Aaron Sorkin MasterClass Review

I don’t have a career in theater, but lately I’ve been thinking of writing my own screenplay.

To come clean, it has always been something of a pipe-dream of mine to create a captivating story that ends up on the big or small screen.

However, with no background in theater arts, it’s been just that — a dream.

That was until I came across Aaron Sorkin’s masterclass on screenwriting.

I researched other alternatives to Masterclass that cover this topic and came up empty-handed, so this is as good as you’ll get.

You see I knew about Aaron previously.

The Oscar award winner is one of my favorite screenwriters.

I’ve seen The Social Network many times, and that’s mostly due to how well the story was written, thanks to Aaron Sorkin.

So, I decided to try his course on MasterClass to see how close it would get me to my dream.

My major fear was that the course would simply be a rehash of what was available online for free.

Spoiler alert, it isn’t. In fact I ended up including it in my best Masterclass courses list for the year.

You know, the typical “show, don’t tell” advice that all self-proclaimed writing experts give.

I knew other people might have the same fears, so I decided to share my experience in the form of this Aaron Sorkin MasterClass review.

Mind you, I was a complete screenwriting newbie before I took this course.

So, if you’re one too, we were once in the same boat.

The course is over 8 hours long, so there’s a lot to cover.

But if you want to make a quick decision, check out the next section for my summary and overview.

If you buy the course through the links in this article, we can earn some affiliate commission.  This helps us to keep OnlineCourseing up and running for your benefit.

Aaron Sorkin MasterClass Reivew

Let’s get the facts about Aaron Sorkin, the screenwriter, and the platform called MasterClass. This section will be super helpful if you knew next to nothing about Aaron before now.

About MasterClass

MasterClass is currently one of the most popular online learning platforms in the world. The company began in 2015 with only three celebrity instructors and classes. Today, there are more than 180 classes and almost as many instructors.

MasterClass’s strategy of hiring industry celebrities to create bite-sized lessons to form a full class seems to be going quite well. Although the company focuses more on creating educational content in the art niche, there are 11 categories to choose from.

Superstars like Serena Williams, Samuel L. Jackson, and Christina Aguilera all have courses on MasterClass. Part of MasterClass’s success is linked to their attempt to offer affordable classes, despite the high-profile instructors in charge of them.

A look into the writing category will reveal several courses, but Aaron Sorkin’s stands out because he focuses solely on screenwriting.

About Aaron Sorkin

Aaron is an American writer, director, and producer. He has written and produced several movies and TV series over the years.

Aaron began writing scripts for plays nearly four decades ago. One of his earliest scripts was for A Few Good Men. It went on to be adapted into a movie in 1992. The movie was a great success and was nominated for the Golden Globe Award for best screenplay.

Aaron eventually broke into Hollywood and has created several critically acclaimed stories since then. Some of his best works include The Social Network, Moneyball, The West Wing, and The Trial of the Chicago 7.

Below is a list of some of Aaron’s biggest achievements in screenwriting:

  • One Academy Award (Oscar)
  • Three Golden Globe Awards
  • Five Emmy Awards
  • Two Writers Guild Awards
  • One British Academy Film Awards

Aaron continues to screenwrite. His style is recognizable for its sharp dialogue and intelligent storytelling.

Summary of My Aaron Sorkin MasterClass Review

Course CategoriesWriting
Arts & Entertainment
Course RequirementsNone
Content FormatsVideo Lessons
Downloadable PDFs
Duration8+ hours
Spoken LanguageEnglish (subtitles available in other languages)
CertificationsNone
One-on-one InteractionUnavailable
CommunityUnavailable
What I Liked the MostIn-depth class content and resources
What I Disliked the MostNo active community
Pricing$180 – $276 per year
DiscountsAvailable via limited time offers
Refund Policy30-day money-back guarantee

