When you sit down to write a screenplay, it's no coincidence that the first ten pages will wind up being the ones you rewrite the most. Opening scenes have to hook the reader and convince executives to make the script, but even before that, the first ten pages will make or break how you're seen as a writer.
You want to put your best pages forward, but how?
Today we're going to go over how you can craft an opening ten that sets you up for success and gets your screenplays into the right hands.
Let's get started.
Your Opening Scene
I'll be brief since we have a whole article on opening scenes, but they matter. Duh. Your opening scene has to set the tone for the whole film or TV show. In your first pages, I need to see the heart and soul for why this project needs to get off the ground.
We should also learn a ton about the genre of the project.
Clue us in and be straightforward. Set the mood so the reader knows where things are going.
The Characters Who Populate the World
Inside your first ten pages, we should also meet your main characters. It's always fun to nail character introductions in a fun way. What's the most stereotypical way to meet your character? What's something that can define them? Okay, what's something we haven't seen before?
Like Walt in his underwear.
Or James Bond in a bathroom.
Or the characters in Mission Impossible pulling off masks?
Give us an introduction that solidifies the tone and genre and also introduces us to a person where we can fully understand who they are as a person.
Then give us a tour of their lives.
'Breaking Bad'Credit: AMC
A Day in the Life
We want to know how our characters spend their day. Whether it's Michael Scott giving us a tour of his office or Steve Rogers getting his ass kicked in an alley, we want to know about their struggles. Some of my favorite day in the life moments come in Young Adult. We see a woman one the brink, prone to self-destructive behavior, and addicted to adulation.
By setting us up with their average day, we can explore what makes this movie or show different.
And how does this change drive the narrative?
This is the Story
Once you have the change in place, you have a movie or pilot ready to start. Some changes come upfront. The Office has a camera crew in it now. So do Parks & Rec and this Modern Family. Other changes come a little later. Walt has cancer, the people from Up in the Air are going to fire people in a different way, and the gals in Booksmart want to live a little.
The point is, at the end of our ten pages we want to know where the story is going. We should know who we're following. and We should be excited to keep reading.
'Booksmart' (2019)Credit: Annapurna Pictures
What's next? Start your screenplay!
Screenwriting is hard. But to become a filmmaker, you need to learn scriptwriting to master storytelling. We'll give you free lessons.
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