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The Social Network Beat Sheet

By on October 22, 2010 in Beat Sheets, Rites of Passage

Our thanks to Master Cat! Ben Frahm for this masterful breakdown of Aaron Sorkin‘s screenplay, directed by David Fincher:

Poster for The Social Network

Poster for "The Social Network"

Spoiler alert!

Opening Image (1): At a Harvard bar, Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) talks with his girlfriend, Erica Albright (Rooney Mara): sweet, kind, and wholesome. Mark is talking about the “social clubs” at Harvard and how they’re important if you want to advance yourself in college and in life. Mark and Erica start fighting over this, as Erica thinks these clubs are stupid. Mark fires back. Erica gets upset. Mark doesn’t back down. Erica breaks up with Mark, saying our theme stated:

Theme Stated (5): (I’m paraphrasing) “You know, I think you’re going to become successful and wealthy, but you know what, you’re still going to be an unhappy asshole.” This establishes our theme: What is the price of friendship? Is money, social status, or privilege more important than a relationship? Or a friendship? Or being a good person in another person’s life?

Set-Up (1-10):
– We come to know Mark as a socially insecure, somewhat antisocial person, who’s obsessed with the social clubs at Harvard and feels like he’ll never fit in unless he is accepted into one of them.
– Mark is a very gifted and brilliant computer programmer.
– Mark’s best friend is Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield), aka “Wardo.”
– Wardo is also a smart programmer and is frequently helpful to Mark.
– Mark doesn’t get the women that he wants in school.
– Mark looks up to people in the social clubs and thinks all of his problems will go away if he can become part of these exclusive clubs and, for once, be popular.
– Mark, still upset after being dumped by Erica, fires back when he returns to the dorms.

Zuckerberg creates Face Smash - a catalyst for what will eventually bring the birth of Facebook

Zuckerberg creates Face Smash - a catalyst for what will eventually bring the birth of Facebook

Catalyst (12):
— Mark creates “Face Smash,” a program that uses all of the yearbook pictures of Harvard women and puts two photos side-by-side and allows the viewer to vote who is hotter, “right or left.” Mark is clearly taking out his frustrations with his relationship with Erica and displacing them onto this cruel program.
— Mark also blogs about Erica’s breast size and other personal and offensive things about her.
— Wardo helps with a logarithm for this Face Smash program, and thus helps Mark spread it to every computer at Harvard.
— The whole computer system at Harvard is hacked and thus crashes.
— The computer Dean finds out and becomes alarmed. The Dean traces the hacking back to Mark.
— Everyone on campus knows that Mark did this.
— His Face Smash program is already spreading, and catches the attention of two preppy, rich kids, who happen to be twins (played by the same actor, Armie Hammer): Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss.
— Cameron and Tyler, realizing how amazing a programmer Mark is, approach him with a new idea to make “the facebook,” a way of guys pimping out their “Harvard.edu” email addresses in order to meet coeds from other schools. “So do you want in?” the Winklevosses ask Mark.

Debate (12-25):
This poses the DEBATE QUESTION: Will Mark design the facebook page for the twins? Will Mark come up with his own version? Will Mark tell the brothers he’s going with their idea, only making it better and his own? What will happen to the facebook idea? What will happen to Mark? Is this idea Mark’s? Or does it belong to the Winklevoss twins? What will happen to “the facebook” idea and who is responsible for its creation? This sends us into the 2nd act, ready to go…

Break into Two (25):
— Mark agrees to design the facebook page for the twins. However, it doesn’t take long for Mark to realize there’s something bigger and better here.
— Mark starts designing his own version of the facebook idea, secretly, and doesn’t tell the twins.

B Story (30):
–Meanwhile, Mark asks Wardo, who has been invited to pledge “The Phoenix Club,” to be the CFO of his new facebook endeavor. Wardo accepts. As best friends this will be great, no?!

