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THE SOCIAL NETWORK

Aaron Sorkin Q & A
Let's start at the beginning. Why a series of conflicting narratives?

AARON SORKIN: Well, because there were conflicting narratives, and rather than choose only one of the narratives and decide that it was the "true” one, or the most interesting one, I thought the most exciting thing to do would be to dramatize all of them. The conflicting narratives are the story. ‘And then this happened' kind of narrative is more the province of the conventional biopic than what I wanted to write.

What research did you do?

AARON SORKIN: As much as I could. I had a number of direct and first-person conversations with many of the characters depicted in the film – and also with many others who were present at the time of Facebook's inception. I can't reveal sources, but these conversations were extensive and detailed; they were also fascinating because everyone's perception of the events was different. A great deal of the movie recounts incidents that occurred between two people in a room seven years ago. Even now, those two people still don't agree on what happened between them, after lawsuits and depositions and settlements – and I did everything possible to accurately characterize those disagreements. The disagreements are what drive the story.

A person obviously isn't going to act the same in the midst of a lawsuit as they would in a dorm room or at a tropical-themed party or when their girlfriend is dumping them, and so the first-person interviews remained invaluable. Mark's college blog was invaluable. The Harvard Crimson was invaluable. Ben Mezrich very, very generously shared with me his own research. I never saw the book until the screenplay was just about completed because he was writing it at the same time I was writing the screenplay, but Ben's research was invaluable.

There is an ecology at the center of this story - and it's the ecology I needed to make the audience understand. That was my goal: to know enough about the facts, to be so conversant with the array of information in all its conflicting assertions, so that I could be detailed and specific and anthropological about the people and the place and the events - because the emotional breadth of what these kids did, beginning in Suite H33 in the Kirkland House, is what drew me to the story in the first place. And I wanted to do it justice.

Did you realize immediately that the structural decision you made would open up the writing to you?

AARON SORKIN: At first I was lost because I thought Holy cow, no two people are telling the same story -- but then I realized, Wait, this is great -- no two people are telling the same story. That's what I'm going to do. So I came up with the device of the parallel depositions. Not only could the different versions of the truth be dramatized, but I was able to put everyone in one room and have Mark be sitting face-to-face with his accusers.

Once you found that structural device – what was powering the drama – did you know you were also finding a thematic device?

AARON SORKIN: I didn't, and this is normal for me – the theme didn't make itself apparent to me until writing was underway. When I begin writing, I'm not thinking about themes immediately, I'm thinking about the driveshaft of the car -- what's the plot of this, what is the intention and obstacle, where do we begin and where do we end and what is the trip that we take in between. Later in the process, the themes make themselves apparent and then you work on refining the script, you bring those themes into relief, and they become part of the movie. As I think I said earlier, when I realized that the structure of the script was, in itself, a way to dramatize thematically what the movie is describing – which is, in a way, that no person is only one thing – that was exciting. I realized that with a structural device - with a practical, technical way to tell the story – I had also found a way into the themes of the movie and its characters. But it was the math of the thing that captivated me initially, and of course the research was fantastically provocative, but truthfully the scale of the idea didn't reveal itself until I began to write scenes. As I started to generate pages, it became clear pretty quickly that the structure was the spine of the movie thematically too...

What was your way into Mark?

AARON SORKIN: Anytime I'm writing an antagonist, I want to write the character as if he's making his case to God as to why he should be allowed into heaven. People aren't all good or all bad and certainly Mark isn't all either one. But there's only one person on earth who could've done the thing that he did. Mark is a guy with both a utopian social vision and a gigantic amount of pure imaginative technical ability, and who is very driven to do what he's about to do. He has the vision and the brains – but people and things get destroyed along the way. The failure of Mark's utopian ideal – that success will solve all of his problems (when of course it doesn't), that a social networking site will bring us all closer together when it's actually done the opposite – is what I wanted to write about. The contradictions in this material were thrilling to me. The fact that someone with enormous and almost inchoate social awkwardness creates a vision for this network of social interaction, a public commons, essentially, in which people never have to be in the same room to communicate – well, that was pretty irresistible. Also, there's a hugely dramatic idea, to me, in what makes Mark not only a creator but also a destroyer – and it's a fantastic subject to write about, since most of our greatest creators are in some very basic way also destroyers. Our visionary builders are often equally adept at tearing down what came before them and what is in front of them as they start to understand what it takes to realize their vision. You can look at endless examples of this – it's a great trope in what people mean when they describe ‘the American character'. Mark is like a 21st century iteration of a Fitzgerald character or a Dreiser character. Where was I ever going to find that again?

Do creation and destruction generally go hand in hand?

AARON SORKIN: One thing I can tell you for sure is that creation and destruction are part and parcel of telling a story. And for it to be a story, a guy has to have paid some sort of price for enormous success, which Mark does. This is why I was able to make him the central character of a movie.

The other side of the question that I hope some people will ask is how much of the destroyer part is real, and how much of it is being projected onto Mark by people who believed they were destroyed by him. I wanted to leave room for people to make up their own minds here. I do, however, think that despite what destroys the relationship, and how central Mark is to how that happens, Mark cares about Eduardo. There are moments in the movie that clearly demonstrate that and that are hugely important to me -- particularly when they're talking about Eduardo's father and when Mark tries to get Eduardo to leave New York and come to Palo Alto -- but I think that what Mark also understood in the movie was that Eduardo didn't have the chops to do the job, that Eduardo wasn't going to be able to keep up with what this company had suddenly become. That Eduardo was a good dorm room CFO, but that he wouldn't be able to move beyond that. And then very impressive Sean came along with some very impressive lawyers and said, Hey Mark, it's for the good of your friend more than anything -- would you rather Eduardo have 30 percent of noth

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