FROM THE PAGE

From the Page: Oscar Scripts: Part II - Sorkin's 'The Social Network'

by
February 18, 2011

The Social Network

Let's continue our brand new From the Page series on scripts with Aaron Sorkin's highly acclaimed The Social Network, nominated this year for Best Adapted Screenplay at the Oscars. The Social Network is a lush and lengthy screenplay, topping out at 167 pages when the average script is around 90-120 pages. But Aaron Sorkin began his career as a playwright and has an undeniable affinity for dialogue, something that easily fills the page count. I have to admit it was a challenge to even find a scene short enough in the script to fit in my post below, so I encourage you to read the entire script if you get the chance (see note below).

Aaron Sorkin had already written a stage play called A Few Good Men when he was hired by Castle Rock to adapt it for the screen. Then he wrote the feature scripts for Malice and The American President (a personal favorite that I highly recommend) for the big screen before scripting Sports Night starting in 1998 and, of course, The West Wing to air on TV for seven years. After a handful of other notable projects, Sorkin agreed to adapt Ben Mezrich's novel The Accidental Billionaires for Sony and producers Scott Rudin, Michael De Luca and Dana Brunetti. And thus "The Facebook Movie" was born.

The script chronicles the rise of Harvard computer-tech Mark Zuckerberg (played by Jesse Eisenberg) as he creates the now globally famous website Facebook. Though the factual accuracy of the story has been argued, there's no denying that Sorkin created a meticulous structured narrative for the film. In the opening scene Mark argues with his soon-to-be-ex girlfriend Erica about his need to be accepted to one of Harvard's exclusive final clubs. After insulting her several times, Erica dumps Mark and walks out of the bar. Just like that he's 0 for 2; he doesn't have a girlfriend and he's not a final clubs member. As Sorkin writes it, these are the two main driving forces of Mark's character. His pursuit of creating the site, at all costs, is a way to win the approval of a woman he scorned. Facebook is Mark's own exclusive club (since a member must invite friends to join, originally) and he is the President. The stage is set for Mark and for the readers.

The Social Network has an interesting, non-linear structure, jumping between present day legal depositions and several years earlier in the timeline as the website is first coming to fruition at Harvard and beyond. I chose a few pages that highlight the ways in which the screenplay (and thus the film) pull us back and forth. Because we see that Eduardo (played by Andrew Garfield) has sued Mark before the site is even an entity, the reader anticipates that their relationship will crumble. We're waiting for it to happen and it delivers an anxious energy that is a highlight of the script's tone.

In the excerpt I chose to feature from The Social Network script, you should note that Mark has learned in a previous scene that Eduardo has been accepted into The Phoenix, one of Harvard's exclusive clubs. It's a strike on his ego to be sure. Also, the character "Gretchen" is Eduardo's lawyer, and "Sy" is Mark's. Read on:

INT. FIRST DEPOSITION ROOM - DAY

EDUARDO

I told him I thought it sounded great. I mean it did, it was a great idea. There was no reason to hack, people were going to put their own pictures up. What they were interested in, what they were looking for, what classes they were taking...and people had the ability to invite their friends to join. Or put a different way, not invite their friends to join. In a world where social structure is very important, that was sexy.

(beat)

It was a big project and he was going to have to write tens of thousands of lines of code so I wondered why he was coming to me and not his roommates. Dustin Moskowitz and Chris Hughes were programmers.

CUT TO:

EXT. QUAD - NIGHT

MARK

We're gonna need a little start-up cash to rent the server and get it online.

CUT TO:

INT. FIRST DEPOSITION ROOM - DAY

EDUARDO

That was why.

GRETCHEN

Did he offer business terms?

CUT TO:

EXT. QUAD - NIGHT

MARK

We'll split to 70-30. 70 for me and 30 for you for putting up a thousand dollars and handling everything on the business end. You'll be CFO.

CUT TO:

INT. FIRST DEPOSITION ROOM - DAY

GRETCHEN

And you said?

EDUARDO

I said “Let's do it.”

GRETCHEN

Okay. Did he add anything else?

EDUARDO

Yes. He said--

CUT TO:

EXT. QUAD - NIGHT

MARK

It probably was a diversity thing but so what?

CUT TO:

INT. FIRST DEPOSITION ROOM - DAY

GRETCHEN

Why do you think he said that?

SY

Gretchen, what's the relevancy?

GRETCHEN

This is discovery, I'm trying to discover.

MARK

They're suggesting that I was jealous of Eduardo and began a plan to screw him out of the company.

GRETCHEN

Were you?

SY

Gretchen--

MARK

Jealous of Eduardo?

SY

Stop typing, we're off the record.

MARK

Ma'am, I know you've done your homework and so you know that money isn't a big part of my life, but at the moment I could buy Harvard University, take the Phoenix Club and turn it into my ping pong room.

CUT TO:

EXT. QUAD - NIGHT

Eduardo's walking away and calls back to Mark--

EDUARDO

(calling)

I'll let you know how the party is.

We stay on Mark for a moment longer, his wheels turning.

I bow to Aaron Sorkin. That is some incredible writing! Even for two and a half pages. Eduardo's testimony for the deposition is a clever way of explaining how individuals will use Facebook (for anyone who might not know the site). He references its exclusive nature and how that would naturally mirror our culture's social structure because, in the end, that is what draws users in. Eduardo may be retelling the story but just as he is about to repeat what Mark said years previous, the script jumps and the words exit from Mark's own mouth. It makes the transitions seamless and encourages the reader to keep up with the story as it unfolds.

The emotional impact of the scene resonates on the final beat. In the depositions Mark scoffs at the notion that he would be jealous of Eduardo's Phoenix Club membership. He already has all the money in the world (remember?). He could buy the club. It's a ridiculous charge, until we return to the Quad again and Eduardo runs off to a party. Mark is alone again and we're reminded this is a pattern that will always haunt his life.

You can download Aaron Sorkin's entire screenplay for The Social Network (and of The King's Speech from Part I of this series) at mypdfscripts.com, which has officially downloadable copies of many screenplays.

From the Page - Oscar nominated scripts: The King's Speech, The Social Network, Inception, Black Swan and more coming! Have you read Sorkin's screenplay? What are your thoughts on his dialogue?

The Social Network

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  • Anonymous
    That was probably one of my favorite scenes, just the way it was handled was perfect! the best line of the movie was "I like standing next to you Sean, you make me look so tough."
  • AtKeystone
    Interesting discovery of the legal documents. This story is intriguing. Let's hope SN gets recognition served at the Academy Awards.
  • anonymous
    my favorite scene was the first one, a classic Sorkin long dialogue revealing some much about the protagonist and what to look for in the rest of the movie!
  • Gh
    Another fine example of writing and interactions . When you think of it, it had to include the flashbacks. Thanks a lot Cate!
  • CisforCinema
    There are so many scenes to choose from in this script, but most of them (like the first one) are pages and pages of dialogue! Definitely check out the full script at mypdfscripts.com! Thanks for reading guys!
  • cerulio
    good work Cate! I really enjoyed the meticulous analysis of the text made by Sorkin. Keep it going with the scripts section

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