One of the most talked-about movies of the year, and a leading contender for Best Picture is The Social Network. While the script still faces heavy competition from The King's Speech, the screenplay by Aaron Sorkin is considered an odds-on favorite for the "Best Adapted Screenplay" Academy Award.
One detail that seems to have been forgotten is that The Social Network was produced by Trigger Street Productions, famous for their site that allows aspiring screenwriters to upload their work and have it rated and reviewed by others of their ilk. It's an extremely little known fact that The Social Network actually was discovered through the Trigger Street review process. And it makes perfect sense - who better to recognize strong writing than other writers who have yet to make a sale?
Through some deep research, I actually uncovered a review of Aaron Sorkin's script, written by a helpful member of the site who goes by the moniker "GuerillaScreenwriter."
Aaron, buddy… look, I see you’re new here and you’ve got a lot of passion for writing. I think you need a few lessons in the reality of the business because NO ONE is gonna read a 163-page script. Seriously, dude… after you’re here for a while, you’ll sigh when you open up an assignment and see the script is 130 pages long!
And you’re telling me that this whole movie is about FACEBOOK??? Way to pick a topic that’ll be totally irrelevant by the time the film hits DVD.
Here’s the bit – at best, this is a TV movie. Maybe not an HBO deal, but Lifetime might be into the history of Facebook… but the script is way too long.
I swear I tried to go into this with an open mind, but right there on p. 1, you’ve already got “unfilmables” - “She has a girl-next-door face that makes her easy to fall for. At this point in the conversation she already knows she’d rather not be there and that her politeness is about to be tested.” TELL, don’t show!
And then you have a nine-page dialogue scene! NINE PAGES? Dude, most pro writers would squeeze three scenes into that space. Morbid curiousity was the only thing that kept me turning the pages just to see how much worse it could get. And this guy, Mark… man is he a dick! In short order he pretty much calls Erica a slut and an idiot, and not only does he do it in a totally assholish “matter-of-fact” way, but she takes it way too much in stride. Do you get women at all? Most chicks would have thrown their drinks in his face the first time he accuses her of having slept with the door guy.
I had a brief glimmer of hope, thinking, “Hey this is a pretty unconventional way to introduce a story about a woman who’s tired of dealing with these kinds of assholes.” Then I go on to your next scene, and I realize Erica’s nowhere to be found. This Mark douchebag is your lead?! He’s so unlikable, I could barely stand him for minutes – let alone two hours. Let alone the two-hours and 45 minutes that this script times out at!!
And it points out another problem. You’re telling the story of how Facebook was founded, and nowhere in your first ten pages are there any hints of the themes or the real plot. It’s a guy being an asshole in a bar. No one reads more than ten pages in Hollywood. (And as long as your script is, it’s unlikely to be read at all!) You have one chance to hook your audience quickly, and this is what you waste it on? A total misogynist who pisses off the audience more and more as the scene goes on. This is your hero?
Cut that opening down to two minutes and get right to him at the keyboard, making this “Hot or Not” site. That at least sets us up for this being a movie about a website… but then, that’s kind of the problem here, isn’t it? You’ve written a whole movie where the most action is some guy typing. Typing aren’t cinematic. Maybe this should be a book.
And do we really need all these specifics about the different security on the computer networks he hacks? Dude, you don’t need to show off ALL your research! My eyes are just glazing over reading this shit. Don’t explain what he does – just show that he does it. Have him sit down, start typing, and dissolve to a few hours later when PRESTO!… the website’s up.
There, in about five pages, I accomplished what took you 17 to do. No wonder this thing is so long. You just need to give this another pass.
Btw, don’t write “CUT TO.” The pros don’t write it.
p. 23 – just when I think this thing can’t get any more dry, you suddenly throw us into a deposition. Lord – not even a trial, with some drama, but a deposition. More talking. Talk, talk, talk. And it’s a little weird because it starts to play like you’re establishing a framing sequence after having started the movie over 20 pages earlier. It’s totally breaking some kind of screenwriting rule. Can you somehow set up the deposition at the beginning? Like what if the story opened with a scene in the deposition room – maybe set us up with the attorneys explaining why they’re all there, and then ask Mark “How did you come up with the idea for Facebook?”
AFTER THAT, you can give us the two-page version of that bar scene, and then move right on to Mark typing. Cut to montage of people rating the girls pictures on the site he built and then you can go into introducing these twins.
There’s not a pro writer alive who couldn’t pull that off in ten pages. Most could do it in less, and what’s more – they’d do it by instinct. This just ain’t up to snuff.
By the by, do you have any idea how hard it’s going to be to find twins who can act? Could you combine them into one guy? Or maybe make them fraternal so they don’t have to look exactly alike? Just a thought.
p. 27 – now we’re in a SECOND deposition? Yikes! I can see this being VERY confusing! But maybe that works. What if you went with a Raushman take on the story, like in the twins’ version, Mark is the asshole we’ve seen him as elsewhere, but in Mark’s version, he’s the victim. That could be the way to soften the problem of Mark being the asshole and make him more likable. This “he-said/they-said” thing might even make it more high concept.”
Just take on the part of a development executive – would you rather read a dry script about depositions related to the creation of Facebook, or are you more interested in a who-dunit courtroom thriller where you don’t know who to trust? Two different stories - with the truth somewhere between! Think like you're the guy who has to write the marketing campaign. That'll help you find the heart of the story. It's the same professionalism I brought to my sex comedy spec "Big Roosters & Soaked Kittens." (Check it out - I've got a blue star!)
Trust me man, you’ll never get better than a workman director and a C-list cast with the concept the way you’ve written it. Harsh but true.
I stopped reading after p. 35 – Tighten up the beginning and apply the same attitude to everything afterwards. You’ll be surprised how much more sellable the script becomes. This is a vomit draft – not a professional level script.