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(and other observations)

Tonight my classmates and I had the extreme fortune to attend an event at the WGA Theater.  It was a panel of screenwriters who had been nominated for WGA and Academy Awards.  It was, to put it simply, the most amazing experience in my short life.  It almost trumps the time I got to interview Diane Lane for 3 minutes on camera (only because she gave me lame answers).

Some of the writers in attendance were three guys who wrote The Fighter, the guy who wrote Black Swan, two writers who wrote The Kids Are All Right, and, oh yeah, Aaron Effing Sorkin, the guy who wrote one or two movies, like The Social Network, A Few Good Men, and Charlie Wilson’s War.  He’s also created a hugely popular TV show and may or may not have coined a cinematic style still used to this day. In other words, he’s a freaking genius.  I mean, I didn’t meet him or anything, and to be honest this entire experience would be almost as cool as if I was watching it from my living room (I say “almost” because every location ever is more interesting than the living room where you live, no matter how awesome my living room is).

It was just… amazing to listen to these people and hear about their writing styles and processes, and what it’s like working with a director when the director is also your writing partner (and what it’s like working with a director when the director is you).  Aaron Sorkin said, very humbly and kind of hesitantly, that the first draft of The Social Network that was submitted to the studio was the draft that was shot.

I need to repeat that, because it was all Whitney and I could say on the ride back home.  One draft, you guys.  One draft!  No cuts, no major studio revisions, no complete alterations of story arcs or character motivations… I mean, he probably tweaked lines of dialogue here and there, but one draft?  One draft that pleased the studio? That’s practically unheard of.

On the flip side, the director, David Fincher took anywhere from 50 to 100 takes to get the scenes right.  I mean, WHAT? Even in film that’s a shit ton (excuse my language) of takes.  Sorkin said that it was like listening to Yo-Yo Ma play the cello.  He said that musicians reach a point where they don’t even look at the notes anymore, and that’s what happens with actors after 50 takes (understandably so).  He said that they know the lines inside and out and that they can rattle them off like they’re breathing.  He said that it freed them up to do what they’re good at (that is, acting).

He said his primary job on set was to be a morale booster.  I found that weirdly hilarious, because Aaron Sorkin looks like such an imposing guy!  But maybe that’s just because I admire him so much.

I mean, I’ve heard less-than-favorable things about what it’s like to work with him, but knowing the personal issues he’s battled and that he’s come out on the other side–still able to produce amazing work–is stunning.  Coupled with the fact that he was sweet and humble to his fellow screenwriters (even though he’s a total shoo-in for the Oscar), I respect Sorkin so much more now, which is saying a lot, because I’ve respected this guy for a looong time!

Side note: There I was, sitting in my chair, when I saw this really tall guy with curly brown hair walk into a seat five or so rows ahead of me.  A little-known fact about Laura is that I am excellent (like, scary excellent) at identifying people by the backs of their heads.  Especially people I happened to spend four years with in high school, who also happened to be studying in LA!  So I cried out “Tim!” and he turned around and yeah.  It was Tim Baker.  So we exchanged numbers and promised to hang out.  I dunno if we’ll have time, since he’s here for producing, but we’ll see! It was a cool coincidence.