The Social Network Analysis at Go Into The Story

A screenwriting blog that I follow and admire, Scott Myer’s GO INTO THE STORY, has a segment this month called 30 Screenplays in 30 Days, and today, I’m honored to contribute my analysis and breakdown of THE SOCIAL NETWORK, one of my favorite films of all time.  Here is the link.

Below is my analysis on the site.

Today’s guest columnist: Jason Park.

Title: The Social Network

Year: 2010

Writer: Aaron Sorkin

IMDB Rating: 7.8/10

Plot Summary: “On a fall night in 2003, Harvard undergrad and computer programming genius Mark Zuckerberg sits down at his computer and heatedly begins working on a new idea. In a fury of blogging and programming, what begins in his dorm room soon becomes a global social network and a revolution in communication. A mere six years and 500 million friends later, Mark Zuckerberg is the youngest billionaire in history… but for this entrepreneur, success leads to both personal and legal complications.”

Tagline: “You don’t get to 500 million friends without making a few enemies”

Awards:

-8 Academy Award Nominations / Three Wins (including Best Adapted Screenplay)

-6 Golden Globe Nominations / Four Wins (including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Screenplay)

-Won WGA Awards Best Adapted Screenplay

Analysis: My initial exposure to The Social Network as a screenplay all stemmed from my incredible first eight or nine viewings of the film. After each and every spiritual experience watching the entirety of the film, I started what is now a constant practice: watching the film while simultaneously reading the screenplay.

The film itself is wonderfully executed through the brilliant mind and vision of David Fincher and his team of collaborators, but diving into the words of Sorkin, his screenplay is a massive collection of flawed individuals with incredible strengths but also dire weaknesses, all playing out through this well-known entity called, “Facebook”.

Like any great story, screenplay, or film, the core of its success lies on these characters. From the main players like Mark Zuckerberg, Eduardo Suavarin, and Sean Parker to the minor but inspired and effective roles of The Winklevoss Twins and Erica Albright, who arguably, could be one of the most important characters in a film with the smallest amount of screen time. All this represents one singular aspect: interesting characters. I remember the reputation The Social Network was receiving prior to its release, with people claiming how “boring” and “typical” of Hollywood to make a “Facebook” movie. But by supplying this engaging story with individuals fueled by power, satisfaction, jealousy, status, money, glory, and a sense of accomplishment, we have hear, at the very essence, a plain and simple human story wrapped around a mega company.

Another aspect I noticed was revolving the entire structure of the script around two deposition hearings from two different lawsuits. Every flashback or scenes that’s played outside of those two settings are essentially stories told from one perspective. I find that to be quite ingenious considering that I truly believe Sorkin had no intentions of shedding his own opinions or thoughts on the matter of Zuckerberg and the Facebook ordeal. But it’s almost impossible to NOT do such a thing, considering writers provide words, attitudes, characteristics, and all other forms of predisposed feelings onto such subjects. But by constructing the film around these two scenes, we aren’t necessarily getting the truth, but figments of the truth, and it’s our job as the audience, to create our own opinions and positions on who’s in the right or the wrong.

There’s so much in this screenplay that works. From Sorkin’s relentless but beautifully crafted dialogue to the small little details and descriptions that create such vast and large images that reflect hugely on the character, specifically the ending where Mark continues to wait and hits refresh over and over again. Though it uses the minimalist amount of words, it speaks volumes about Mark, the story, and just what really motivates humans in relation to the very essence of our needs.

Most Memorable Dialogue: This one’s tough, considering there are so many great lines and exchanges. I’m going to cheat and choose three different scenes of dialogue that I consider the most memorable.

After Mark continues to drop unintentional bomb after unintentional bomb in the opening scene with Erica breaking up with him, she grabs his hand, stops his motor mouth, and says:

Erica Albright: You are probably going to be a very successful computer person, but you’re going to go through life thinking that girls don’t like you because you’re a nerd. And I want you to know, from the bottom of my heart, that that won’t be true. It’ll be because you’re an asshole.

This next scene is the deposition hearing between The Winklevoss Twins and Mark, where he’s distant, unfocused, and wandering off as he watches the rain fall outside.