Aaron Sorkin MasterClass Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Awesome production quality
  • Comprehensive and in-depth guide to modern screenwriting
  • 30-day refund policy
  • Practical concepts are easy to understand
  • Course comes with a lot of helpful class resources
  • Great value for money
  • Contains group workshops and writer’s room coverage

Cons

  • Some discussions are stretched out
  • No writer’s community linked to the class
  • No allowance for monthly subscription

Aaron Sorkin Teaches Screenwriting Content Review

Categories: Writing, Art & Entertainment

Duration: 8 hours and 2 minutes

There are 35 video lessons in the masterclass titled, Aaron Sorkin Teaches Screenwriting. Reviewing each lesson would take too much of your reading time. Hence, I decided to make my review as concise as possible by grouping them into sections. Each group of lessons covers a key concept.

Learning from Aaron’s Experience (Lessons 1 & 35)

I decided to group the intro and conclusion together. This is because there are the only two video lessons that focus solely on Aaron and his experience as a screenwriter. Aaron does share his experiences throughout all of the video lessons in the class, but these two are more general.

In the intro, he talks about what’s most important to him in drama and why you can’t do without it. It provides your first insight into Aaron’s personality, his strengths, and his weaknesses.

In the conclusion, he shares some great advice, which I believe any newbie screenwriter should hear. It will teach you how to get and stay motivated. He also shares some more of his life experiences, including regrets from his time in college. Aaron finally gives lifelong advice on staying true to your art.

Birthing Great Story Ideas (Lessons 2 & 3)

Aaron once said that intention and obstacles are the key ingredients to a great story. Without them, there is no tension or friction.

In the first of these two lessons about creating stories, Aaron shows you how to set the stakes to have three qualities:

  1. High
  2. Urgent
  3. Convincing

He also teaches you the right time to introduce intention and obstacle in a story for a TV show, film, or play. Aaron also reveals that one of his biggest mentors is William Goldman. He analyzes how intention and obstacles were introduced in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

The second of these lessons dives deeper into story ideas. Not all great ideas can make good stories. Aaron reveals a simple test you can use to ensure your idea will make a story. He also talks about what kinds of stories make better TV shows and feature screenplays.

Character Development (Lessons 4 & 5)

Aaron Sorkin dedicates two video lessons to teaching you how to create compelling characters. Here, you’ll learn what qualities truly define a character in a story. He also teaches the best way to keep character bios concise and to-the-point.

How do you get the inspiration to create so many realistic and unique characters? Aaron reveals how surrounding yourself with diverse individuals is the key.

The anti-hero has become the most compelling character type in modern theater. In this class, you’ll learn how to hit the sweet spot with the audience and not create outright villains.

Research (Lessons 6 & 7)

Research helps inspire you to create better story ideas. It also helps you build better worlds and create more realistic scenes. Aaron values research and believes that there are two types of research:

  1. The first helps you get key facts
  2. The second helps you dissect a plot

Both are useful for finding interesting plot points for your film or TV show. Aaron also gives some tips on how to talk to experts during your research.

You’ll also learn what questions to ask during an interview and when to ask them. What matters most is that you get useful information and the truth. Aaron shows this by reflecting on the interviews he did while researching for the Steve Jobs biographical film.

Story Writing Guide (Lessons 8 – 11)

When you have a great plot and characters, you still need to write a compelling story to match. In four lessons, Aaron covers the secrets of story writing.

He teaches you how to rope the audience in and get them to participate in the story. He also talks about how believability and a lack of confusion are what keep people on their seats. 

There are certain rules to storytelling, and Aaron points to what he considers a guide to these rules, Aristotle’s Poetics. Follow these rules, not the made-up ones by the crowd.

Aaron breaks down the story arc into Acts 1, 2, & 3. He talks about what should and shouldn’t happen in each act.

Also, you’ll learn how to actually sit down and write the full story. Aaron shares his experience and provides ways to help you deal with writer’s block.

Screenwriting Group Workshop (Lessons 12 – 16)

Midway through the class, we get a series of workshop videos. In them, Aaron meets with a group of writers and critiques each of their scripts. I learned a lot just by watching him find holes and offer smart ways to plug them.

