The first ten pages of your screenplay are crucial and you must have a great first scene that draws in the reader/viewer? However, for authors who want to adapt their book or novel into a movie script, this is often the most challenging part because novels are slower paced, longer, and not as visual.
The world of film making and movie production is so competitive that industry experts as well as audiences judge movie scripts and movies by the first few pages/minutes. This means that if the first few scenes of your movie script are not engaging enough to grab the script reader and reel him in, then the chances of your script getting read beyond the first ten pages will be slim. And the chance of selling your script, let alone having it produced, dismal.
But fret not! We can help show your audience all what it needs in the first 10 pages as well as the rest of your script. To make sure that your first few opening scenes are the perfect ones for your screenplay, here are a few tips to guide you:
- Setting the Tone
- Introduce your main character(s) as early as possible
- Create a significant conflict as soon as possible
- Try to communicate the genre as early as possible
- Try to create a visual and emotional energy contrast between your first scene and the second.
Setting the Tone of Your Movie
More so, your first few scenes will also help in setting the tone for the movie. Is it funny? Somber? Serious or light-hearted? This is usually revealed in the first few scenes of the screenplay. The script reader or the audience gets an idea of what to expect from the get-go, and, therefore, will follow the movie accordingly. There are instances of movies starting off as slow and light-hearted, before evolving into an intense, action-packed narrative. This is okay if you include some catchy scenes in the first few pages of your screenplay.
The opening scenes of your screenplay will determine how interested your audience will be in seeing the whole movie. It has to be gripping enough to arouse curiosity, raise many questions, and make your audience want to sit back and find out what follows or what led to the situation, as the case may be.
Introduce Main Characters Early On
This can never be over-emphasized. Cinema-goers and script readers need someone to identify with and root for as soon as possible. Therefore, the earlier you get them introduced to the protagonist, the better. The main character will be the person around whom the story mostly revolves, and whose actions (or inactions) will mainly drive the audience’s interest in the movie as it progresses. This is in no way trying to undermine the roles of the supporting acts, but we all know the importance of a hero in a movie every more often, or a villain at that.
Introducing your lead character early on in your script is essential because it gives your script reader or audience ample time to establish enough emotional connection with the character before the movie reaches its pivotal point. It is expected that by the time you get to your first plot point (an event that drives your story into an exciting new direction), your audience should be fully aware of the significant players in the movie. They are also expected to have established some sort of emotional connection (or apathy) for the lead character, enough to keep them wanting to follow the story.
Create a conflict as soon as possible
As your audience connects with the lead character, creating conflict(s) with stakes that are high enough will help strengthen this emotional connection. Giving the protagonist early strife to deal with will make the script reader or audience feel more empathy towards the character, and they will be more invested in finding out how they come out of it. This scenario gets even better if the antagonist is also introduced or alluded to early enough in a deadly fashion, signaling the extent of the devastation to come and just how high the stakes are.
Conflicts form the main building blocks of every story, no matter the tone or genre. You should try and weave conflict into the opening scenes of your screenplay that is reflected in every action and dialogue, if possible. This way, your few opening scenes are far from boring, which will set the tone for your script getting read to the end and your audience seeing the movie to the end.
Communicate the genre as early as possible
The genre of your screenplay should determine how the first opening scenes play out. If it is a comedy, make sure that there is a comic strip as early as possible to set the tone. If it is a horror movie, the pacing, setting, and the dreadful actions of the respective characters should creep in soon enough to distinctly depict what is to come. In the same way, thrillers should be fast-paced, suspenseful, and intrigue-filled, war movies should be gripping, romance movies should be soothing and emotional, and so on.
Understandably, most movies can combine two or three genres, but there has to be a central theme that will ultimately determine the predominant genre to which your screenplay belongs. In due diligence, all the major themes reflected in your movie should also be represented in the first few scenes of your screenplay. For instance, a romantic comedy could have a love scene set in a predominantly hilarious situation in the first few pages. This will clearly tell the script reader what to expect going forward. These first few scenes need to vividly portray some funny situations, comedic dialogues, or hilarious behaviors on the part of the characters, which dictates the tone going forward.
Visual and Emotional Contrast Between Scenes – Pacing
Try to create a visual contrast between your first scene and the second. This is an essential movie-making tool, which is vital in screenwriting. Learn how to create a visual contrast between scenes to make for a more balanced viewing experience. If your first scene started with a lot of breath-taking stunts and action, you should do well to make your second scene a bit more serene. This will give the script reader or your audience a chance to come down from the mental tension that they started with and provide room for a mental break.
Going from an action-packed scene to another adrenaline-fueled one can be gripping, but it can also easily lead to fatigue for your reader or audience. This is because the viewer or reader’s mind will have a lot of fast-paced events to process with little time for relief. Providing a direct visual contrast between your first two scenes is a trick you should learn to employ as a screenwriter, which will go a long way toward reader and audience satisfaction.
With all these tips in mind, you should then take your time to create the best opening scenes for your screenplay. Chances are that you have an incredible story that you need the world to see. Go over your opening scenes time and time again, and make sure all the points mentioned here are accounted for. It is better to do it slowly and do it right than to rush it and come up with something mediocre.