Aaron Sorkin gave fans the opportunity to ask him anything in his special Reddit AMA session. The “West Wing” and “Steve Jobs” writer took the time to respond to a handful of users who wanted his opinion and tips on how to become a better screenwriter and find out what he’s currently working on.
Here are 10 highlights from his “Ask Me Anything” Q&A:
What is one of the biggest mistakes rookie screenwriters make?
“One of the biggest mistakes rookie screenwriters make is not having a strong intention or obstacle. The drive shaft of a car, beautiful leather seats, a fantastic sound system, a really cool paint job but the car isn’t going to move forward if the car doesn’t have a strong intention or obstacle.”
Did he originally hope that ‘The Newsroom’ would cause a positive change in today’s major news networks?
“When I write something, I don’t hope for anything more than that you will enjoy yourself for however long I’ve asked for your attention. I don’t have a political or social agenda, with ‘The Newsroom’ I wasn’t trying to tell the professionals how to do their job. For me it was just an interesting work place in which to set a drama.”
Where might he have taken “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip” had it not been cancelled?
“We all had a great time doing it, and we all wish we could have done it longer. The answer to your question is, I don’t know where I’d take it if there was a second season, but now you’ve got me thinking!”
Does his writing process change fundamentally between television and film?
“Fundamentally the writing is the same for me, for television and film. The big difference is time, With a movie, I have a year or two to really think about what it is I’m going to write and to do any research I may need to do to write a big clunky first draft and turn it into a less clunky second draft. With television, I only have 9 days and about 5 of those days are going to be taken up with trying to come up with an idea. So we have to shoot my first draft.”
Do screenwriters in NYC have the same chance of success as ones in LA?
“When you’re a screenwriter, it’s the material that’s speaking for you. When I started out, I was living in New York and when I would come to LA for meetings, I was considered exotic because I was there from New York and everybody wanted to meet with me because I was in town for only a few days. I think that you should, whether it’s New York or LA or Wyoming, I think you should live where you’re happy and comfortable and where you’ll write the best. Just like a LA screenwriter, a NYC screenwriter has to get his work into the hands of the people who read scripts.”
His thoughts on reviving “The West Wing” and if he would insist on writing it or allow someone else to do so.
“If I had an idea or a way to do ‘The West Wing’ today, I would think seriously about doing it. I would want to do it myself because I’m so personally attached to it. Of course, I wouldn’t want to do anything to tarnish anyone’s memory of the show.”
His favorite “The West Wing” episode.
“Like any proud father, I don’t like picking a favorite episode. There were some that worked better than others and there aren’t any that I don’t wish I could have back and write all over again. That said, if I were to give someone one episode of ‘The West Wing’ to watch, it would either be ’17 People,’ ‘Two Cathedrals’ or ‘Noel.’”
Sorkin’s practical tips on developing dialogue.
“When it comes to dialogue, you’re gonna need to find your own voice, and trust it. I find it very helpful to say the lines out loud while I’m writing them, and you can hear for yourself whether it sounds like the bad dialogue you’re familiar with, or the good dialogue you’re familiar with, or even better, something you’ve never heard before.”
On his upcoming projects.
“In the fall I am going to be directing for the first time, the movie is called ‘Molly’s Game,’ a true story of a young woman, played by Jessica Chastain, who ran the world’s most exclusive high stakes poker game. Early in 2017, NBC will be doing a live production of ‘A Few Good Men’ and I’m currently working on a Broadway interpretation of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird.’”
And last but not least, for those who didn’t know, Sorkin’s favorite book is “Catcher in the Rye.”