What I learned from Aaron Sorkin

2017 started with a gift when I was cast in Aaron Sorkin’s bio-pic of US skier Molly Bloom in Molly’s Game starring Jessica Chastin, Idris Elba and Kevin Costner. No, I never met Idris Elba or Kevin Costner, and had a brief scene with Jessica who played Molly.

I did get to chat with Micheal Cera and watch him work, which was great. I was cast as one of the ‘celebrity-type” gambler’s of the infamous Viper Club in LA.

A few things impressed me watching Sorkin direct.

First, he’s a great collaborator. He really relies on the expertise, skill, and talent of his seasoned crew. If he wanted a particular shot he’d yield to the guidance of his cinematographer to get it, and the better idea always prevailed.

Second, he takes what he does seriously but not himself. On a few occasions he’d make a joke at his own expense. He reflected a humility in his work and accorded everyone respect, regardless of their contribution on set that day.

Thirdly, he was willing to change a line if the cinematographer needed more time to get coverage of a scene in one continuous sequence without cutting. I remember he said, “I wrote the scene because I needed to have a scene here, so we can change it.”

This is Aaron Sorkin of the walk ‘n talk West Wing, The Social Network, Money Ball, A Few Good Men, Steve Jobs…and open to rewriting a scene on the spot when warranted if his cinematographer required a more involved camera maneuver to get a shot in one piece without cutting.

Finally, Sorkin was generous in his support of the work of others. My role was incidental around the gambling table. I had an exchange of lines but they were part of a montage. I was hardly a plot point in the story. But Aaron was always complimentary, and would comment on what he liked that the cast of other actors did after he yelled “Cut!” He took notice and gave us props for our work.

What I saw was an approachable, respectful, thought-full artist, bringing all his humanity to a story he believed in, and was willing to draw the best out of everyone to get it by allowing them to do their job. That’s what a true leader does.