Every screenwriter will tell you: the opening scene of a movie is probably the most important scene in your script. Or course, it won't be the most important scene in the movie when it's done, but a screenplay needs to convince its reader to go all the way. It is therefore essential to write it with great care and to make him want to continue the reading. So, how do you write a good opening scene? We asked the writers of Triality’s International Production Network to give you some tips.
Answering the most important questions
Every screenwriting school will tell you, an opening scene should answer five questions: Who? What? Where? When? Why?
Of course, there are hundreds of movie examples that don't answer all of these questions right from the opening scene. Leaving one or two questions on this list voluntarily aside can be very useful in arousing the reader's interest and curiosity.
However, you should always keep these questions in mind to understand that an opening scene is not just a mandatory step to start a movie. An opening scene should allow you to bring the spectator into the story. For this, there is a minimum of informations that it is mandatory to give.
If your opening scene does not answer any of these questions, then it is probably completely useless and it is better to delete it.
Present the issues
Actually, the five mandatory questions have an easy-to-understand objective: to present the issues. An opening scene does not have to be spectacular to capture the viewer's attention. It only needs to be able to effectively present to him the issues and characters that will drive the story throughout the film.
To write a good opening scene, all the writers agree that it is essential to know the issues of the story, its themes and all the details that will be important throughout the film.
Once you have these things in mind, you can easily select the important questions you need to answer - partially or not if you want to keep the excitement going - and start writing your story.
Let's take an example: the film Marriage Story explores the difficult separation of a couple who still love each other despite the slowdown in their relationship. The opening scene is exemplary: each one reads in a voiceover everything they like about the other. We then discover all the love they have for each other. However, at the end of this long list of qualities, we discover that they are in a couple therapist’s office and they were asked to write theses lists: they love each other, but they are getting a divorce. Almost all of the five essential questions got an answer, except the most important one, the one that will carry the movie: why?
Every screenwriter in Triality Productions that were asked about the perfect opening scene answered that it was essential to make it original. Indeed, the opening scene is compulsory in all movies and its responsibility is important. As a result, everyone is attentive to it and the expectations are numerous.
So making it original is a good way to grab the reader's attention. The screenwriter must therefore maintain a delicate balance between the rules to which one must comply in order to start his scenario well and the need to expose an original situation.
However, it should not be forgotten that an opening scene is generally only the result of the many elements that will then inhabit the rest of the script. If your story is not original, your opening scene can only be superficially original. If you can't write the opening scene you dreamed of at all, then maybe you need to rework the elements of your story.