I thought you storytellers would find the following bio of the screenwriter Aaron Sorkin inspiring.
Aaron Sorkin is a screenwriter, producer, and playwright who has won Academy and Emmy awards. He is famous for his scripts that are heavy with dialog and often involve people talking as they walk through transition scenes. Needed exposition is typically presented in this form as are small snippets to help scenes move along.
Sorkin has been dubbed the master of this “walk and talk” method and is considered to be a very controlling person to work with. While many writers work on his projects, little credit is given to outside writers for the screenplays themselves. Writers are often forced to pitch small pieces and or find relevant stories that Sorkin will rework himself.
Sorkin is perhaps best known for the following works:
- A Few Good Men
- Charlie Wilson’s War
- Sports Night
- Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip
- The American President
- The Newsroom
- The Social Network
- The West Wing
Sorkin was born in New York City in 1961 and is the son of a teacher and a playwright. He attended Syracuse University but almost did not make it through the school’s acting program because of some failed classes.
He initially tried to act but wasn’t very good at it. He slowly moved into writing and began working on plays. His first was “Removing All Doubt,” which was initially performed by Syracuse students and staff. His next play, “Hidden in This Picture,” was an off-Broadway success.
His big break came with a written play called “A Few Good Men.” In 1988, Sorkin sold production rights for the play to David Brown. Brown produced the play on Broadway and it had a run of nearly 500 performances.
After the 80s ended, Sorkin began working for Castle Rock Entertainment as a screenwriter. His scripts included the movie version of “A Few Good Men” as well as his famous film “The American President.”
Sorkin’s first three films made roughly $400 million. During this time he met the woman he would marry: studio lawyer Julia Bingham.
“The American President” was the last screenplay he wrote for Castle Rock and started his path of idealizing a potential political future where the American system could be one of progress and fights over what is best instead of who is wrong.
In the 1990s, Sorkin wrote for a variety of films even though he was not credited on them. These include some one-liners for actors in “The Rock,” scenes for Will Smith in “Enemy of the State,” and Warren Beatty’s “Bullworth.”
Sorkin made his first true venture into TV with the “Sports Night” show. It was inspired by ESPN’s “SportsCenter” and became a comedy series that took a behind-the-scenes look at what it takes to run a sports news program.
The show was picked up by Disney’s ABC network and premiered in the fall of 1998.
Sorkin and ABC were constantly clashing, initially over the use of an audience and laugh track. The laugh track starts heavy in the first few episodes but is mostly gone by the end of the first season.
Despite winning accolades, the show was cancelled after two seasons because of abysmal ratings.
Sorkin moved on the political TV drama “The West Wing,” centered on a Democrat president and his administration. In 1999, the pilot debuted on NBC. The show ended up winning nine Emmy Awards in its first season, setting a record.
The episode “In Excelsis Deo” won a writing Emmy, which was awarded to Sorkin and Rick Cleveland, but Sorkin forced Cleveland off stage before he could say anything. The episode is based on the life of Cleveland’s father but Sorkin initially claimed credit for the idea and said that Cleveland was given byline credit as a courtesy. Sorkin apologized years later.
The show ran for seven seasons but Sorkin left after the fourth because of conflicts with the show’s producers.
Sorkin’s current project, “The Newsroom,” is a combination of his two previous wins by focusing on behind-the-scenes activities of a political news show. It stars Jeff Daniels and has been picked up for a third season, set to start in 2014 on HBO.
In 2001, Sorkin was arrested for possession of many drugs at the Burbank Airport. He entered a rehab program but struggled with addiction for more time to come. This is said to have played a large role in his 2005 divorce, after nine years of marriage to Bingham.
In a Syracuse commencement speech in 2012, Sorkin claimed to have been free from cocaine for eleven years.