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
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”
-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?
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.