Monday, February 21, 2011

Triggerstreet review of "The Social Network"

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.


  1. I nearly spluttered a mouthful of cornflakes over my keyboard and Mac reading the first sentence of that review.

  2. The Social Network was good but I think people are going a bit over board with the hype. I can appreciate Sorkin's writing but he goes a bit overboard with the trying to be clever I think.
    By that I mean is he tries to have pack in the clever dialogue and repartees by having non stop conflict/hostility between every character in every scene even where it's is completely unrealistic.

    One example off the top of my head is the scene where the twins go to see the Dean or whatever of Harvard and the first thing he does when he walks in is insult the two students waiting to see him.

    Can you really imagine that? The dean of a school that is largely run on donations by parents of rich students insulting one of the students out of the blue for no other reason than he felt like it?

    Also I've seen alot of writers say how it was good that Sorkin took big artistic liberties with the facts to tell a tighter story is a good thing. I think it's actually highly irresponsible and also mean considering how much of a negative light they painted Zuckerberg in. I'm not saying boo hoo hoo for the billionaire but I can imagine most people would be nonplussed if someone made up lies about the shit you did just five years ago and put it in a major motion picture.

    This whole artistic license business is bull crap in my opinion because if they really wanted to tell the best and dramatic story they could they could have just told a completely fictional story "inspired" by the facebook story, but instead they chose to present it as real events with the names of real people. Why? Because of the added marketing value of telling people that what you are presenting is a true story.

  3. LOL!

    It's so funny because it's so true ...

  4. To clarify ... by true, I meant the tone of the review, not the criticism of Social Network. Just to be clear, I loved the Social Network, one of the best films of the year.

  5. The only thing he's right about is the 9-page conversation point. Fincher himself said that he liked that dinner scene, but he was about to drop the script and not look at it again until he saw erica's last comment about him being an asshole. So how many people think Fincher only actually read those 9 pages because it was Sorkins name on it? Try 9 page conversations as an unknown writer and most people probably won't look at it. Unless those 9 pages are FUCKING PHENOMENAL!!!

  6. I don't know that Fincher wouldn't have read it had it been long and from someone else ... the latest draft of Fight Club (by Jim Uhls) that I read was 144 pages long.

    The story I read (in an interview with Sorkin) is that they didn't want the movie over two hours ... Fincher had Sorkin over and had him read the script out loud while Fincher timed it. Sorkin finished the script in under two hours.

    Fincher told the studio, don't worry, it'll be under.

    And they worked to make that opening scene in 4 minutes (did nearly a hundred takes). Sorkin's work is meant to be fast paced (like The Front Page) and move. Like in real life.

    The minute per page ratio is an inexact science, if a science at all ...

  7. Hilarious post, thanks. The most surprising part was: "The Social Network actually was discovered through the Trigger Street review process".

    Bitter, can you tell us more about this? Discovered by whom? Why would an established writer like Sorkin put his script on Triggerstreet?

    Or did your creative mind make up the whole review?

  8. Yes, I second Peter. I want more info. This is really interesting, but I don't understand why Aaron Sorkin would post his script there. Was he just messing with people?

    Hind sight is 20/20. Execs pass on projects every day that go on to become hits. I give the reviewer props for trying to read a 163 page script in the first place. A 9 page opening scene is too long; Fincher has admitted that he barely got through the first scene, and he was already interested in the project. I can't imagine so many people positively reviewing a 163 page script that Trigger Street then decided to produce it. Again, more info please.

  9. I'm pretty sure Bitter is messing with you guys ... Social Network wasn't, as far as I know, posted on TS ... I could be wrong, but I was pretty active on TS around that time, and I sure don't remember it being there, if anything, they were working hard to keep the script from getting out ...

  10. But on the other hand, hey, I could be wrong ... you never know with Trigger ...

  11. Yes, it seems Mr. Bitter is pulling our appendages. I fell for it because Trigger Street Productions is actually listed as a prodco of the movie in IMDBPro. And it's not April first.

    But the script was a work-for-hire, not a spec:

    BTW, I agree with GuerillaScreenwriter/Bitter that the CUT TOs in the script are a silly eyesore. Sorkin must've learned formatting from William Goldman.

  12. Yeah, The Social Network was never posted on Triggerstreet. I don't know if I'd say I was "messing with" everyone only because I didn't expect that the claim would be taken at face value.

    Among other things, this is tweaking the very idea that Sorkin would embrace online collaboration. He sometimes seems to have a pretty dim view of the sort of people who post online. You can see some evidence of this in episodes of Studio 60, and then there is this long post detailing his history with Television Without Pity.

    For the record, I think Sorkin absolutely deserves the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar, and Fincher the Best Director one. They took a subject that should have been completely uncinematic and turned it into one of the year's most compelling films. (It's deserving of Best Picture as well, but I haven't seen The King's Speech yet, so I can't weigh the two against each other fairly.)

  13. For people interested in the script-to-screen process for THE SOCIAL NETWORK, a 4-part documentary is here:

  14. I wasn't sure what to think until I read:

    "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!)"

    I may not know Bitter personally, but that read like it came from the evil mind of a blogger. I salute you, sir.

  15. Good eye, Carlos. I laughed at that title, but still bought it.

    Fox is producing a non-comedy called ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE KILLER. Reality and satire have become hard for me to distinguish.

  16. I've been had :)

    Bitter, can we please get the logline for "Big Roosters & Soaked Kittens"?

  17. And to think I was worried that the script title would be a "two-percenter."

    I've got a better idea - why don't all of you pitch loglines for "Big Roosters & Soaked Kittens?" Could be a fun creative writing exercise.

  18. Abe Lincoln battles bloodsucking alien chickens, with the help of a plucky prostitute, wisecracking robot, and several pirates from the Caribbean.

  19. I actually loved the style, I think it's indicative of a lot of the reviewers on Trigger Street, 'This is a vomit draft – not a professional level script' - classic!

  20. 'Big Roosters & Soaked Kittens'

    An infamously misogynist football team has to prove themselves when they are challenged to join a netball competition by the girls they have thrown by the wayside.

  21. LOL


    Okay, now I gotta polish my blue star...

  22. Haha -- sorry, I'm a bit late to the party, just want to say that this post is genius!! :)

  23. I've only received one review from those types of sites, but it was exactly like this. Well played!