Fun and Games (30-55):
— Mark continues designing his own version of the facebook idea.
— Mark doesn’t tell the Winklevoss twins that he’s designing this. Mark avoids their calls.
— Wardo is becoming more popular with “The Phoenix Club.”
— Mark starts testing this new facebook idea… and before long the whole campus starts liking it.
— Mark is becoming a minor celebrity on campus, as is Wardo.
— Mark and Wardo get girls, “groupies,” after class.
— (There’s a nice Save the Cat! moment here that shows some growth in our character… as Mark is leaving a restaurant one evening with Wardo, he turns and sees Erica Albright, the girl that he previously broke up with and then blogged about her breast size. We know that Mark is starting to change as a character and feels horrible for what he’s done. Mark approaches the table to apologize to Erica; however, she won’t hear anything of it… and is still very hurt by his comments. We are sympathetic with Mark, as we know he didn’t mean what he said. And we are sympathetic to Erica as well, who is a strong woman, and stands up for herself. Mark feels bad, and this feeling, alone, allows our audience to see the humanity in him.)
— Mark’s facebook idea is catching on. Wardo says they need to go bigger.
— All the while, we are cutting back and forth in time… with the COURTROOM scenes. We know early 2nd Act, that Mark is being sued by the Winkelvosses for stealing their idea, and later by Wardo.
— What will be the outcome of these court cases? This is a major question that is driving our 2nd act!
— Between every sequence in the 2nd act, the courtroom scenes help to introduce us to a new idea or a new problem that our hero is dealing with, whether it is professional, with the facebook idea, or personal, with his friendship with Wardo.
— The story, from this point on, jumps back and forth from the court case, back to college, back to the court case, as we are learning about the conception of “facebook.”
— Wardo says we need to go bigger. We need investors.
— Wardo and Mark go to NYC to meet some investors (among them, writer/actor Sorkin).
— No investors seem interested…

Midpoint (55):
We meet Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake). Parker, the former Napster guy, loves Mark’s idea and wants in. He’s a rowdy, womanizing, deal wheelin’ fellow, and immediately Wardo doesn’t like him. However, Mark hits it off with the charismatic Sean. And Wardo feels ousted.

Sean Parker closes in on Mark

Sean Parker closes in on Mark

Bad Guys Close In (55-75):
— Facebook is spreading.
— It’s hitting campuses across the nation.
— It’s getting ready to go international.
— Sean convinces Mark it’s time to head out west to Silicon Valley and continue developing the idea.
— Wardo can’t go because he has an internship with a financial company he’s been working for in Manhattan.
— Mark moves out west with some fellow Harvard programmers.
— Mark just so happens to move into a house that is next to where Sean Parker is staying (yes, this is total writer’s convenience, but oh well, it seems to work ok).
— Sean Parker keeps putting new ideas into Mark’s head.
— Wardo hears about these new ideas and gets upset. Wardo, as a result, puts a “freeze” on the company’s bank account.
— Tensions grow between Mark and Wardo.
— (There’s another Save the Cat! moment, when, in a courtroom scene Mark’s lawyer is trying to take down Wardo for “animal abuse” relating to his involvement with a “chicken during pledge season at Phoenix.” Wardo becomes upset with Mark, thinking that he turned him in and was the one who told the lawyers; however, Mark’s lawyer says “No, I was the one who discovered this info. Mark is the person who tried to protect you.” Again, we see Mark being a nice person to Wardo, though he is caught up in the situation and letting others get the best of him. It’s a sympathetic gesture towards a best friend from an often abrupt, insensitive, aggressive, and anti-social protagonist. It just shows that even the most flawed protagonists can show sympathetic and Save the Cat! qualities).
— The Winklevosses grow increasingly militant and frustrated with Mark, calling him a thief for stealing “their idea.”
— Court case scenes becoming increasingly tense, as relationships between Mark and Wardo are discussed.
— Mark tells Wardo he has to come out west.
— Facebook is growing even bigger.
— Sean brings his “hot women” everywhere and makes Mark feel important.
— Wardo shows up and doesn’t like Sean’s involvement.
— But Mark convinces him Sean is good for the company, right?

All Is Lost (75):
— On the eve of Facebook reaching its biggest growth ever, including an international presence…
— Wardo signs a new contract per his involvement as CFO — without reading every detail. And Wardo finds out that Sean and Mark diluted his ownership in the company without letting him know. Wardo has been screwed by his best friend…
— Wardo quits the company and threatens to sue. Sean throws him out of the building.
— Mark feels bad but it’s too late. Wardo is gone.
— Sean says forget him, let’s celebrate.
— Mark, sitting alone at his desk, at work, thinks about his friendship with Wardo.

Dark Night of the Soul (75-85):
— Sean Parker is throwing the biggest celebratory party ever. Women. Booze. Drugs.
— The cops bust the party.
— We fear that Mark might be at the party as well; however, we cut back to the office and see that Mark stayed there the entire time.

