkin MasterClass Review In Brief
There are three reasons why you should take Aaron Sorkin’s MasterClass:
- Simply put, Aaron Sorkin’s class will provide the fundamentals to make you a better writer.
- Thousands of people have already signed up to take this class.
- A class taught by a screenwriter of Sorkin’s caliber is an experience that you simply can’t find anywhere else.
If you’re considering taking Aaron Sorkin’s MasterClass, click here to check it out.
What is MasterClass?
MasterClass is an online tutorial series wherein top writers, actors, athletes and musicians offer specialized courses in their craft. For a reasonable fee, MasterClass gives students unprecedented access to the wisdom and insights of an impressive array of teachers.
Who Is Aaron Sorkin?
Sorkin, for those who don’t know, is the Academy Award-winning screenwriter of such movies and TV series as The Social Network, Steve Jobs, The American President, Charlie Wilson’s War, The Newsroom and The West Wing, to name but a few.
The West Wing earned nine Emmy awards for its debut season and went on to win 26 Emmy Awards in total. In 2011, Sorkin won an Academy Award, BAFTA Award, Writers Guild Award, and Broadcast Film Critics Association Award for “Best Adapted Screenplay” and a Golden Globe Award for “Best Screenplay – Motion Picture” for The Social Network.
Who Should Take The Course?
When I first started writing this Aaron Sorkin MasterClass review, I had thought the class would be most appropriate for beginning writers. However, the course has so much valuable information, it’s really for writers at all levels – even professionals.
Sorkin offers an unforgettable lesson on fundamentals for beginners and more practical tips for advanced writers on how to pitch to studios and offers a first-hand look at the inner workings of a writer’s room.
What Makes This Course Different?
There simply isn’t anywhere else you can take a class like this with a writer of Aaron Sorkin’s stature. In addition to his solid, tried-and-true writing advice, Sorkin shares personal anecdotes from his decades in the business, and clear, memorable analogies on writing technique.
Aaron Sorkin MasterClass Content
Sorkin’s MasterClass is divided into 35 lessons that last approximately 5 hours, and features a 38-page printable PDF workbook for students to follow along. According to the MasterClass workbook, it’s recommended for students to spread out the lessons over the course of 6 weeks, though students are also allowed to go at their own pace.
The lessons cover the fundamentals of screenwriting, including intention and obstacle, developing characters, story rules, and story arcs, writing dialogue, and scene work. He also covers writing habits, how to tackle rewrites, and taking criticism.
In addition to providing lectures on the fundamentals of screenwriting, Sorkin’s MasterClass features:
- A student writers’ room with whom he deconstructs and writes pilots, does table reads, shares anecdotes, hears pitches, and provides feedback
- An opportunity for students to film and upload their own pitches for a television series, and share their critiques of other students’ pitches
- Office Hours in which students can record any questions they may have in video format and send them to Sorkin
- A large Facebook community where students can ask each other questions, interact with one another, and form writing groups (one might even go so far as to call it a Social Network).
Sorkin opens his first lecture with the caveat that his style of writing and teaching may not be for everyone. And while Sorkin does have one of the most distinctive styles in Hollywood, he helps teach and encourage students to develop their own unique voice rather than emulate his.
Sorkin isn’t so much interested in teaching students how to write like him as he is trying to explain the fundamental rules of writing great screenplays.
Rules are what makes art beautiful. —Aaron Sorkin
How The Course Starts
Sorkin also opens the series by apologizing, explaining that he is much more articulate on paper than he is in person. In this regard, it seems that Sorkin has underestimated his own teaching ability. He is a very engaging teacher.
What’s fascinating about Sorkin’s teaching style is that he doesn’t just write stories on the page, but teaches through stories as well; weaving in metaphors, anecdotes, and lessons from his own life into these lectures. The results are lessons that are almost as fascinating and fun to watch as his movies and TV shows.
If you put confusion into the mix, even the tiniest bit of confusion, an audience is gonna be apprehensive. —Aaron Sorkin
Theory + Practice
Some of the best features of Sorkin’s class are the breakdowns of his own work, showing students scenes from his movies or television shows followed by step-by-step deconstructions. Using scenes from movies such as Steve Jobs and The Social Network, Sorkin analyzes everything from character development to stakes to dialogue.
It’s rare to get an illuminating play-by-play that perfectly describes a specific writing lesson, much less one taught by the writer himself. Students come away with a clear understanding of the principles of good writing.
The Most Valuable Lesson
Sorkin’s most useful lesson comes when he deconstructs the dialogue in a scene from The West Wing and talks students through the various beats of the scene; teaching them to listen to the inherent musicality present within dialogue, saying, “It’s not just that dialogue that sounds like music to me. It actually is music.”
Towards the middle of the MasterClass, Sorkin holds a mock writers’ room, where he leads students in writing an alternate version of Season 5 of The West Wing (Sorkin left after the 4th season). This lesson is particularly beneficial as it provides insight into how to work with other writers (especially considering the fact that most writers are accustomed to writing alone), and how to listen to a showrunner.
Sorkin encourages the students to pitch their story ideas while reminding them of some of the basic rules of writing for an existing TV drama: examining the “leave” of the season finale, remembering “where a show lives,” understanding characters’ intentions and obstacles and their web of relationships, and mapping out loose plot points that you can’t forget about.
