Screenwriting : The Opening Scene's The Thing! by Phil Clarke

Phil Clarke

The Opening Scene's The Thing!

Giving the reader/audience a sense of setting right from the get-go is key, but make sure your opening scene does more than just establish location.

The Thing (1982) is a great example of conveying setting while still providing plot detail. This beats a boring aerial shot of the landscape. This chase scene is intrinsically part of the story. It matters. Remove it and the story suffers. 

Your opening scenes should ideally have more than one purpose: they should both orient and hook the reader into your tale.

Dan MaxXx

Ex Machina does the opening scene well without much dialogue. The film opens with MC at his desk job, he wins a company meeting with the Boss, and the next scene is an exterior remote location where the MC is flying in a helicopter. The Director-Writer deleted a big chunk of dialogue/backstory from the screenplay.

Phil Clarke

Oh countless movies do it well. But I was only going to pick one example clip.

Shawn Speake

Happy Holidays, guys!

Phil Clarke

Back atcha, Shawn Speake

CJ Walley

I only watched Carpenter's The Thing for the first time this summer. I though the intro was brilliant. Delighted to see it highlighted.

Pete Whiting

Peter Saphier (Producer of Jaws, Scarface) read my script 'The Titron Madness' and said it took him back to 'The Thing' days (in a positive way). I also tried to have an opening scene that quickly set the tone or setting but without giving away the surprise or scare. Though didnt use a fast paced scene like this and in no way is my opening scene or script in the league of this classic. A good horror/creature feature knows when to reveal the creature. Too early or too late can ruin the audience experience.

Craig D Griffiths

For me the most important part of this opening is the “what the hell is happening” it leaves the audience with.

Sam Borowski

Had lunch with the legendary Dean Cundey, who shot The Thing, among so many others including, but not limited to: John Carpenter's Halloween, Jurassic Park, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Apollo 13 and The Back to the Future Trilogy, just to name a few. The man is a legend, and he does some brilliant work in The Thing.

CJ Walley

That's super cool, Sam. People like that are legends. I bet he had some amazing stories to share.

Stefano Pavone

The first 5 minutes of any movie are the most crucial if you ask me.

Sam Borowski

CJ Walley - Yes, he had TONS of stories! He's attached as DP to my next feature. Besides being Uber-Talented, just a GREAT guy. Loves movies. One Of Us!

Tony Ray

There are several great film openings that come to mind. Fight Club, A Few Good Men, Terminator 2: Judgement Day, 28 Days Later. If you don't nail the opening, they'll walk out of the theaters.

CJ Walley

Sam Borowski, well done on the attachment. That's really impressive.

Phil Clarke

Craig D Griffiths Absolutely. If your opening scene can create curiosity in the reader/audience, then you're on the way to hooking them as they will want answers. But I would warn against being too cryptic. You don't want create curiosity, not confusion. ;)

Stefano Pavone

Phil Clarke I like to do both. :)

Bill Costantini

Hi Phil,

That sure is a great opening scene from a great film.

There are so many great opening scenes in films. The opening of Apocalypse Now is one of my faves. The layerings and movements of many images on the screen...the sounds of war and words mixed with the song The End by The Doors....a man in the midst of insanity....the foreshadowing of what is to come...that dreadful stare into the camera by Martin Sheen....his marriage and state-of-mind revelations....the shattering of the mirror....man, that is just one amazing opening scene.

Best fortunes in your creative endeavors, Phil!

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