Break into Three (85):
— Sean gets arrested at the party (drugs with minors).
— Because he would be a liability to the company, Sean is bought out and no longer involved with development.
— (Note: in the script, we’re led to believe that Mark called the cops on Sean and thus set him up; however, in the movie, it plays more ambiguously).
— No matter, Sean’s involvement with Facebook comes to an end.

Final showdown between Mark and the lawyers

Final showdown between Mark and the lawyers

Finale (85-110):
— Court case resolutions proceed.
— Wardo’s name returns as CFO of the company, as it remains today.
— Wardo is also paid a bunch of money that he’s owed.
— The Winkelvosses settle for big money, though it’s considered chump change for Mark.
— Mark continues to develop Facebook to its current popularity.
— Mark becomes the youngest billionaire ever.
— In the final court scene, lawyer Marilyn Delpy (Rashida Jones) talks with Mark. Mark asks Marilyn if she thinks he’s an asshole (again, remember our theme stated and how this has stuck with our character the entire time). Marilyn tells Mark that he’s not an asshole, he just tries to be one. The real Mark is not an asshole.

Final Image (110):
— Mark’s at his computer. He opens up Facebook and adds a new friend, “Erica Albright,” his ex-girlfriend who dumped him in the beginning of the movie. Mark waits, waits, waits… refreshing his computer screen again and again and again to see if Erica will be his friend.
— (A great closing image and the exact opposite of our opening image. Mark loses a friendship in the beginning for being a jerk and, now, after all of this transformation, he realizes this girl was right for him, and that he’s sorry for his behavior, and wants her back…)

What I loved about this script and movie:

1) A flawed hero: I love the fact that Mark Zuckerberg is portrayed as not the nicest person out there. He’s flawed. He has insecurities. He’s scared. He’s brilliant. These are all human qualities, and chances are the reader or viewer will be able to relate to these feelings.

2) A big story told in a character-driven way: Yes, it’s a story about the youngest billionaire ever, but more importantly, it’s about friendships, lost and gained. The heart of the movie comes from Wardo and Mark’s relationship and makes us wonder what is the price of fame, status, money, etc.? What is more important, friendship or these other goals along the way?

3) Structurally sound using the courtroom scenes: If you haven’t already, read Sorkin’s script. He is one smart dude, and writes incredibly structural movies. The use of the courtroom scenes is a structural device that allows us to jump back and forth in time, while keeping the stakes high, and also introducing new sequences. Here’s an example: Late second act, we know Wardo and Mark are having problems in their relationship. Okay, so now we need to understand where these problems are coming from and how they started. What does Sorkin do? He puts us in the courtroom scene and has the lawyers ask questions. The answers to these questions are shown through flashing back to Harvard, where we start a whole new sequence about Wardo and Mark’s relationship and all of the stresses along the way. The courtroom scenes introduce new ideas and relationships; then we cut back to scenes with Mark and Wardo, and watch their relationship develop.

4) Sorkin’s expository dialogue: He’s one of the best at giving the audience so much information and making it feel fun, energetic, whip-smart, and sexy too. For instance, when we first meet Sean Parker, he’s just slept with the “Hot Girl” who doesn’t know he’s the Napster guy. And in one fun scene, as the Hot Girl comes to realize who Sean Parker is, so does our audience. It’s very clever. We get so much backstory about Parker in this one scene; we feel like we immediately know who he is. And none of it feels forced at all. It’s unbelievably economic and clever writing.

GENRE: Rites of Passage: Life Problem, Wrong Way, Acceptance

Next week: guest blog from author Marilyn Brant

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About the Author

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There Are 19 Comments

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  1. SM says:

    I guess, creating a beat-sheet after watching a movie is pretty easy. Difficult would be analyzing what works and what doesn’t.
    You should cease publishing beat-sheets and provide some analysis. This is madness.

  2. mdkj1971 says:

    Thanks for the beat sheet!

  3. O'FreeWorld says:

    I enjoy the beat sheets. Keep them coming.

    I would like to see you “Beat Out” some of the great HBO shows (current and previous). “Sopranos,” “Entourage,” and “Boardwalk Empire.”


  4. anne says:

    Hi, SM ~

    Creating a Beat Sheet is no easy task. And, many of the Cat! contributors use the screenplay (in addition to viewing the film) to do so.