Below is a list of the key takeaways from the group workshop lessons:

  1. How to write fast-paced, compelling action scenes.
  2. Not forgetting to provide the audience with all of the details they need to follow the story.
  3. The principle of probable impossibility: How to present impossible events to an audience in a believable way.
  4. Establishing a story’s world in an unexpected way.
  5. How to write with confidence and conviction.

The Art of Creating Captivating Scenes (Lessons 17 – 20)

Good screenwriting has to do with creating great scenes. Aaron teaches all of the tips and tricks to make sure your scenes are of the highest quality. He covers issues such as pacing, character introduction, opening, and ending a scene. You will learn to apply much of the knowledge you gained from previous lessons to creating scenes.

You’ll also explore two case study lessons where you analyze scenes from Steve Jobs and The West Wing. These are two of Aaron Sorkin’s best works over the years. You can see how Aaron uses intention, obstacles, and conflict in these scenes.

Writing Dialogue Like Aaron (Lessons 21 & 22)

Earlier, I mentioned how Aaron’s dialogue is typically sharp. In these lessons, you’ll get an insight into the thought process behind these conversations.

Aaron likens dialogue to music and talks about how they share elements like pacing and tone. Always keep in mind that actors won’t be reading what you write; they will be performing it. Hence, it’s important to read your dialogue out loud to see how it sounds.

Aaron also revisits a scene from The West Wing and uses it as a practical example to teach dialogue writing. You can hear the rhythm in the spoken words.

The Art of Rewriting (Lessons 23 & 24)

No work of art is perfect on the first draft. Sometimes, a script needs several rewrites before it can come to life. Aaron advises writers to finish the first draft before attempting any rewrites.

Did you know that Aaron has had to say goodbye to some of his favorite lines and scenes for the sake of the story? You might need to do the same if you want to focus on the conflict.

In these lessons, you’ll learn how to deal with feedback from script editors and average test readers. You’ll also find out about Aaron’s unique rewriting process, and why it works so well.

Dissecting The West Wing (Lessons 25 – 32)

The West Wing is one of Aaron’s best-written TV shows, which is why we keep coming back to it in the class. Aaron sets up a writer’s room for the first episode in the show’s fifth season. Aaron and his team of students dissect the episode in terms of all of the major lessons learned in the class so far.

They discuss plot points and ideas. They also talk about how to keep characters in the minds of the audience. As the meeting progresses, Aaron gives out several useful tips. I must admit that I found these writer’s room lessons to be some of the most immersive of the class.

Pitching Your Screenplay (Lessons 33 & 34)

You’ll need to know how to sell your pitch if you want to be a successful screenwriter. Aaron talks about the opportunities brought about by modern online streaming platforms and how you can leverage them.

He also gives tips to help you create the best pitch for your screenplay. You’ll get answers to the following questions:

  • How many episodes should you have at least in your head?
  • What should the intention and obstacle look like?
  • Where will the scenes be shot?
  • What potential questions will the executive ask?

Class Resources

There are several downloadable PDFs available to help you learn more. The class comes with access to four ebooks. These are:

  1. Class Guide (Assignments and further learning)
  2. Steve Jobs continuity and spotting list
  3. A Few Good Men screenplay
  4. The Social Network screenplay

My Aaron Sorkin MasterClass Learning Experience

Now it’s time for me to lean heavily on my personal opinion of the course. This means I’ll reveal my key takeaways, likes, and dislikes. I recommend you read this section closely, as you might have the same sentiments.

