Aaron Sorkin Gives a Lesson in Speedy Character Development in 'The Newsroom'

Not everyone can afford to pay for HBO -- and there's a good number who just prefer not to watch it -- but if you've been living under a rock for the past five or ten years, some of the best writing anywhere is happening on pay TV. If there has ever been a golden age for writers, it's right now, and it's on TV. For most movies the director is the auteur, but TV is the medium of the writer. They are allowed to take more chances and spread their wings over 10-12 hours of content in a pay TV season. Academy Award winner (The Social Network) Aaron Sorkin's new HBO show, The Newsroom, is pure Sorkinese (fast dialogue). Though that may not be everyone's cup of tea, his ability to sculpt characters with language cannot be understated. If you missed the first episode, it's now available online from the link below:

Though you've got to leave the site to actually play it (since the embed is disabled), it's worth a watch. This is obviously has NSFW language -- you know -- since it's HBO:

Video is no longer available: www.youtube.com/watch?v=1U4ZhFDFYvE&feature=player_embedded

Aaron Sorkin's style might not be for everyone, but there's no doubt that he is masterful at playing with language to weave in and out of the relationships between characters. You could certainly copy the style, but the main takeaway should be how well his dialogue works in pressure situations for the characters. He is always raising the stakes (which is what any great script should do), and he even does it within each conversation. Raise the stakes, create drama and conflict, and you'll keep people on the edge of their seats. There's also another side effect of spitfire dialogue: you've got to pay a little more attention to make sure you don't miss anything.

If you want to be a screenwriter, you can't go wrong with the character development and story arcs on pay TV. But remember, the style of TV is slightly different than movies, and if you want to become a better feature film screenwriter, it's important to read scripts, watch movies, and write pages.

[via Dave Surber & Gawker]

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Your Comment


You've got to love the "America isn't the greatest country in the world speech". (American here)

June 26, 2012 at 12:38AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


Yup. True stuff. Lots of people complaining this episode was preachy...and it IS. But that doesn't make it wrong.

June 26, 2012 at 4:03AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


His speech was Amazing!!! SO TRUE!!! Greatest written show on television.

June 26, 2012 at 3:18PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


I must be the archetypical Sorkin fan. Politics have always fascinated me but my disillusionment led me away from it, leaving it simply as a necessary evil devoid of joy. Then The West Wing came along and made things entertaining, gave me some hope that someone out there wasn't totally jaded. I've felt the same way about journalism for yeeeeeears, and here's Aaron Sorkin again with a very promising effort. Regardless, the man has a way with dialog to be sure and I loved this first episode.

That said I absolutely HATED the way it was shot and the way it looked throughout every scene following the awesome opening scene. I'm usually not one to beef with someone's production if the writing can carry me, but at numerous times I was just looking at the screen thinking it felt really low budget. The lighting was really boring; just zero depth and all one even lighting value. The camera angles and compositions were terrible often leaving characters to deliver what should be emotional lines as they all stood damn-near dead center of the frame in mid-shot after mid-shot. And don't get me started on the "long take where the cameraman does a quick zoom and recompose" that gets overused every since Cloverfield. I've never understood why anyone would use that technique unless they were trying to emulate a POV through a news cameraman's camera. Bugs the hell out of me. It's a peeve. Anyhow....

Overall I think it has great potential. I'll watch it even if the production values don't come up, because right now they're WAY below the West Wing cinematic grandeur, but I hope they flesh out some of the characters a bit better. I can see the clumsy intern-turned-assistant-turned-assistant-producer character's schtick getting old and needlessly com-rom-drom. But seriously, Jeff Bridges and Dude From Law & Order absolutely frickin SLAYED it and carried me through.

June 26, 2012 at 7:43AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


Not Jeff Bridges.....Jeff Daniels.

June 28, 2012 at 9:17PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM

Minneapolis Marilee

"The uploader has not made this video available in your country". Shame...

June 26, 2012 at 7:44AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


Same here.

June 28, 2012 at 1:53AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


yes, "uploader has not been made available in your country", how do we bypass this?

help would greatly be appropriated

June 26, 2012 at 10:24AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


There is a sad irony to that considering both HBO and Sorkin are American. HBO has also put it in other places, you might try TV.com: http://www.tv.com/shows/the-newsroom-2012/we-just-decided-to-2471005/

They've also put it on DailyMotion: http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xrqvvw_the-newsroom-season-1-episode-1-...

If none of those work, obviously HBO is missing the complete irony of the big speech in their own show.

June 26, 2012 at 10:41AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM

Joe Marine
Camera Department

they are missing it...it's not working in germany

June 27, 2012 at 2:34AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


Joe, thanks for posting bro'...that episode was excellent. Sorkin reminds me of a modern day Frank Capra. Thanks again!!!

June 26, 2012 at 4:47PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


At least we know Sorkin likes to recycle:)


June 28, 2012 at 12:15PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


I certainly enjoyed the sentiment of the Daniels-delivered diatribe, but I thought that episode was one of the most heavy-handed, exposition-laden pilots I have EVER. SEEN.

Mediator: "Hey, Right Wing Person! What do you think about topic A?"
Right-Winger: "Blah blah blah Freedom America Jesus Freedom America!"
Left-Winger: "Blah blah blah Indignant Shock Lobbyists Earmarks!"
Jeff Daniels: "I like the Jets."

Stupid. I feel like the people who agree with this show are people who already know all those stats. Hopefully I'll be proven wrong, though, and it will ultimately appeal to moderate-centrists, because they certainly spent some effort painting Jeff Daniels as one.

July 1, 2012 at 11:00AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


The kind of psychopathic Will MacAvoy reminds me of my old boss, when I was working for local tv news. It is so funny! :)

July 2, 2012 at 1:32AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM