David Fincher and Aaron Sorkin are both Oscar nominees, thanks to their Netflix films “Mank” and “The Trial of the Chicago 7,” respectively. The nominees also happen to be close friends and former collaborators, with Sorkin winning the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay with his script for Fincher’s “The Social Network.” During an appearance this week on Michael Moore’s “Rumble” podcast (via MovieMaker), Sorkin shared the best piece of advice he’s received from Fincher: “As soon as the studio knows that you want to make the movie more than they do, they own you.”
Sorkin was discussing the development of his award-winning NBC political drama “The West Wing” and how during development he never wrote or planned for the series to continue beyond the pilot. As Sorkin explained, “When I was writing the pilot episode, I never imagined that there would be an episode two. I didn’t think that this could get on the air. And I certainly didn’t think it would last as long as it did and be as popular as it was and have the kind of effect on people that it did.”
Because there had never been a show directly about politics in Washington D.C. to air on network television, Sorkin was convinced NBC would never pick up “The West Wing” to series. In only writing the pilot episode, Sorkin indirectly adhered to Fincher’s tip about not letting the studio (in this case the NBC network) see he wanted to make “The West Thing” more than they did.
“I think that NBC, the network, and Warner Bros., the studio, kind of sensed that I had written the pilot, I liked the pilot, and that it’s okay with me if there isn’t a season 2,” Sorkin said. “In a way that that saved us. Of course, once it did get on the air, I was very much committed to there being an episode three and four and five and so on. And I wrote and produced the show for the next four years.”
Fincher knew first-hand to never let the studio overtake power from the director after his nightmare experience on “Alien 3,” which was also his feature directorial debut. Fincher clashed with 20th Century Fox over creative control and was forced to direct the film through constant script rewrites. Fincher has since disowned the project.