Writer/producer Aaron Sorkin has won one Oscar, four Humanitas Prizes, three Emmys, three Producers Guild Awards and two Writers Guild of America Awards, but he still considers himself a Hollywood outsider. He used these emotions to sketch the character of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg for The Social Network.
Sorkin, who also won the USC Libraries Scripter Award this year, visited USC School of Cinematic Arts professor Jason Squire’s “Art and Industry of Theatrical Film” class on March 22 and had plenty of advice for aspiring writers. Other guests to the class have included The Social Network composers Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross and director David Fincher.
When asked how much of himself went into Zuckerberg, Sorkin said, “I’ve had my nose pressed up against the glass watching something better going on ‘over there’. I watch the show Entourage from time to time, which is a show about how fun it is to work in Hollywood and I think, ‘wow, it must be fun to work in Hollywood,’ and I play myself on Entourage.”
Sorkin, who is working on a pilot for HBO about the inner workings of a cable news show, commented on how fortunate he felt to have worked in theatre, television and feature films. He told the students that the most important thing that they can learn in film school is how to tell stories in their own voice.
“The best advice I can give to any young screenwriter is to write a screenplay and have David Fincher direct it,” Sorkin said. “I played it safe when I was in college. I didn’t take any risks. I never wanted to risk falling on my face and now that I’m not in college anymore, I can’t take that risk. There are huge consequences to me falling on my face – my own humiliation and the employment of other people.
“So one thing I want to tell you while you are still in school is to take risks. Don’t play it safe. It’s good to find what you’re good at and develop that, but it’s also good to do things that you don’t think that you’re good at yet.”
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