Starting Your Screenplay With a Popular Film Opening

The beginning of your script must always have an original scent to it, while at the same time it must have a feeling of familiarity. Many screenwriters are stumped on this aspect of scriptwriting, and that is exactly why I will be discussing a few of the popular and classic openings to a movie. Let’s get the script piñata and beat the crap out of it, shall we?

THE BIG-BANG OPENING. This is a brilliant format for action-adventure type movies. You can start with a set piece that will place your characters right in the middle of action. When you think most of the action genre, think of the successful James Bond franchise. Generally, Bond will be somewhere doing some abstract mission and beating the crap out of the enemy. This automatically shifts the audience into fifth gear and tells them that this movie is going to be action packed. Remember not to go overboard with the action sequences within your set piece since later on you’ll need to climax the action. If you start high, you’ll have to create an even higher climax. Sometimes overloading the audience with too much action is a really bad idea.

“WHO ARE THEY” OPENING SCENE. In this opener you will not reveal the identities of your characters, but rather allow them to reveal themselves through their dialogue. Your skills in letting the facts seep through dialogue must be impeccable. This is a brilliant strategy to leave the audience guessing who the characters really are. Think of the comedy-crime movie Snatch (Sony Pictures Entertainment) for a second–the opening scene is in the elevator where the bearded Rabbi’s are talking about the Bible. All of a sudden they break into a set piece of robbing a diamond vault, and then finally the characters are introduced. British filmmaker Guy Richie uses other techniques to introduce his characters, but you can learn from his techniques from watching this movie.

“HOW DID WE GET HERE” OPENING SCENE. This opener takes you right to a mini climax in the movie that will be revealed later. This could be your hero on the verge of being sacrificed to a bunch of savage cannibals. Right before calamity strikes, you go to the next scene where your character is in a more normal situation, thus the audience will be wondering how the hell he got to that predicament later.

THE ORIGIN OPENING SCENE. Screenwriter and actor Seth Rogan, in the movie The Green Hornet (Columbia Pictures), expertly implemented this opening whereby he goes to the little curly headed fat kid standing up for the lesser people and being scolded by his father. Remember that this is a very cliché opening so you’ll need to add in your own twists and turns to reveal a deep secret that will give your audience a deeper understanding of how your hero thinks, acts, and reacts to situations.

There is no right or wrong way of beginning you opening scene. Use your creative juices to combine any of the above mentioned scenes to create an original opening. Ultimately it is up to you.