The Social Network (2010), written by Aaron Sorkin, is a classic. I’ve probably seen the movie a half dozen times. The script is a bit of a monster at first glance at 161 pages, but anyone who is familiar with film and screenwriting knows it’s a masterpiece.
- Draft Read: May 28, 2009
- Type: Spec
- Page Count: 161
Since so many people have already analyzed this script far better than I can, I will just focus this analysis on one scene… Actually one major line in one scene.
The scene starts on page 101. The setup: Mark, Eduardo, Jenny (Eduardo’s girlfriend), are sitting across from the very cool, very smart and somewhat eccentric Sean Parker. Let’s break down the characters at the start of the scene. We have:
- Mark = Fascinated by the swagger of Sean.
- Eduardo = Knows Sean is all talk.
- Sean = Talking a big game.
- Jenny = Is playing along with Sean and is trying to keep the peace.
We also have a concurrent scene, where Eduardo is reflecting on the fact that Sean played him. This is not one of those Morgan Freeman-esque voiceovers from a character that is 10x wiser 50 years down the line. The scene is of a deposition room a few years in the future, so there is a lot of raw tension/frustration and regret from Eduardo specifically.
As the scene begins and after Sean hypes himself up in front of everyone, Eduardo tries to engage Sean by talking business. Sean won’t have it. Sean then engages Mark and praises him.
What would one expect to happen? Well, I would think Sean’s cockiness would be challenged. Eduardo would tell everyone what he really thinks about Sean and that would blow up. And we think we are going to get that. Sean offers some advice and asks everyone, “You know what’s cool?” Eduardo responds, “You.” And that’s it, the conflict has just left the stratosphere. Gloves are off. Except we cut back to the deposition room and Eduardo (imitating Sean) says,
“A billion dollars.” Pause. Followed by…
“That shut everybody up.”
And that flips the scene. Because from then on everyone is team Sean. Well, mostly. Eduardo isn’t quite sold, but he knows he has lost the room and the argument for that matter.
The line works for a bunch of reasons.
- First, the word billion. It (billionaires) was actually used earlier in the scene on page 102, but I presume in a later draft or in the shooting script they replaced the earlier mention with millionaires. Why? My guess would be to make the billion (with a b) more meaningful when used later.
- The scene and whole movie for that matter, also uses the cut and voiceover between the deposition room (high tension) masterfully. The cut back to the deposition room and ‘that shut everyone up’ line was not in the script I read either, but together with the pause after ‘a billion dollars’ lets the line sink in further.
There’s probably more that I am missing, but that’s just one example of the many brilliant scenes in this screenplay. Good news, you yourself can watch the scene below: