I will say this about Zack Snyder’s new zombie-heist film Army of the Dead, it really knows how to draw you in. From the cold open transpo-mission gone awry to the fantastic opening title sequence, you can really see Snyder’s vision and sheer filmmaking enjoyment play out on the screen.

That opening title sequence in particular really is a sight to behold! And I’m glad the Snyd-master himself has made time to sit down to share some insights into his filmmaking process as it really feels like a short film all unto itself.

So, let’s check out episode one of Netflix’s four-part “Snyder School” which focuses on how Snyder was able to conceive, shoot, and edit this table-setting opening title sequence.

A Prologue to the Film

It is interesting just how much narrative information and exposition is contained in the opening title sequence of the film. When one usually thinks of opening titles, you might usually think of examples from classic cinema where the names and roles are simply listed out over black. Or eventually on top of stylized images or artwork.

However, for Army of the Dead, Snyder feels that his opening title sequence is really “a six-minute silent film,” which is narratively important. He also admits that he aims to establish a central conceit of sorts that the film is going to be parts self-aware as well as harrowing.

Army of the Dead'Army of the Dead'Credit: Netflix

Setting the Style and Tone

Tracing through the films of his own Snyder-verse, the writer, director, and DP actually has some really great insights into how title sequences can be used to establish style and tone. Starting with his first feature film debut, Dawn of the Dead, Snyder has been very deliberate in the planning and styling of the title sequences.

Dawn of the Dead is meant to establish a documentary style as well as the tone of realism, while 300 is meant to harken back to the film’s graphic novel roots. You can trace through Snyder’s steady career ascension as he shows some of his meticulous storyboard sketches for films like Watchmen and Justice League and how they themselves developed throughout production. 

Establishing Backstory and Characters

The opening title sequence to Army of the Dead also is very important not only for setting up the plot, but also for simply establishing the characters. It’s cool to hear Snyder’s thoughts into those tableau-style shots of the different lead characters in his ensemble cast.

You know the ones I’m talking about, where Dave Bautista is standing in front of a backdrop holding an old family photo. Snyder shares that these shots in particular were necessary to help add a slight suspension of disbelief, but also to help ground the roles into more real characters with emotions and backstories—not just mercenary soldiers.

Army of the Dead titlesCredit: Netflix

Picking the Right Font and Placement

Finally, by his own admission, Snyder seems to be quite a bit picky about the exact font, styles, and placements for the opening titles for the film. Understandably so, as we’ve established just how important the sequence is to the film overall.

You can see some of the alternate fonts and styles which Snyder considered throughout the planning process, as he also shares that an entire slot machine title reveal was scrapped due to a rhythm and timing feel.

Overall, though, the lessons here might simply be that title sequences can be whatever you want them to be. If your story calls for a more traditional look and presentation, then go with that. However, if you’re looking to use your opening as a way to help establish narrative, characters, and themes, there are no hard rules holding you back from making them as stylized or explosive as your heart may desire.