Gage (Winklevoss’ Lawyer): Mr. Zuckerberg, do I have your full attention?
Mark Zuckerberg: No.
Gage: (beat) Do you think I deserve it?
Mark: What.
Gage: Do you think I deserve your full attention?
Mark: I had to swear an oath before we began this deposition, and I don’t want to perjure myself, so I have a legal obligation say no.
Gage: Okay. “No” you don’t think I deserve your attention.
Mark: I think if your clients want to sit on my shoulders and call themselves tall, they have the right to give it a try, but there’s no requirement that I enjoy sitting here listening to people lie. You have part of my attention – you have the minimum amount. The rest of my attention is back at the offices of Facebook, where my colleagues and I are doing things that no one in this room, including and especially you’re clients, are intellectually or creatively capable of doing. Did I adequately answer your condescending question?

In this last and final scene of the script before Mark sends a friend request to Erica Albright on Facebook, Marilyn, a second-year associate at the firm for Mark’s lawyers, is about to leave after witnessing the hearing on the lawsuit between Mark and Eduardo, his once best friend.

Marilyn: You’re not an asshole, Mark. You’re just trying so hard to be.

Most Memorable Moments: Outside of the scene where Mark refreshes his computer constantly to see if Erica responds to his friend request, and the nightclub scene where Sean Parker convinces Mark to fully trust him and his instincts and suggestions rather than Eduardo, I’d have to pick the opening scene between Mark and Erica, where Erica breaks up with Mark in a crowded bar near Harvard. It’s tough because it’s not necessarily a moment, but more of a 8-page scene, but I picked this because I felt it perfectly captures the film and what it’s really about. It’s not about Facebook. It’s not about back-stabbing jealousy and lawsuits. It’s about a college kid who’s hurt and lonely. It’s about our need to respond after heartbreak, and what truly motivates us in this world, and how far we’re wiling to go to achieve these “goals”, even if all it takes is one simple act or deed. It really captures the struggle we all have with insecurities and doubt, and how we are or portray ourselves to the people that matter most.

What Did I Learn About Screenwriting From Reading This Script: I’m going to try and just pick one thing that I’ve learned about screening, and I think the most important lesson from reading The Social Network is to take chances. Sometimes, as aspiring screenwriters and beginners, we tend to be locked down by these “rules” that are given throughout the screenwriting community. Write a likable protagonist, have a specific three-act structure, have dramatic beats organized by page numbers, don’t write long scenes, keep your screenplay short. Obviously, I’m going after rules that The Social Network clearly breaks, fully being aware that this is Aaron Sorkin. But I think why this screenplay works so well is that everything is in purpose for the story. The structure, the dialogue, the eight page opening scene, the protagonist/antagonist relationship within Mark, they’re all elements supporting one singular goal, which is to make the best possible story. The biggest difference between beginners or aspiring writers and the likes of Sorkin is that outside of their talents, experiences, and knowledge, they’re incredible aware of their writing. They know they must keep the story and pace flowing, and have everything focused and dialed in to specific and simplified goals.

Cinematic Moments: Ellie & Carl’s Marriage Montage From UP!

Another new segment, Cinematic Moments, is a section where I just want to share my favorite scenes or… cinematic moments from films.  Going off the theme of tears and death, the inspired choice is the montage sequence of Ellie & Carl’s marriage from UP!, one of the greatest openings in any film ever.  No dialogue, short scenes, music, but perfection.  I’m not a huge fan of the film in its entirety, but man, these four minutes are cinematic bliss.

Thoughts On: THE FAULT IN OUR STARS

Long time ago when I actually contributed to this blog, I would write reviews and the whole, “here’s what worked or didn’t work, short synopsis, and the nice star rating at the end” to sum up my feelings about the film in general for any lazy reader who just wants to know the rating and not the why.  But instead, I’m stripping most of that, including the star rating, and just focusing on things that worked/didn’t work, and the overall impressions that I received and felt experiencing a particular film.  No stars, no proclaimed loved or hatred (as well as I can at least), and just talk about the film.

