“When Words Don’t Do The Trick Anymore”

A song in a musical works best when a character has to sing— when words won’t do the trick anymore. The same idea applies to a long speech in a play or a movie or on television. You want to force the character out of a conversational pattern. In the pilot of The Newsroom, a new series for HBO, TV news anchor Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels) emotionally checked out years ago, and now he’s sitting on a college panel, hearing the same shouting match between right and left he’s been hearing forever, and the arguments have become noise. A student asks what makes America the world’s greatest country, and Will dodges the question with glib answers. But the moderator keeps needling him until…snap.

I really like this breakdown of a speech in the new Sorkin show, by Sorkin. The idea of the dialogue as music appeals to me, especially seeing how it affects Sorkin’s construction of said speech. “To resolve a melody, you have to end on either the tonic or the dominant. (Try humming ‘Mary Had a Little Lamb’ right now, but leave off ‘snow.’ You’ll feel like you need to sneeze.) So Will ends where he started.” Makes me want to try and get better at everything I write; I want to claim music in my writing, even though it’s just words.

“Remember The First Person Through The Wall Always Gets Hurt”

You’ll meet a lot of people who, to put it simply, don’t know what they’re talking about. In 1970 a CBS executive famously said that there were four things that we would never, ever see on television: a divorced person, a Jewish person, a person living in New York City and a man with a moustache. By 1980, every show on television was about a divorced Jew who lives in New York City and goes on a blind date with Tom Selleck.

Develop your own compass, and trust it. Take risks, dare to fail, remember the first person through the wall always gets hurt.

– From Aaron Sorkin’s commencement address at Syracuse University, May 13 2012. I love that last part even more than I love it when people point out that nobody knows anything, really.