“I’d counsel anyone that as soon as they see a movie which starts ‘Based on a true story’ should look at it the way you do with a painting and not a photograph.”
Screenwriter Aaron Sorkin
In yesterday’s post Emotional Climaxes I pulled a quote from Aaron Sorkin on how he used “emotional climaxes” in writing A Few Good Men. That made me think about the ending of The Social Network. When we think of climaxes in movies it’s easy to think of things like the shark exploding at the end of JAWS.
But you don’t hear much about emotional climaxes. We’re back in the realm of the outer story and the inner story. The outer story of The Social Network, written by Sorkin, has to do with a law suit surrounding Facebook. But the inner emotional story is what packs a punch in the very last scene of the movie.
Sorkin sets up The Social Network story in the dynamic opening scene by showing the Mark Zuckerberg character’s emotional mindset of wanting to be popular and accepted, so that he can have a better life. I wouldn’t be surprised if Sorkin wrote the first and the last scenes first because they make such a tidy bookend.
If The Social Network were a proverb it could be, “What shall it profit a man if he gains the world, but forfeit his friends?” The following comment by Sorkin give some insights into how he went about developing the Zuckerberg character. (Yes, based on a real life character who just happens to be the richest man in the world under 30-years old—but Sorkin was painting with a broad brush.)
“Just because you have money, it’s not like you no longer have emotions. (Zuckerberg) spends the first hour and 55 minutes of the movie being an anti-hero and the last five minutes being a tragic hero. I’m not judging, I want to respect and defend him so I locate the things in him that are most like myself…I’m awkward socially, and I’ve spent a lot of time with my nose pressed up against the glass feeling like an outsider.”
That Sorkin quote was pulled from an interview with Trevor Johnston/Time Out London. An interview where Sorkin also revealed that he is the first actor playing the roles in his scripts, which includes him saying the lines out loud and getting into arguments with himself.
Aaron: “In fact, when I was writing The West Wing the head of NBC sent a package to my office: it was one of those headsets you used to get for a phone while you were in the car. There was a note saying: ‘I stopped beside you at a traffic light today and you looked like a madman—please wear the headset, even if you don’t plug it in.’”
Trevor : So the car’s a really productive space for you…
Aaron: “And I take maybe six or eight showers a day when I’m writing. Not because I’m a germophobe, but it just gives me a little energy shot, and putting on fresh clothes makes me feel, especially if I’m not writing well, and started the day on the wrong foot—that I’m getting a do-over. Listening to music in the car is another one for me. If I hear a song that takes me to a certain place emotionally, I try to think about writing a scene that gets me there.”
The odds are pretty good that Sorkin’s name will pop up on an Oscar nomination this year for his hand in writing Moneyball—so if you’re looking for a jolt in your writing you may want to keep an eye on those emotional climaxes, act out your scenes, use listening to music in your car as a springboard emotionally, and don’t forget those six to eight showers a day.
Related Post: Writing to Music (Tip #52)