Aaron Sorkin: The Making Of The Social Network

Aaron Sorkin: The Making Of The Social Network

Static Mass Rating: 5/5

Release Date: February 14th 2011
Certificate: 12
Running Time: 120 minutes

Director: David Fincher
Screenwriter: Aaron Sorkin

Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake, Rooney Mara, Joseph Mazzello, Armie Hammer, Josh Pence

The Social Network Blu-ray Review
David Fincher: The Making of The Social Network

For BAFTA Award winning screenwriter Aaron Sorkin, work on The Social Network began when he received the initial proposal for Ben Mezrich’s book The Accidental Billionaire, a 14-page précis that would instantly spark his own intensive investigation into the history of Facebook. Sorkin was taken with the accelerated trajectory of the characters – primarily that of Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg, who turned from anarchistic hacker to era-defining webpreneur and CEO practically overnight. He never said “yes” faster to any project than he did to The Social Network.

“The themes of the movie are as old as storytelling itself: loyalty, friendship, power, money, envy, social status, jealousy. It’s a story that if Aeschylus were alive today, he’d have written; Shakespeare would have written; Paddy Chayefsky would have written. Fortunately for me, none of those people were available, so I got to write it.”

The more he learned about Facebook’s controversial origins, the more Sorkin was intrigued by how it seemed to serve as a snapshot of this very specific time in American life – and equally of such enduring human subjects as genius, power and emptiness. For as technologically brilliant and keyed-in to digital lifestyles as these young upstarts are, they are also, in Sorkin’s portrait, brash, angry and never quite emotionally fulfilled.

“I think there’s a construct in the movie, which is that you can look at all the multi-faceted aspects of Mark Zuckerberg that made him successful and perceive them completely differently depending on who you relate to in the story. Mark is driven either by strength or weakness, fear or courage, vision or expedience – and the movie is constantly trafficking in the fine line between those things.”

Sorkin studied the notes of Ben Mezrich (though not his book, which was written simultaneous to the screenplay, and which was not completed until Sorkin was nearly done with his script) and conducted his own research, making his way through numerous legal filings and interviews with many of the people depicted in the movie (and many who were present at the events described, although in some cases not depicted in the movie) that made clear the starkly contrasting views of Facebook’s early days.

All of these sources, integrated in a panoramic way, formed the structural backbone of the screenplay. Sorkin was refused access to Zuckerberg, which did not surprise him, but used many public sources, including reportage and legal filings, to incorporate his perspective.


2012 Follies
2011 Moneyball
2010 The Social Network
2007 Charlie Wilson’s War
2006 Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip
1999-2006 The West Wing (TV series)
1998-2000 Sports Night (TV series)
1995 The American President
1993 Malice
1992 A Few Good Men

“Facebook is very protective of Mark, and they have good reason to be. I’m sure Facebook would have preferred that we told the story entirely from Mark’s point-of-view, but that wasn’t the movie we wanted to make.”

It became clear to Sorkin as he wrote, that as carefully sourced as the screenplay was, he would be juggling a series of equally “unreliable narrators,” each with a differing version of events, none of which, years later, anyone involved directly can come close to agreeing upon – and each of which needed to be integrated into the story in order to forge the broader picture.

“Because there were conflicting narratives, rather than decide on one ‘true’ one, I thought the more exciting thing to do would be to literally dramatize all of them – and to dramatize the fact that there are conflicting narratives. I was so much more interested in shades of grey than I was in black-and-white. Also, the idea of a series of possible scenarios, possible realities even, seemed immediately to have so much more to do with Facebook itself – what Facebook actually is – than just a straight-ahead plot. One of the most compelling things to me about Facebook is the limitless possibilities it offers for reinvention and fabrication and putting forward a very subjective idea of the ‘truth’ about yourself – so it felt exciting and provocative to me that I could mirror that in building a story of how the thing itself was incepted.”

It was Sorkin’s way in to revealing all the friction and burgeoning enmity that led to the creation of the world’s most powerful social network. He made it work by putting his emphasis on uncovering the individual intentions and warring objectives of each of the characters.

“This is a movie that, whenever it can, turns the prism to show you another side of the story,” he says. ”I think the sign of a good movie is that you can argue for more than one side, but the basis of my ability to coherently make those arguments was an incredible amount of research. Without the research, without being steeped in facts, it’s all fiction – and this isn’t fiction.”

Sorkin found himself particularly intrigued by Mark Zuckerberg’s internal contradictions as a young man who demonstrates a certain amount of social awkwardness, and yet comes up with a brilliant way to transform the basics of the human social urge into pioneering computer code. Even at a time when he was an outsider at Harvard, Zuckerberg’s initial concept was to mathematically model what he has referred to as the “social graph,” the radiating, sustaining links every person has to all the other people they know.

“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?”

The opening scene to the film was key to setting the tone.

”I knew I wanted it to open up on a girl and a guy in a bar, no pyrotechnics, just two people, Mark and his girlfriend, and she is going to break up with him by the end of the scene. Then he would go back to his dorm room, start drinking, blogging and create the website Facemash. Facemash would go viral and we would cut right to the deposition where the first words out of Mark’s mouth are ‘That’s not what happened.’ That moment, that one cut, essentially hands you the key to the structure of the movie.”

That structure purposefully keeps bumping up against the nature of the truth as a subjective construct, something that has only been magnified in the internet era, as instant, indelible communication can turn rumours and innuendo into globally accepted fact. As one of the characters in the film says to Zuckerberg, “The internet isn’t written in pencil, Mark. It’s written in ink.”

“There’s a certain ease with which an assertion now becomes known as truth. Early in the film, Mark, perhaps cavalierly, uses this when he creates Facemash, the precursor to Facebook that rated female students’ photos – but by the end, he has also fallen victim to it himself.”

Ultimately, Sorkin’s screenplay defies the notion that there can be a single truth and he fully intends for this to provoke debate.

“I’ll be delighted if people have arguments in the theatre parking lot over it. With The Social Network, we took a set of facts, and we made a truth. In fact, more specifically, we made three truths. If you think of the facts that aren’t in dispute as dots that you have to connect, we connected those dots and we made a picture. But in between those dots are a) character, and b) the fact that you get to decide what the truth is. We don’t tell you ‘this is the only truth there is,’ we posit a handful of truths in pursuit of a larger true thing: the conditions that made all this possible.”

Aaron Sorkin: The Making Of The Social Network

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