Sorkin also stages a table read for the writers’ own work and provides direct feedback to the students. In each case, he offers a lesson that is useful for other writers, too.
Practical Pitching Workshop
In another workshop section, Sorkin has students pitch their TV scripts as if they were selling the show to studio executives and provides feedback as to how various studio executives might react. In one particularly fun reversal, Sorkin pitches his own idea for a TV show to students. It’s far from an exhaustive exploration of the art of pitching, but it’s certainly a worthwhile addition to the course.
Overall, Sorkin approaches his lessons from a practical Hollywood perspective. Whereas most screenwriting classes will teach the bare fundamentals of writing, Sorkin also talks about strategies and tactics for how to handle studios and executives, and presents behind-the-scenes stories from movies such as The Social Network – my personal favorite – and The West Wing.
Go ahead and take chances because that’s the only way you’re actually gonna find out where your sweet spot is. —Aaron Sorkin
The Next Best Option Is….
- Read and/or watch Sorkin’s most memorable film and TV pilot projects and study them.
- Pair that with the essential guidebook for dramatic writing to which Sorkin frequently refers: Aristotle’s Poetics.
- Take a look at his recent Reddit AMA, which includes some of the same insights he shares in the course.
Highlights Of The Course
Personal Stories. Sorkin’s numerous personal stories stand out. Some favorites include tales of his humble beginnings as a broke actor and bartender in New York; the creative back-and-forth over what drink Mark Zuckerberg drinks in a scene from The Social Network (a disagreement Sorkin lost); and the A-list story connected to the show idea he pitches to the students.
Downloadable Workbook. The downloadable workbook features excellent writing exercises and links to additional content. For example, one exercise encourages students to adapt the first 10 pages of a script based on an existing short story, and links to a number of well-known public domain works to choose from.
Interactive Exercises. The exercises also direct students to an online community of writers, making this MasterClass more than just a straight lecture; it also encourages growth by challenging writers to leave their comfort zones and apply what they have learned in the class into real world practices.
Encouraging Words. In the group workshop with Corey Wright, after doing a read-through, getting notes and having a conversation about Wright’s late self-identification as a writer, Sorkin says, “You’re a writer. This is really good work.” Isn’t that what we all secretly hope to hear? At some point, the hope is to get to have someone of Sorkin’s stature and experience look at us and say, “You are worthy of being in the club.” It was cool for Corey to get that validation and we can see that resonate. I found the course overall to be inspiring and motivating.
Criticism Of The Course
Mock Writer’s Room Is Soft. One of the biggest problems with the class is the reality that it’s being filmed, therefore it isn’t a completely accurate representation of a professional writer’s room. He’s very diplomatic, which works for the purposes of learning. However, the dynamics would be different in a writer’s room with other powerful writers and with the freedom of knowing that each word isn’t being recorded. For me, the lessons in the mock writers’ room also felt slow at times, and I wished we could see a roomful of writers under Sorkin’s direction firing at full speed.
Community Forum Is Unwieldy. The absence of being in a physical classroom, paired with the fact that there are tens of thousands of people taking the class (3000+ in the Facebook group), means that the interactivity doesn’t really provide a custom experience, but that isn’t how the class is designed. The Facebook group is very supportive and active, but it is also very big and kind of overwhelming. I think it is terrific that some people in the group are taking leadership and starting their own sub-groups.
Is The Course Worth It?
In many ways, Sorkin’s MasterClass is reminiscent of a great graduate level screenwriting seminar. However, whereas most one-semester university classes cost literally thousands of dollars, Sorkin’s MasterClass is available for lifetime access for only $90.
Though $90 might seem expensive for students inclined to learn by picking up a screenwriting book, Sorkin’s MasterClass offers many things that textbooks can’t. Sorkin’s style of delivery and use of metaphor, lessons on fundamentals, as well as critiques of students in the writers’ room is simply something that can’t be found anywhere else.
Overall, Sorkin doesn’t reveal any magic shortcuts or easy formulas to writing a screenplay. What Sorkin does do is help guide students to the fundamentals that have helped him find success in his writing and career, and help students to develop their own unique voice.
At one point during his MasterClass, Sorkin says “At the end of a scene, we have to be at least one step further than we were before” and indeed, students who venture to take this course will find that they will have made progress as writers after having taken this course.
Questions About Aaron Sorkin’s MasterClass
Will This Guarantee Me A Job In Hollywood?
No, but I can tell you that as a former executive, if you do apply the fundamentals learned in this course to your own writing, your scripts will be better than 90% of the scripts that land on a production company’s desk.
Will I Become A Better Writer After This Course?
I believe so, but that depends on whether or not you do the exercises and apply the lessons. Again, Sorkin’s lessons are grounded in his experience as an enormously successful working screenwriter in Hollywood today and draw from the fundamentals of classic dramatic storytelling.
Will Aaron Sorkin Read My Film Or TV Pitches?
Probably not, however the online community is a good place to share your ideas and receive feedback from other dedicated aspiring writers.
Am I Being Paid To Recommend This Course?
Yes. If you use this link to purchase the course, at no cost to you, I will be paid a small commission. I did not receive free access to the course, but paid for it myself. I would not have signed up to become an affiliate or written this Aaron Sorkin MasterClass review if I didn’t personally believe in the value of this course.
Is There a Money-Back Guarantee?
Yes. MasterClass provides a 30-day money back guarantee.
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