Last night I caught an 11:00 p.m. screening of THE FAULT IN OUR STARS, the massively popular young adult novel about two teenagers dealing with the horrible affects of cancer and how they magically fall in love, though there is no magic in the idea of losing some in an instant to a relentless disease.  As I witnessed this film in a packed theater full of high school and college girls crying their eyes dry from the half-way mark, I couldn’t help but join in on the tear fest, though I was a little better at controlling my sobbing through a well-planned strategy of bringing a hoodie and gently covering my face whenever I began to choke up, and I’ll tell you, it happened numerous times.

The last time a film made me cry like this was probably MARLEY & ME, and though they are pretty different movies, they strike an inner chord where my fears and weaknesses are brought out onto a serving platter, letting the respective film bring out the worst in me.  It’s obvious why MARLEY & ME affects me the way it does: I have two dogs, now three (MOLLY!).  My love for animals is evident, and though my hypocrisy in still being a meat-eater exists(I’m trying to change…), there’s nothing better than an animal by your side, providing you with all the love and company any human would need.  To me, it’s one of God’s greatest gifts, and unfortunately, we as humans have found many creative ways to destroy everything awesome in our lives, including these precious and beautiful creatures that WE SHARE this earth with.

Anyways, anyone that’s read the book or watched the film now (FAULTS), knows that at the center of the film is not cancer, but a love story.  A relationship about two young and innocent people trying to do normal things like fall in love, but have countless hurdles to jump over because of a situation they never asked for or deserved.  It’s the tragedy of being human.  We are given things in life that we do not control.  Our parents, our homes, what part of the world we come from, our culture, our health (for the most part), the list goes on and on.  But love is something that we all (or should) experience, and these two brave souls, Hazel Grace Lancaster and Augustus Waters, are doing everything they can to fight their own inevitability and do what they want most.

Except love isn’t necessarily what they truly desire.  That’s the difference between THIS story and every other love story in the YA genre.  Love is not what’s desired here.  For Hazel, it’s the need of knowing that her loved ones will be okay after she’s gone.  Her biggest fear is not death, but what death will do to her parents, and now to Augustus.  For Augustus, it’s the fear of oblivion, or like many people but especially men, the fear of being forgotten and living a meaningless life.

This is where the film really hits close because Augustus is someone I can really relate to.  His fears are exactly the same fears I have in regards to how afraid we are of dying before we get to do everything we want to do, but more importantly (maybe even selfishly), to be remembered by many people for living a life of grandness and epic proportions.  If there’s anything out there that scares me the most, it’s the idea of death, the idea of my existence being gone and forgotten with nothing substantial to be remembered by.  I’m 100% sure women also have this fear, but it seems to me that men suffer more with this unfortunate trait, mainly because we are creatures of hidden insecurities, grand ambitions, and the need for glory and prominence.  These weaknesses can fulfilled by a significant other, children, a job or a career of love and passion, but these can also be temporary, as the soul is a confusing puzzle that constantly changes, having no permanent pieces that will forever fit in its original place.

I think as humans, it’s easy for us to ignore how vulnerable we really are.  Regardless of what you believe religiously or spiritually, this world is so vast and has no pity on our lives.  We are infinitely tiny to this universe, and our lives, though it may feel great and amazing, in reality is nothing but a small speck.  And regardless of what we do or accomplish on our time here, we are nothing but a black dot, which makes us no different than anybody else.

This mindset shares similarly to Hazel’s, stating to Augustus’ statement about oblivion that everyone lives and dies, and that regardless of what we think or believe, we all have the same endings.  Not trying to be so dark and gloomy, I think, though much of the things stated above are true, that’s not the attitude we should live with, and I believe that’s the film’s overarching message and theme throughout the film.  We may not have cancer or know someone who’s died at a young age, but at the end of our lives, no matter how young or old, we will all experience some sort of pain and some kind of tragedy.  That’s common denominator in all our lives, regardless of how distant you put those pains away or ignore them.  That’s what makes us our lives so unfortunate, but yet, incredibly beautiful.

FAULTS continues with this believable and effective relationship between Augustus and Hazel, played by the talented Shailene Woodley and the extremely persuasive Ansel Egort (both deserving some recognition for their performances), and what’s happening now as the film progresses is that we find beauty in their lives.  We don’t pity Hazel with her oxygen tank that she helplessly drags along or Augustus’ prosthetic leg he wears.  We find their relationship alluring, holding us through their similarities and differences, their matchmaking chemistry, and their attractive smiles and eyes, looking at one another where they feel immortal.  That time will forever hold still because these moments, these unforgettable and life-changing moments, are forever.

