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Sorkin Presents NEWSROOM at Los Angeles Film Festival
Halfway through the first scene (he writes long scenes) of Sorkin's NEWSROOM I thought, "This show could change the world." I am a Sorkin fan, and an idealist, but that's besides the point. In the same way that THE WEST WING made Americans feel apart of what was happening in Washington, NEWSROOM does too. It takes place in a newsroom in Washington, and not only that but it's set during the real events of the day beginning on April 20, 2010. I feel like this kind of pseudo-inside look on things can only be healthy for people. It's like catharsis or something. When many Americans feel disillusioned, out of touch, and like we have no idea what really goes on in Washington, a well-written, smart dialog that Sorkin himself calls "optimistic and idealistic" of what may or may not have gone down, can inspire us instead of render us apathetic.
It's quick, smart, passionate, fun, intense, colorful, exciting, and elegant.
Besides making my heart race, the other thing the show did for me is desperately make me want to be a journalist. I know, I kind of am one here, but like a real, newsroom journalist! Inevitably the show will do the same for youngens across the country. With the phrase "journalism is dying" still afloat in our ether it makes me wonder, did Sorkin do this on purpose? Whether or not he meant to Aaron Sorkin wrote a show that makes journalism alive again.
Funny how great art fuels gratefulness. You can get the same feeling from running really fast and far. That's how I felt while watching this.
A few scenes in I had to know: Mr. Sorkin, WHO ARE YOU? HOW DOES YOUR MIND WORK?
Lucky for me Sorkin came in for a panel with moderator Madeliene Brand, Producer Alan Poul, and Director Greg Mottola.
Here are a few things i learned.
Sorkin has always liked workplace stories, and has thought of live TV as very romantic ever since AMERICAN GRAFFITI. "I like to write a romantic and idealistic style, as opposed to a gritty style," he says.
"It's [NEWSROOM] extremely optimistic and idealistic, and it's meant as more of a painting than a photograph."
Mottola: "One of the things that I really love that Aaron does is he writes long scenes with a lot of shape and change within the scene." Mottola went to film school, and he says they always teach you to "come in late and leave early" in the scene, getting in and out as quick as possible. But that doesn't always allow you to get to the heart of it. "I love the development IN the scene, not just the juxtaposition of scenes" that happens in Sorkin's writing. Sorkin probably writes this way largely because he has a theatre background.
Actors are used to play real people in NEWSROOM. "People don't play themselves because it just jumps out as stunt-casting. There are situations where it works" but not here, says Sorkin.
The show is "incredibly research intensive." "I'm almost always writing about something I don't know about," says Sorkin. Because of that he surrounds himself with experts who can give him crash course tutorials. Sorkin will go to an expert and say, "Tell me what you think." Then he will say, "Tell me what the really smart person in the room who disagrees with you thinks." "Then we take that and try to make it entertaining," says Sorkin.
After the script is written and before it's shot the director has 2 weeks to prep the show. "In between, I rely on Alan and Greg and script editors," says Sorkin. But though they help a lot and make changes, they say the show remains Sorkin. Poul: "There's a very specific musicality to what Sorkin writes. We look at it as a score."
"We always have anxiety about the length of the script, but in Aaron's world it's faster, there's an urgency. There are a lot of smart/ really neurotic people (characters) who have a lot to get off their chest."
To act on the show, you have to know your lines WELL. "They have to be in your bloodstream...It's gotta be like your phone number," says Sorkin.
NEWSROOM confronts a lot of controversial current events. Brand challenged Sorkin about whether he has an agenda with this show. "What are you trying to say with this?"
I mean this: "A good time. That's all I'm going for."
It's a 10 hour story, but Sorkin also set it up as a 3 act structure of a movie.
"I'm not buying your 'just entertaining'..." said Brand.
"I grew up loving the sound of smart people arguing with each other. If I have a skill, it's phoentically imitating that sound," says Sorkin. "Entertaining is my only goal. It's very hard, and it's very gratifying...We are a divided country...It's a Don Quixote story. It's meant to be a swashbuckling fantasy set against the real world."
Don Quixote is to Aaron Sorkin as the Bible is to many. He's always reading it, when he's done he picks it up and starts at the beginning again.
Sorkin finally said this. If anything, NEWSROOM honors the idea that 'fairness and balance = good news' is contrary to good news and democracy. The news should not be: "There's 1 bad thing about a republican and 1 bad thing about a democract," but "There's an empirical right and wrong here and it's OK to say that on the news."
Sorkin agrees with the idea that, "There's nothing more important to a democracy than a well-informed electorate."
Production note: The acting, and energy of the acting dictate what the camera is doing (Rather than a prepared shot list). "We wanted the sense that you are capturing reality. Everything is set up to be live," says Mottola.
Sorkin snuck in during the LA Film Festival showing and sat in the back. "One of the things I hate about TV is I never get to watch it with you," he says.
On his creative relationship with HBO, Sorkin says they serve largely as script supervisors. And with HBO, "Numbers are less important than how much the people who ARE watching it like it. You are in business with the audience, not with advertisers."
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