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A Conversation with Aaron Sorkin
by Karen Pecota

Two speech writers sit for a chat to discuss storytelling's past, present and future. Presidential speechwriter, Jon Faverau interviews Emmy winning screenwriter Aaron Sorkin. Together their career paths have much in common but this conversation is all about Sorkin.

Faverau opens the conversation with Sorkin introducing a clip from the WEST WING series--an episode in Season Two. Acknowledging  Sorkin's six Emmy's wins for his screenplays for  television's WEST WING shown over a period of several years.

Favreau begins the conversation with Sorkin, "What drew you to writing?" Sorkin ponders and slowly answers, "My parents took me to see plays at a very young age. I was drawn to the sounds and movements of live theater." Sorkin loved the stage performances. He was attracted to the live acting and the storytelling that breathed life.

Sorkin adds another impressionable reason, "It was a black and white photograph taken after a live performance of Death of a Salesman in 1949, during the play's original Broadway run." He explains, "Flowing out of the Morosco Theatre are a sea of businessmen with their shoulders slumped, they're looking down, they're all headed to a bar across the street." He continues, "What's really remarkable about this photo is that it's taken after a Wednesday matinee. Word had gotten out what this play was about and what it was doing to people; businessmen did not want to cry in front of their families, so they were calling in sick to work and going to the matinee by themselves. That's the power of storytelling."

Sorkin's writing career began as a speech writer. The renowned television series WEST WING is a huge claim to fame for Sorkin. Making him a household name an accomplishment few Hollywood writers have aspired to. Documentation shows that The WEST WING inspired many college graduates to get into the political arena. Sorkin humbly shares, "When I wrote WEST WING I had no political agenda. In fact, the WEST WING pilot was put in a drawer for a year by NBC." Some refer to Favreau and Sorkin as men who have given hope for the American political narrative and created heroes to inspire and stand-up for goodness. Heroes that will stand up to their full potential. Sorkin explains that his hero always risks something for the greater good and is quite selfless.

Excitably Sorkin shares, "I love storytelling because stories have an enormous impact. The power of storytelling never changes. It's the oldest thing we do." He adds, "I'm not interested in the difference between good vs. bad, I'm interested in the differences between good vs. great." His beloved writing style is a product of being a romantic, loving life, people and family. A banner he holds high.

Sorkin doesn't like to write villain characters. He says that we need guys (men and/or women) we like, not guys we hate. Admittedly he has a hard time writing bad guys. For example, he says, "In the film A Few Good Men, the Jack Nicholson character was the closest I've come to writing a villain." Mentioning that he does know how to write like Breaking Bad but he chooses a different writing path.

He is concerned with the direction of the antihero influence. He messages to parents, "The last ten years we have allowed nastiness to be commonplace. It's never been a kick to make fun of people falling down. It's not okay! We should not promote these types of actions in the writing of stories." A message he continues to encourage other writers to take seriously.

Sorkin took questions from the audience and ended with this advice to writers in the digital age. "Write using your voice. Don't try to guess what people want, instead write what you like, or your friends like, or what your father likes." I like romantic and idealistic stories best. I am drawn to writing about a sense of family and democracy. One gets better the older one gets. Keep writing because we need more good scripts."