I think though humanity lives under a clouded existence, we have this gift of memory, of being sent back into time and remembering those special moments where life was worth every single difficult second.  Life is full of despair and pain, and easily takes most of our time here.  From sickness, stress, illnesses, work, loss, death, pain, depression, fear… I mean this lost goes on and on.  But yet, our lives are filled with miraculous wonder and positivity, and those times we cherish, our goals and dreams, our friends and family, these things keep us going.  And I think that’s the beauty in THE FAULT IN OUR STARS.

Life continues harshly, and nothing will stop it.  It’s a moving vehicle where the road eventually does end without us knowing when.  But we have the power to choose the life we want to live just like Hazel and Augustus had chose to become friends, fall for each other and fall in love, even though they knew both were, as Hazel put, a grenade ready to explode.  And that’s the beauty in the lives we live: we can either be the driver or the passenger.

FAULTS isn’t perfect (well no film can be really).  There are a few scenes that are a little oddly placed and felt contrived, and they REALLY went after those emotional moments, feeling slightly manipulative, but at the end of the day, no film should be criticized for how it made YOU feel, but if the film did what it was trying to do.  It’s so easy for us to fall in love with movies that make you laugh really hard or cry like there’s no tomorrow because that’s what we remember, but we must realize that when doing so, we don’t really remember the movie.

Removing all those tears that I shed and sleeping on my thoughts for a night, I had this urge to write something.  I really have a hard time blogging, I don’t know why.  It makes me feel needy and self-centered at times, but plainly, it’s just hard to write quality entries time after time (granted I even write anything of worth… doubt it).  But as I woke up this morning, being thankful that I can open my eyes, seeing my two wonderful dogs laying next to me, and witnessing the sun shine through the closed shades covering the window, I realized how beautiful life is.  How beautiful a story is.  How beautiful THE FAULTS IN OUR STARS really is, both the book and the movie.  And then I knew, this was a successful film.

One Whole Year and I’ve Made No Money!

It’s almost been one whole year since the day I left my hometown of Chicago to the vast and mysterious ways of Los Angeles, following my dreams in pursuing film and writing.  To say that it hasn’t been interesting would be a flat out lie, but to say it’s been the most exciting experience EVER would also be a dead-ass lie.  In reality, it’s been an emotional ride full of its up and downs, obvious depression, over-bearing stress, but easily the most eye-opening and revealing year I’ve ever had, outside of maybe my year abroad, but even then…

There’s no point of detailing every single event or situation that occurred throughout these last 12 months cause really, that’s just completely unnecessary.  This blog isn’t some sort of Asian Xanga in middle school where I write down what happened on that uneventful day trying to showcase to the world that I live a meaningful life watching movies, eating at fast food Chinese restaurants, and then following it with infinite amounts of “Hahas” and “Lols”.  No no no no no.  That’ll be for when I turn 50 and have nothing else to write about.

Honestly, there isn’t much to say that I’d be comfortable writing about, outside of how important this year has been.  If you look at it from a societal-cultural perspective (remember, I’m coming from a Korean-Christian community), this has been a complete waste of time.  No job, no security, no financial security, no foreseeable future of incoming promotions and self-pr0claimed successes.  Nope.  None of that.  So what did happen?  I wrote.  I read.  I watched a lot of films and television shows.  I taught.  Sometimes.  I went to Disneyland (it’s awesome).  I spent a lot of time with an incredible person who validates my venture and secures my insecurities and strengthens my weaknesses.  I saw who I was, this insignificant person trying to do something very significant and meaningful.  An undisciplined “artist” that realized that art isn’t just inspiration, but hard work, determination, and perseverance.  We sometimes imagine these same artists sitting and waiting, and then all of a sudden, striking a hit of genius and working.  No, that doesn’t really happen, we at least for me.  I have to sit, write, contemplate, rewrite, sit, read, watch, write, sit, contemplate, go to the bathroom, sit, sometimes both.  It really is a redundant and repetitive process that works if you’re willing to work.

