Writing a great opening to your screenplay is important, but once you're through that scene, you have so many more pages to get through.

For me, I like to break the story down to ten-page chunks. The first ten pages of your screenplay are critical.

They set the stage, introduce your characters, and determine whether your reader gets hooked or puts your script down. Today, we're going to dig into all of that and more.

Let's dive into the essential elements you need to nail.

How to Write the First Ten Pages Of Your Screenplay

Let's get the brutal honesty out of the way right at the top: Industry professionals (producers, agents, contest judges) read mountains of scripts. They need a quick way to filter out the duds. If your first ten pages don't grab them, they likely won't read any further.

Think of your first ten pages as an extended audition for your entire script. They're your chance to prove you have a story worth telling and the skill to execute it well.

Readers need a sense of your story's world, genre, and style. You're making a promise about the kind of ride they're in for and what kind of tone they can expect.

So let's go over what they're looking to find.

Important Elements of the First Ten Pages

Important Elements of the First Ten Pages

Rear Window

Paramount Pictures

When it comes to writing the first ten pages, there are a few things executives are going to look for here that have to be in what you write.

  1. The Opening Scene (Page 1): Open with a bang! Start with a visually striking image, a captivating bit of dialogue, or a moment of intense action. Think of this as the movie trailer for your screenplay.
  2. Character Introduction: Quickly establish your main character.
    • Give them a distinctive personality and a hint of their core traits.
    • Show them IN ACTION—don't just describe them.
    • They don't need to be likable, but they should be intriguing.
  3. The Worldbuilding: Seamlessly weave in the following:
    • Setting: Where does the story take place? What's the time period?
    • Genre: Is it a comedy, a thriller, sci-fi, a drama? Set expectations early.
    • Hints of the unique flavor of your screenplay.
  4. The Problem: Showcase what's wrong in your protagonist's life.
    • What's their primary conflict (internal or external)?
    • Introduce a flaw they need to overcome.
    • Give us stakes—what are the consequences if they don't change?
  5. Inciting Incident (Around Page 10): A significant event that changes EVERYTHING for your character, propelling them into the main plot of the story. This forces them to make a decision and take action.

Tips for Writing Your First Ten Pages

Tips for Writing Your First Ten Pages

Seven Samurai

Credit: Toho

Your screenplay's opening isn't just about setting the scene—it's your make-or-break moment. A weak opening can doom even a brilliant script. In this guide, we'll explore how to maximize those first ten pages and ensure your story gets the attention it deserves.

When it comes to putting your story onto the page, here's a few thing to consider:

  • Subtext: Don't spell everything out. Readers (and viewers later) appreciate the thrill of discovery. Give hints and clues through action and dialogue, not exposition.
  • Show, Don't Tell:Focus on visual storytelling. Actions, reactions, and a character's environment tell us volumes about who they are.
  • Economical Writing: Every word counts. Cut the fluff, make each scene punchy and purposeful.
  • Formatting: Stick to industry-standard screenplay formatting – it makes it easier for readers and signals professionalism. Resources like Celtx are free and help with this.
  • Plot Twist: Consider adding a twist or element of surprise that raises questions and keeps the audience on their toes.

Now that you've got the blueprint, it's time to write! Don't be afraid to experiment, and remember, those first ten pages are your chance to show the world what kind of storyteller you are.

Now, get back to work!