PRODUCT REVIEW

Should you take Aaron Sorkin's MasterClass?

Megan Morreale
December 3, 2021

Aaron Sorkin MasterClass review synopsis

What you’ll learn: You’ll learn how to screenwrite from one of the masters of drama, known for The West Wing, Steve Jobs, The Social Network, and many other acclaimed titles.

How long does the Aaron Sorkin MasterClass take?: 483 minutes, or roughly 8 hours.

Similar courses: Shonda Rhimes, Steve Martin, Werner Herzog, Judd Apatow

Do I recommend Aaron Sorkin’s MasterClass? Yes, 100%. Aaron Sorkin’s MasterClass is an in-depth, actionable wealth of knowledge on the craft of screenwriting.

Get Aaron Sorkin’s MasterClass.

Writers are always looking for writing advice from other writers — especially those that have created acclaimed works of art or are particularly prolific in their careers.

Even though I don’t aim to be a professional screenwriter, Aaron Sorkin’s MasterClass intrigued me because of Sorkin’s reputation for fantastic dialogue. He’s the mastermind behind lines like, “you can’t handle the truth!” from A Few Good Men and the tirade against God in The West Wing episode, Two Cathedrals.

At first, I was skeptical about whether or not any writing course without a live teacher to review my actual writing would even be worthwhile, but Sorkin proved me wrong. I learned a lot about building tension in my writing and how to treat an audience.

“What you don’t want to do is to try to write in order to change someone’s mind.”

 – Aaron Sorkin, Lesson 20, Scene Case Study: The West Wing

In this review of his course, I’ll walk you through everything the Aaron Sorkin MasterClass has to offer, including how much it costs and if it’s worth it for you.

Disclosure: In the interest of full transparency, Codeless uses affiliate links in our MasterClass reviews to cover our site’s costs.

Our Verdict

Aaron Sorkin’s MasterClass is jam-packed with useful content for prospective screenwriters, as well as writers of any kind. I’d recommend this MasterClass for anyone looking to reach broad audiences with their written works.

Aaron Sorkin’s MasterClass Learn scriptwriting from the very best.

$15 /month
PROS
  • Lessons are easy to follow and to the point
  • There’s no time limit to complete the course
  • No lesson is longer than 15 minutes, even though the MasterClass is long
  • There are a lot of anecdotes that help make the lessons real
  • There is clear direction on how to apply lessons to your own work
CONS
  • The course is not very visual
  • Sorkin isn’t always compelling on camera and can sometimes ramble

A few frequently-asked questions (FAQs)

When I tell my colleagues and friends that I took Aaron Sorkin’s screenwriting course, these are the questions I hear the most:

What show is Aaron Sorkin talking about in his MasterClass?

He focuses a lot on The West Wing in the video lessons, but throughout the course, there are references to almost all of his movies. He also includes the scripts from A Few Good Men and The Social Network for students to study.

Do I need a subscription to access the Aaron Sorkin MasterClass?

You need a MasterClass subscription to take the course. It costs $180 annually, and you get access to the full range of MasterClass courses.

Take a look at our MasterClass review to see if it’s worth it.  

Does MasterClass have a cancellation policy?

You can cancel your subscription at any time and get a refund within 30-days of joining if you’re unhappy with your purchase.

Is the Aaron Sorkin MasterClass worth it?

Yes, Aaron Sorkin’s MasterClass is an incredibly in-depth overview of the successful screenwriter’s processes and insight into the movie business.

Grow as a screenwriter with Aaron Sorkin’s MasterClass.

About Aaron Sorkin

Even if you don’t know Aaron Sorkin by name, you’re likely familiar with his work. He’s the mastermind behind popular movies, plays, and TV shows like A Few Good Men, The Farnsworth Invention, To Kill a Mockingbird, Sports Night, The West Wing, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, The Newsroom, and more. Talk about a prolific career.

He’s a TV and film screenwriter, playwright, and director. He uses his unique writing style of fast-paced, snappy dialogue to tell dramatic stories about politics, law, and the media. He wrote the film screenplay for A Few Good Men, The American President, Charlie Wilson’s WarMoneyball, and Steve Jobs.

He’s also well-known for using Thomas Schlamme’s storytelling technique called the ‘walk and talk,’ which consists of long scenes where multiple characters engage in conversation as they move through the set — again, hammering home his expertise in dialogue.

How much does Aaron Sorkin MasterClass cost?

You can’t buy the Aaron Sorkin MasterClass as a single item — you’ll need to subscribe to MasterClass to take the course. Subscriptions are available through three plans: Standard, Plus, and Premium.

masterclass plans and pricing

If you purchase the Standard plan, you’ll pay $15 per month, billed annually at $180. This plan unlocks access to all course content, but only for one device at a time. All classes come with a workbook and a community forum, where students can interact with other students.