Key Takeaways

Aaron Sorkin’s Helpful Quotes

When you learn from a world-renowned writer, you can expect some smart plays on words. Aaron Sorkin does not disappoint in this aspect. He offers some interesting quotes that I found to be both interesting and insightful. Here are seven of my favorites:

  1. “You don’t have an idea until you can use the words ‘but,”except,”and then’…”
  2. “The properties of characters and the properties of people have very little to do with each other.”
  3. “If you put confusion into the mix, even the tiniest bit of confusion, an audience is gonna be apprehensive.”
  4. “The only thing that makes me feel good about writing is making progress.”
  5. “At the end of a scene, we have to be at least one step further than we were before.”
  6. “It’s not just that dialogue sounds like music to me. It actually is music.”
  7. “Rewriting is a lot easier than writing, because you have a problem to solve.”

Rules of Drama

Aaron discussed the rules of drama at length. He regularly referred to it when citing examples of critiquing other people’s work. These rules are pretty straightforward, yet they allow you to be creative while following them.

Below are the rules of drama I picked up from taking the class:

  • Drama is not real life but an imitation.
  • Drama is not history
  • Drama is action
  • Stories have harmony and rhythm
  • Genre is important

The Role of Conflict in Drama

As Aaron said in one of my favorite quotes in the class: “You don’t have an idea until you can use the words ‘but,’ ‘except,’ ‘and then…'” It serves as a simple way to check if your story idea has intention, obstacle, and ultimately, conflict.

He referred to several examples of how to use conflict from his own works and those of others. I remember rewatching The American President as an assignment just to see how the conflict was presented in the story. Learning how conflict works has already made me a better writer because I know what makes a compelling story.

What I Liked

In-Depth MasterClass

This 35-lesson masterclass is one of the longest on the platform, and for good reason. Aaron goes into a lot of depth here. I could tell he wanted to make the class an all-you-need guide for budding screenwriters.

The class covers the following and more:

  • Story ideas
  • Research
  • Character Building
  • World Building
  • Creating Scenes
  • Writing Dialogue
  • Finding Inspiration
  • Editing and Rewriting
  • Pitching Executives

Those are topics that the average newbie screenwriter would spend days finding resources for on Google and YouTube. Thankfully, Aaron covers all of that and more in his masterclass, which I found to be a great benefit.

Lots of Practical Advice and Case Studies

Aaron not only gives a lot of practical advice in his class, but he also does his best to make it as relatable as possible. You can easily understand what he recommends and know how to apply it to your work.

I also loved the way he linked each concept to an actual screenplay. Although he has a large body of work to reference, he still directs students to the works of other great writers. This makes it easier for students to understand how to use the theories in question.

Writer’s Group Experience

I’ve heard stories about writer’s groups but have never really been a part of any. This class gave me a peek into what that would feel like. I enjoyed watching the writer’s workshop and room sessions for the West Wing.

The experience felt real, and I learned a lot from every video lesson featuring the students and team. If you’re serious about becoming a screenwriter, this group work is something you might have to do in the future.


Engaging Assignments in the Workbook

I never liked assignments. I think many people would agree with me that assignments are not much fun. Fortunately for me, Aaron’s assignments are fun. You get to watch and analyze new films, read great pieces, and explore your creative side. These assignments make the class workbook a valuable addition to the entire curriculum.

Great Video and Sound Quality

If you’re familiar with MasterClass, you know that the videos they produce are almost always top-notch. The production quality is great, and I liked how high-definition the videos were.

While watching, you can adjust the video quality up to 1080p. The audio is also clear and loud, with no external noise. It does feel like Aaron is speaking right in front of you.

Helpful Software Features

I liked that MasterClass makes the learning experience easier by providing features you can use while watching videos. Below are three of the best to use for this course.

  1. My Notes: This lets you take during a lesson without having to pause the video.
  2. Playback rate control: It works well with My Notes by allowing you to slow the video or speed it.
  3. Bookmark: It allows you to mark key points in the lessons for future reference.
  4. Audio-Only: This feature is only accessible via the mobile app, and it allows you to listen to the lessons on the go.

What I Disliked

Aaron’s Not the Most Concise Speaker

The instructor tends to bounce around several points before coming to the key concept or idea. While some people may not mind that method of speaking, I’m not a fan of it.