    Let’s add this in… a Beat Sheet IS an analysis of the film – or more clearly, the film’s structure.

    Now, if you are looking for film criticism and theory 101, this is not the place for you. Blake never claimed to be an academic. He was a working writer and producer, navigating, most often with success, the murky waters of Hollywood. He shared his experience, and his knowledge of the craft of writing for the screen, with great generosity and joy.

    I talk to him (well, in my mind, lol, not ready for the rubber room yet) each and every day… and each and every day, I thank Blake, BJ, Jose, Rich and now Ben …. and the other people (hello, Austin!) who tirelessly give of themselves to help writers to tell more resonant stories.

    I met Blake four years ago. I will tell you that when I first picked up STC, it pissed me off. Why? BECAUSE IT TOLD THE TRUTH. And… as I worked through the process of nailing down structure, I realized that he was Right.

    Now, if you have a script that needs analysis, I’m sure the STC! team would be happy to work with you. If you’re just cruising to troll… well, go climb down a hole and fondle your precious.

    Thank you, Ben, for another great contribution. Miss you guys!!


  5. Arte Old School says:

    Here hear.. Anne, you hit the nail on the tail.. lol.. Us writers need each other.. We need to share our experience, strength and hope with each other.. to carry on.. carry the message.. live the dream.. our dream.. nobody wants to live our dream.. everybody wants us to live their dream.. blake learned this as well.. “the most important thing to do is love what you’re doing” i connect with blake everyday as well (well almost every day).. love to us all.. arte

  6. Jack says:

    Obviusly, since the script is 162 pages, your pages don’t match up.

    The opening scene is almost 10 pages long, so it doesn’t even come close to the “save the cat” formula.

    Also, I think you’re missing one big thing from the final image. Here is this kid, this anti-social, socially awkward kid, who has just revolutionized how social connections are made. And there he is, billions richer, yet alone, in the glow of his computer.

    Regardless, the script needs to be nominated for an oscar. Sorkin outdid himself this time.

  7. Bea says:

    Jack, are you reading a shooting script or the writing draft? There’s a huge difference between the two. Also, if you took a workshop with Blake or attended an event where he spoke, OR emailed him as suggested, you’d know that the page count is malleable. Even the software allows one to adjust suggested beats for pages.

    The really cool thing about movies is that the image is open to interpretation, so your “Right/Wrong” attitude is most perplexing. Yet, your beliefs are valid – because they are yours!!! So, why don’t you break down the script and post it in the forum for others to agree or disagree with!! Talk is talk, walk the walk!!!

  8. Vladimir Cassel says:

    No, no, you have it all wrong. Mark Zuckerberg goes through NO transformation at the end of the film. He doesn’t transform at all. He was doing it for the girl all along. There’s even a scene in a club about halfway through the film that alludes to this. The opening and final scenes work together much like the opening and final scenes of Citizen Kane – they work to reveal a character we thought we knew. In both cases it wasn’t the main character who transforms, but us as an audience in our understanding of what the film was really about.

  9. Oliver says:

    Thanks. Great movie, great analysis.
    But at the same time I have to agree a bit with SM:
    Would be cool to use the BS2 to prove why certain films DO NOT work.
    I try “to do this at home” and it is sometimes very insightful.

    Would like to use the occasion here to ask a question about Blake´s
    idea of genres. Dude with a Problem, and so on…

    I am a great believer in his genre list, but I would like to know:
    Is it possible to mix these genres. Let´s say: Your movie is a “Dude with a Problem”
    meets “Monster in the House” etc. — Did Blake ever say something about
    genre mixes?

  10. William says:

    Rites of passage?

    That would not be my first choice… Forgive my ignorance but what kind of ROP are we talking about here?

    Midlife, Separation, Death, Addiction, Adolescent…?

