W.Riter director Aaron Sorkin has a unique way of visualizing his world.
By now you should have had time to watch The Trial of the Chicago 7 on Netflix and enjoy all of the funkinisms and interesting bits of history you may have missed. But how did this project come about? As the story goes, Sorkin was sent the idea by Spielberg and ran with it.
From that call, it emerged that Sorkin wrote and directed the feature, his follow-up on Molly's game, and partnered with Netflix for release.
Now move on to what happened in the middle of it all, how Sorkin synthesized the idea, and how he translated it onto the page.
Check out this video from the Netflix Film Club Sorkin abandons the filmmaking process for The Trial Of The Chicago 7.
Go into Aaron Sorkin's brain as he explains the Chicago 7 trial
One of the most important lessons you need to learn as a writer or director is to only take on the projects that you love because once you get them started you will live in the world that you are creating for a long time.
The next important lesson Sorkin talks about is to allow yourself to steal, borrow, and learn from whatever you see. Whether on stage, in the shopping center or on the big screen – let the world teach you something at every turn.
When you limit your influences, you limit your chances of success.
When it came time to do The Trial Of The Chicago 7, Sorkin didn't stop there. He watched films of protests of all genres and learned from the scenes he thought were well executed. He also watched the actual protests to see how he could mimick them.
He ended up borrowing a bit from Argo, how they used real footage for the wide-angle shots and then recreated close-ups to sell authenticity to the audience.
This lesson was translated into other scenes as well, such as the big riot scene. Sorkin was able to show the violence up close, contain it and only go far when it was necessary to show the scope and extent of the madness.
When we were wide, he wanted to make sure the pictures didn't hit us over the head.
This is a movie that is set in the 60s, but it's really about today. That meant meeting up with his production designer and everyone on the crew and telling them that he didn't want to lean into the iconography of the 1960s.
Instead, he wanted the production design to reflect the power of government and oppression. That is clear in the courtroom, which is not historically correct but made sense to the tone and experience Sorkin wanted to give the audience.
When all else fails, sometimes it's the details that pull you through. For Sorkin, this meant learning to understand the sound department and realizing that they are the unsung heroes of any project.
Together with the score, they ensure that a mood is created in certain scenes that are omnipresent throughout the story.
While you want to be in control of every detail, a director's job is to trust his department heads. That means, when someone wants to try something, you listen. Sorkin learned this in the editing, where he could see new dimensions of what he had written in the script.
Even when they rehearsed on the set, he was flexible enough to figure out the best way to do things, not necessarily the way things are written.
I will end up with a universal truth. Find out why this project is important to you, find the message it promises to tell, and make sure that every decision is made through it. It will be your North Star in production and lead to the best possible result.
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