However, I can definitely cut Aaron some slack, as he does mention this issue in the introductory lesson. According to him, he tends to take detours in his explanations before arriving at the main point.

Nevertheless, he does provide valuable ideas after all is said and done.

No Active Writer’s Community

I don’t like the fact that an instructor doesn’t get to critique my work or check my assignments. Even if Aaron doesn’t do it, it might help to have some other expert do that. I would have gladly paid extra to have access to that feature.

To make matters worse, there is no community of screenwriters to join. So it’s mostly just you and the pre-recorded videos.

If you must have a community, I recommend you find some on social media and online forums.

How Much Does Aaron Sorkin MasterClass Cost?

The subscription cost for the Aaron Sorkin MasterClass course is between $180 and $276. The payment plans are billed annually, starting at $180 for a rate of $15 per month. By subscribing to a plan, you get access to Aaron Sorkin’s masterclass and all of the other courses on the platform for a year.

Below are the plans and pricing options available: They are similar, so the table only shows the differences between each plan.

NameIndividualDuoFamily
No. of Simultaneous connected devices126
Offline ViewingNoYesYes
Monthly Price$15$20$23
Annual Price$180$240$276

MaterClass occasionally offers limited-time discount offers. I remember seeing a Mother’s Day discount offer recently. The deal was for 25% off the Duo plan and 30% off the Family plan. You can also get a group discount if you’re buying for many people. However, you have to contact the sales team for that.

There’s also a 30-day refund policy. So, if you happen to be unsatisfied with the course within a month after your purchase, you can request your money back.

Is Aaron Sorkin Masterclass For You?

So, should you buy Aaron Sorkin’s MasterClass? I’ll help you find the answer to that question by exploring ideal scenarios for taking the class. I’ll also cover instances when it would not be in your best interest to enroll.

The MasterClass is for you if you…

  • Are a new or experienced screenwriter yet to produce a successful work
  • Want a one-stop shop for all your screenwriting education
  • Love to learn from the works of other screenwriters
  • Want to take other screenwriting classes without paying extra
  • Are unsure what type of screenplays you want to write

The MasterClass is NOT for you if you…

  • Need to have a certification to show you’re a professional screenwriter
  • Need to join a class-related writer’s community

Alternatives to Aaron Sorkin MasterClass

Aaron’s class is not the only one on MasterClass that teaches you to write for films, shows, and plays. There are several other screenwriting classes on the platform. Below, I’ll discuss the three best alternatives to Aaron Sorkin teaches Screenwriting.

DAVID MAMET teaches Dramatic Writing

David is a famous writer who has won the Pulitzer Prize in the past. He has also written and directed several dramatic feature films. The scope of David’s masterclass is a lot like Aaron’s. However, it focuses more on the dramatic aspect of screenwriting. David also uses Aristotle’s Poetics as a guide to dramatic rules.

SHONDA RHIMES teaches Writing for Television

The Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal writer has worked on several successful TV shows. She offers this masterclass on screenwriting specifically for TV.

ISSA RAE teaches Creating Outside the Lines

Popular actress and screenwriter Issa Rae creates a masterclass for newbie writers. She does her best to provide insights from her experience and focuses on helping you find what makes your stories unique.

Related:
Best Playwriting Courses

Final Verdict: Is Aaron Sorkin MasterClass Worth It?

Yes, I do believe that the Aaron Sorkin MasterClass is worth the cost of an annual subscription. There are a lot of video lessons to watch, and depending on your schedule, it could take you weeks or even months to finish them. The class is also so in-depth that I doubt you’ll need much else in terms of additional content to create a successful screenplay.

I do believe that talent, hard work, and dedication are vital. However, if you don’t know what you’re doing, no one will love your work but you. Aaron’s course helps you remedy that and gives you the best chance of success.

In case you were wanted some additional Masterclass recommendations or wondering the same question as everyone else ‘is Masterclass worth it?‘, here are some of my favorite Masterclass courses I worked through below with links to in-depth reviews of each:

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