  11. Ben says:

    It sounds crazy but I would say ADOLESCENT: RITES OF PASSAGE. Yes, I know what you’re thinking… this is absurd because Mark Zuckerberg is not a teenager when this movie takes place… however, the emphasis and story arc about FRIENDSHIP, GROWTH, learning about RELATIONSHIPS are all principles of this sub-genre. In in an argument for RITES OF PASSAGE, I would say that this movie captures all of those things. It’s about Mark learning these tough life lessons… and starting out as a character who is “going the wrong” way. Mark, in the beginning, is convinced that the only way to be popular, successful, and achieve status… is through “the social clubs at Harvard.” However, after his journey, we see a very different character who now realizes that these things no longer matter… especially when you lose a best-friend in WARDO and you long for a previous girlfriend in ALBRIGHT. These ROP stories focus on these internal changes… and, many times, are hard to categorize… because of this. But it’s strictly about our character’s growth. Our character’s change in world views… and how he relates to others and how the world relates to him…

  12. SM says:

    Hey Anne ~,

    Glad you talk to Blake each and every day. He did introduce some good tactics and structural beat-down. I didn’t say I’m against him. Two of my favorites are ‘Pop in the pool’ and ‘Saving the cat’.

    What I meant is how often anyone mentioned his tactics being used while preparing STC beat-sheet. How often did anyone even mention ‘Save the Cat’ scene in any of the beat-sheet?

    I hope you get my drift. And I am certainly not for trolling and growling. If you don’t agree, well, go descend to the pond, and fondle your gold.

    Tell Blake that he got imbeciles for disciples. Please don’t be pissed off. Why? Because IT IS THE TRUTH.


  13. brian says:

    SM– so now I’m confused. Ben references two “save the cat!” moments in his worksheet and also does a great job of analyzing sorkin’s structure. if you were to do it differently… what would you do? i actually, find these beat sheets really helpful and am happy for those doing them. you can learn a ton from studying structure like this and i know blake always said the same thing in his books. oh and one more thing– it’s “pope in the pool’ not “pop.”

  14. Carlos says:

    Thank you for your feedback to SM’s stupid comment. Obviously, SM has never produced a beat sheet and has probably never read a screenplay. Without a doubt, SM has never seriously written a screenplay. Those who complain most about the work, are the ones who never do much work.

  15. john says:

    the genre is Superhero

  16. William says:

    I’m not buying the Rite of Passage genre here at all.

    Business Institution would fit just as well, and in the context of the film’s focus on creating a company and what the sacrifices are to be part of that, I’d say Business Institution makes a lot more sense here…

    Mark created a monster.. Facebook, and destroyed his friends to create it… It reads like a rehash of Frankenstein for the corporate elite.

    Adolescent Passage? Not the best fit…

  17. Brad says:

    First off, props to Ben for putting this beat sheet out there. This is my first time posting, and I was pretty conflicted as I tried to beat this movie out.

    I agree with John that the genre was Super Hero. The point of the film seemed to be to give human qualities to this “super being” that, because of his inability to function among normal people, constantly suffers and is unable to fit in.

    This would explain the loss of his friendship with Wardo and his non-transformation at the end as well. If it were rights of passage, he would have had to recognize his error and tried to correct it in act three.

    Also, I think that the All is Lost and Dark Night of the Soul come earlier, and happen when Wardo freezes the credit and has his girlfriend burn his scarf. As that is happening, Mark calls him up to say that things are getting out of control, and they talk “honestly” for a moment.

    Then, break into three happens as he says “I need my CEO,” and the rest is part of the big finale.

  18. Ross says:

    I think by doing a beat sheet for THE SOCIAL NETWORK, it demonstrates it has virtually no third act. It’s a great movie and I’ve looked past the lacking third act and disappearing main character. The film ends at a low point or in STC lingo “Dark Night of the Soul.” Eduardo isn’t the main character, and nor is Sean. Mark is and the way the film ends gives no resolution to Mark’s current situation. Much of the beat sheet explaining the third act is just taken from the titles that appear at the end. I think the movie could have benefitted from having some more closure with a small scene showing Mark/Eduardo’s future relationship or perhaps Mark becoming the Mark Zuckerberg that led Facebook to where it is today. I think of another Sorkin movie, THE AMERICAN PRESIDENT, and how the we get the climatic scene of the President reassuring the nation that he is still the President and apologizing to his girlfriend for his behavior. I think THE SOCIAL NETWORK needed one more moment to show Mark coming full circle. I think it would be fitting if you got a “I’m CEO, bitch.” scene that demonstrated he is the true leader of Facebook and then kept the great scene at the end of him friend requesting Albright.

  19. Arthur says:

    Hey, Loving this breakdown… definitely convinced that this is most similar to a superhero (becoming a villain) / rights of passage genre…
    Any thoughts on the story arc? I don’t think he goes through much of a transformation other than the fact he learns that business is cut throat so you either join the pirates or abandon ship.