Cameron Cubbison reports:
"To state the patently obvious, the opening of your screenplay is of vital importance. Page one, scene one is when the reader begins to form their impression of your story. It’s a tremendous opportunity to hook them in for the next [90 to 120] pages, and if you fail to get them[,] then the odds are[,] you won’t catch them later and they’ll stop reading. You have to achieve so many things in that first scene. Tone. Style. Genre. Premise. Narrative World. As soon as you think that you have the perfect opening…the opening the story demands, the opening that is exactly right…do another version. Take it apart. Throw it out. Try something else. Go back to it. See what sticks. Perfect it...Introduce your protagonist as soon as possible...Readers and audiences inherently enter your story with uncertainty because they don’t know what to expect. They immediately start looking for the character to focus on and orient themselves to; they’re begging to meet your protagonist so that they feel safe. Think of your lead as a tour guide. If people sign up for a tour and meet at the [designated] start point to find no one there or a group of people who are indistinguishable, confusion and chaos will soon ensue. Readers and audience members want to be [led], so lead them...Also, on a practical level, the sooner you introduce your lead, the more time you have to build an emotional connection with the reader...Convince the reader that you will deliver on the core requirements of that genre. If your script is a comedy, that opening scene [had] better generate laughs or you’re dead in the water. If it’s horror, dread and menace [had] better start seeping in...Create conflict immediately...Conflict is the building block of every scene, regardless of genre. If there is absolutely no conflict in a scene, it shouldn’t be in the script. Lack of conflict bores people, and the very last thing you want to do in your opening is bore people...Don’t start with a flashback...You can’t flash back to something if you haven’t established a present timeline and narrative world first...Make sure the end of your first scene contrasts in some way with the beginning of your second scene. It doesn’t matter what the contrast is per se[;] just make sure that you have one. If your first scene is set in a hotel room, don’t begin your next scene in a hotel room. Provide a visual contrast. If you open with an explosive action sequence, make your second scene a quiet character moment. Just give audiences some kind of contrast to create kinetic energy so that fatigue doesn’t set in. Most importantly, take time to get your opening right. There are bad scripts with great openings, but there are no great scripts with lousy openings."
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