The Plus plan costs $20 per month, billed annually, and also includes access to all courses. You can access classes on two devices simultaneously or download your videos for offline viewing on an iOS device.

The Premium plan costs $23 per month, billed annually, and is a good option for families or small businesses. This plan unlocks everything in the Plus plan but ups the device limit to six at a time.

With any membership, you can also take Shonda Rhimes’ screenwriting courseNeil Gaiman’s course on storytelling, Judd Apatow’s course on comedy, or other classes without additional cost.

What is included in the Aaron Sorkin masterclass?

Runtime: 8 hours and 3 minutes

Course Value: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Lessons: 35 video lessons

Supplementary materials: four workbooks, real screenplays, and an online community

Supplementary workbook

Every MasterClass course comes with at least one downloadable workbook. It’s typically a visual guide to the course lessons, exercises for students to complete or a summary of the video lessons, and a place to take notes.

Sorkin’s workbook focuses on summaries and suggested exercises to help you internalize what you learn.

But Sorkin goes the extra mile and delivers additional materials, including the screenplays for The Social Network and A Few Good Men.

These particular PDFs are secure and uneditable, unlike the workbook where students can take notes. Here’s a sample of The Social Network screenplay:

aaron sorkin masterclass the social network screenplay
Aaron Sorkin MasterClass: the Social Network Screenplay

Finally, it includes the official spotlighting list, or list of potential actors, for Steve Jobs, so that students can understand what the process looks like to cast characters on paper. It also makes you feel like an industry insider.

The MasterClass Hub

In addition to the course material, every MasterClass includes a community hub where you can interact with other students.

Sorkin’s has topics dedicated to each lesson, questions about some of the takeaways from those lessons, contest announcements, people posting their own scripts, and more.

aaron sorkin masterclass community hub
Aaron Sorkin MasterClass Community Hub

Perfect your screenplay today with Aaron Sorkin’s MasterClass.

A complete breakdown of the Aaron Sorkin MasterClass curriculum

Aaron Sorkin’s MasterClass curriculum covers everything from how to develop characters to tips for editing your screenplays for the most effective results. Below you can find a summary of the entire course curriculum.

aaron sorkin masterclass curriculum

Curriculum:

  • Introduction
  • Intention & Obstacle
  • Story Ideas
  • Developing Characters: Part 1
  • Developing Characters: Part 2
  • Research
  • Incorporating Research
  • The Audience
  • Rules of Story
  • Film Story Arc
  • Writing Habits
  • Group Workshop: Untitled by JJ Braider
  • Group Workshop: E is for Edie by Jeanie Bergen
  • Group Workshop: Chronic by Roland Zaleski
  • Group Workshop: The Merc by Evelyn Yves
  • Group Workshop: From Here to Alli by Corey Wright
  • Writing Scenes: Part 1
  • Writing Scenes: Part 2
  • Scene Case Study: Steve Jobs
  • Scene Case Study: The West Wing
  • Writing Captivating Dialogue
  • Rewrites: First Draft
  • Rewrites: Notes
  • The West Wing Writers’ Room: Part 1
  • The West Wing Writers’ Room: Part 2
  • The West Wing Writers’ Room: Part 3
  • The West Wing Writers’ Room: Part 4
  • The West Wing Writers’ Room: Part 5
  • The West Wing Writers’ Room: Part 6
  • The West Wing Writers’ Room: Part 7
  • The West Wing Writers’ Room: Part 8
  • Group Workshop: Pitch Session
  • Group Workshop: Aaron Pitches Mission to Mars
  • Closing Thoughts

Course summary:

Before we dive into the details, it’s worth mentioning that Sorkin starts his class off with an apology for not being a great speaker. While the insights provided in this course are incredible, it can be a bit of a bumpy watch at times.

The course kicks off with an introduction to the instructor and the one lesson he refers back to through the entire MasterClass: his lesson on intentions and obstacles. He singles these two factors out as the most important things to establish in a script.

aaron sorkin masterclass introduction
Aaron Sorkin masterclass introduction

Then, Sorkin tackles the necessary steps for testing a script idea and shares his personal journeys behind some of his best scripts.

The following lessons include a deep dive into how he developed characters for those films and the research that went into crafting those screenplays.

After that, he covers the foundations of drama, an overview of Aristotle’s Poetics, the ideal structure of a script (down to the page numbers), and how to tackle writer’s block.

Aaron Sorkin MasterClass Workshop
Aaron Sorkin MasterClass Workshop

After these foundational lessons, Sorkin dives into workshops with live students. These workshops include lessons on how to write action scenes, how to develop offbeat characters, how to justify improbable events, how to show an audience something they haven’t seen before, and more.