I’ve learned that I have a fond distaste for religion and organizational spirituality, which really means I don’t find church very interesting.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m deeply involved and intrigued by the spiritual world, God, and how the universe all works, but I find the idea of people searching only for the truth to be somewhat obsolete, whereas we should focus on the journey of finding ourselves and the meaning of life and God, and let relevant truth come to us.  But that’s just my humble opinion.

I’ve learned that my writing really sucked before, and now it sucks, maybe sucks somewhat.  I don’t know really.  I’m never a good evaluator of my own work, thinking on some days I’ve striked an endless river of oil, and then on others I tell myself “I suck” on infinite repeat.  But going back to my previous work from the beginning of this journey, I definitely can say confidently that I’ve gotten better, and really, that’s worth it.  Though I may not believe it wholeheartedly or looking at my bank account will say otherwise, in my heart I know it’s worth it.  Improving on your craft is all people on this journey have, and if we stall and stay stagnant in terms of our craft, what are we essentially doing?

I’ve met some incredible people.  People who inspire me, people who provide great analysis, people who care and want to support.  People who are worth going on this journey with.  It’ll be great to look back in 10-20 years down the road, and reminisce about these “hard times” and see how far we’ve come.  But for now, all we have is our friendships and our work.  And that’s plenty.

I’ve seen some incredible films and have read some life-changing books.  If you’re pursuing a career in film, writing, art, etc. and NOT constantly watching films, reading as many books as possible, and increasing your intellect, knowledge, and growth in your own world, then I really don’t know why you’re in this.  This is something that I’ve learned SO LATE, and is probably my biggest regret in life.  I look back in my childhood, and somehow had forgotten my love for stories, literature, and film, writing stupid short novels in my heydays in school, and being given my parents’ cameras and shooting as much crap as possible, making remakes and spoofs of films and documenting my sisters’ friends in ways that was quite revealing actually.  And somehow, I forgotten this during high school and the majority of my years in college.  It feels like I’m seven or eight years behind, and regardless of if that’s true or not, it motivates me to soak is as much as possible now.  I always feel like I can give advice, and I actually love doing so, but considering my words are meaningless in the creative world, the only thing I can say with validity (kind of…) is that if you love something so much that you’re going to follow it, you better be immersing yourself in that world.  Read, watch, study, discuss, and reflect continuously.  Even when you do make it, you still religiously follow these five patterns.  If not, then oh well.

I can keep going.  I really can.  And you know, seeing that I can keep going is enough evidence to me that this past year was worth it.  And though I may not have been successful in terms of what I’ve accomplished in substance, I know, deep down, I’ve grown.  I’ve learned.  I’ve gained some sort of knowledge about this process, this craft, and this life that I want.  I wish I wrote more (I’d go crazy if I did), I wish I networked more (though being social is so exhausting…), I wish I made more money, I wish I read more, watched more, did more, but something that I’ve recently learned is that more is a distant reach that doesn’t really exist.  Even if we met our potential or have crossed it, we’ll always be slightly unsatisfied, wondering if we could’ve achieved or done more.  Ambition isn’t always a positive trait, nor is being content.  But somewhere between the two, there has to be a balance of motivation and acceptance.  Hard work and enjoyment.  Strength and grace.

I think the hardest thing about this choice is hearing all the “No’s” thrown at you.  “No, this script isn’t good”.  “No, we’re not interested.”  “No, you’re not ready.”  “No, you’re not fit for this job.”  “No, I will not refill your Venti Iced Coffee for the fifth time” ( I’ve not refilled my coffee at Starbucks five times… by then I switch to Iced Passion Tea).  At first, these No’s were brutal and soul-sucking, making me divulge into my own sea of pity.  But slowly, each and every “No” wasn’t a bullet piercing my thin skin, but it slowly became a push.  But not this push where I hate everyone and want to destroy you with my success, but a push towards working harder, trying harder, seeing things differently, and trying to get better.  Eventually, there will come a point in life where these “No’s” will have pushed me so hard and so far that finally, one day, all these “No’s” will become a “Yes”.  And that’s why we do this.  To hear those few “Yeses”.

Keep going.  Keep going.  Keep going.