Through critiquing his student’s ideas, Sorkin drives home the importance of confidence, shares his own origin story, and shares his insights into how to drum up interest in a new script.

Aaron Sorkin MasterClass Case Studies
Aaron Sorkin MasterClass Case Studies

Next up are case studies from some of Sorkin’s films, including snippets from critical scenes. Learn how to create an open scene that hooks an audience, how to write confrontational scenes, how to make both music and dialogue work together, and more.

After the case studies, Sorkin spends two lessons talking about tackling rewrites and editing your work.

Aaron Sorkin MasterClass West Wing Lessons
Aaron Sorkin MasterClass West Wing Lessons

Sorkin explores The West Wing in an eight-part lesson series, where students learn about writing a premiere, how to reverse engineer a plot for a big twist, how to break a script, the limitations of the plot, and much more.

The course wraps up with lessons that cover pitching scripts, and Sorkin himself pitches his students an idea for a new script, Mission to Mars.

What I learned

If you’re interested in writing screenplays, prepare to take notes feverishly as you watch this course. There are countless actionable insights to unpack for those looking to write scripts for the big screen, stage, or TV.

4 takeaways from this MasterClass

When I took the Aaron Sorkin MasterClass, the lessons that stuck with me were about interacting with the audience, building a story arc, and revising my writing.

1. You don’t need to over-explain everything

Sorkin doesn’t consider his writing a complete piece of work, like someone who’s writing a book or an article might. He sees his screenplays as blueprints that work best when leaving a little to the imagination. His course made me think a lot about how I could think differently about how visuals work alongside my words on a page.

2. Write what you like

Sorkin is well-known for great dialogue because he likes writing dialogue, so he chose to perfect it. His love for putting words in his character’s mouths made me realize I could use quotes more effectively in my nonfiction writing.

Aaron Sorkin MasterClass Dialogue

3. Your writing needs intentions and obstacles to be considered drama

Characters in a drama must intend to do something — like make it to their wedding on time, get a promotion, or fall in love. Then, obstacles get in the way of that intention need to be obstacles — like a missed flight, sabotage from a co-worker, or a series of terrible dates. These two elements make a work of writing engaging, whether it’s fiction or not.

In copywriting, this aligns with the concept of highlighting the customer’s problem before introducing the solution.

4. You don’t have to have it all figured out to start writing

Some people fear the blank page because they don’t know exactly what they’re going to say before they sit down to write. But the blank page is a workshop, not a final resting place for words. You can work out the elements of your story as you go, so don’t be afraid to stumble across those keys.

Don’t forget to proofread any pieces you have written! Check out Grammarly and save 20% off!

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Memorable quotes from this MasterClass

“We’re going to talk about intention and obstacles, which are the most important things in drama. Without strong, clear intention and a formidable obstacle, you don’t have drama.”

Lesson 1, Introduction

“People have walked out of plays before, but it’s a hard thing to do. You spent a lot of money, left your house, got a babysitter, had dinner, maybe you’re on a date — seeing a play is a hard thing to do, and we know we’ve got you for a bit, so we can go a bit slower in the beginning. It’s a little easier to walk out of a movie. But the easiest thing there is to do is to change the TV channel. A network will encourage you to do whatever you can do within the first two minutes of a show.”

– Lesson 2, Intention and Obstacle

“Rules are what makes art beautiful. Rules are what make sports beautiful. The most popular sport in the world is soccer. If you were allowed to pick up the ball, run through the stands, shoot the goalkeeper in the head and win the game, it wouldn’t be beautiful. It’s the rules that make sports beautiful, and it’s the rules that make art not fingerpainting.”

 – Lesson 9, Rules of a Story

“None of the five of you are fooling yourselves. You are all professional writers. You’re very good. It’s the opposite of being an athlete; you get better when you get older.”

Lesson 35, Closing Thoughts

Aaron Sorkin Masterclass pros and cons

So, should you take the Aaron Sorkin MasterClass? Below I’ve compiled my top pros and cons of this course.

Pros

  • Lessons are easy to follow and to the point
  • There’s no time limit to complete the course
  • No lesson is longer than 15 minutes, even though the MasterClass is long
  • There are a lot of anecdotes that help make the lessons real
  • There is clear direction on how to apply lessons to your own work

Cons

  • The course is not very visual
  • Sorkin isn’t always compelling on camera and can sometimes ramble

Do I recommend this Masterclass?

Absolutely. Aaron Sorkin’s MasterClass is jam-packed with useful content for prospective screenwriters, as well as writers of any kind. I’d recommend this MasterClass for anyone looking to reach broad audiences with their written works.

Get Aaron Sorkin’s MasterClass