Screenwriting : Your best opening scene by Craig D Griffiths

Craig D Griffiths

Your best opening scene

There was a post here about opening scenes. It had a video of the first few minutes of the thing. It prompted me to go back and look at my opening scenes. A have polished up some. Remember, no second chance at a first impression.

My person favour is from my script “Amy”. We see a young woman completely disinterested in the police interview she is being put through. Slumped in her chair not even listening to what is being said. That is okay, because all the dialogue and sound is from another scene. It is a series of telephone conversations played over the top of the video of the interview.

We finally cut to the people in the telephone conversation. One of them is the girl being questioned by Police - Amy.

So what is your best opening. Why? And what would you change? If anything.

CJ Walley

It's the opening to my pulpy 70's-esc carsploitation script featuring two country girls who pickup a couple of hitchhikers who turn out to be drug dealers and end up in a car chase down dirt roads with the local sheriff.

It's special to me because it marked a big turning point in my writing. Picturing it was the point when I realised what really motivated me to write. Even though it was only my second screenplay, it captured a lot of my true voice, which I lost and regained as I continued working on my craft.

The same script got me on the Top List on the Black List, featured by Amazon Studios, and pulled a director out of retirement to work with me.

Always follow your voice.

Rutger Oosterhoff

Check out the first 5 pages of "The Gavel". It's fun. https://www.stage32.com/sites/stage32.com/files/assets/screenplay/571720...

Hank Biro

My favourite opening scene is the one I most recently finished. It is for my short script titled Power Struggle!. Two police officers, Parsep and Jamisun, pull up across the street from a dingy drug den and then a monitor inside their vehicle displays photos of the criminals inside the building. The officers learn the threat level of each drug dealer and Parsep is surprised and happy to learn one of them is a level nine, meaning he is allowed to use his full force if need be to arrest the perps.

Kay Luke

BORDERLAND "Our New Place" PILOT

TEASER

FADE IN:

EXT. DESERT - NORTHERN MEXICO - SUNDAY MORNING

The morning sun emerges from a dry and rocky horizon.

SUPER: STATE OF CHIHUAHUA, NORTHERN MEXICO

A little CHIHUAHUA DOG leads three Latino refugees, two men,

REFUGEE#1, REFUGEE#2, and a WOMAN REFUGEE, through the barren

land dotted with creosote brush.

EXT. MOUNTAINS - LATE AFTERNOON

High country. The desert chaparral gives way to pinyon pines.

The three refugees trudge on, the little Chihuahua dog

panting in their wake.

EXT. INTERNATIONAL BORDER FENCE - BORDER RANCH - AMERICAN

SIDE - SUNSET

The sun sets on a barbed wire cattle fence that zigzags back

and forth along the American side of the tree lined creek

marking the actual geographical border. Every ten feet,

there’s a small, bilingual sign: INTERNATIONAL BORDER.

On the Mexico side of the creek, Refugee#1 emerges from the

trees, cautiously approaches the fence. He looks up and down

twice, then over his shoulder, motions follow me.

Refugee#2 emerges from the trees, followed by the Woman

Refugee, the little chihuahua dog tagging along. Holding the

barbed wire for one another, the illegal immigrants climb

through the hole in the fence and into the Land of the Free.

The Woman smiles, whispers at the little dog,

REFUGEE#2

Bienvenidos a los Estados Unidos.

THE LITTLE DOG BARKS--

The SOUND OF THUNDERING HOOVES permeates the scene. Two men

on horseback burst from the trees, invading from two

directions, angling in on the refugees, cutting off the fence

and herding them deeper into American territory.

On one horse is TOMMY STEVENS (35), White American rancher,

vicious, sadistic, with a rifle in a scabbard attached to

his saddle, wearing a .40 caliber semi-auto pistol in a

holster around his waist and brandishing a long wooden staff.

The other horse is ridden by PEDRO (35), Mexican-American

ranch worker and Tommy’s lackey, swinging a chain over his

head while a 12 gauge pump shotgun sits saddle-holstered on

his mount.

The little dog BARKS, stands his ground while the refugees

run for their lives. Pedro chases Refugee#1 while Tommy uses

his wooden staff to SMACK the defiant little dog flying like

a hockey puck and begins chasing the fleeing woman refugee.

EXT. THE WOODS - BORDER RANCH - DUSK

The sounds of a terrified chase shatters the lazy peace of

the evening breezing through the dogwood trees.

On horseback, Pedro SLAMS running Refugee#1 with the swinging

chain, sends him sprawling. Pedro starts to swing the heavy

chain again-- WHACK! A thrown rock hits him in the chest and

he drops the chain, looks around as Refugee#1 runs off:

DECEPTIVE SHADOWS IN THE TREES

EXT. NEARBY IN THE WOODS - BORDER RANCH - DUSK

Flickering shadows of nightfall descend softly between the

leaves.

On his horse, Tommy catches up to the fleeing Woman Refugee.

He reaches down to grab her-- WHACK! A flying rock stuns him,

knocks his hat off and the woman escapes into a thicket.

Tommy pulls his horse up, looks around:

THE WISPY FLASH OF A YOUNG WOMAN RUNS BY, BLENDING WITH THE

FLUID SHADOWS OF THE DUSK

EXT. TREES - DUSK

The emerging night seeps through the trees.

SILENT (29), a confident, athletic, hippy-type Chiricahua

Apache woman, stealths through the forest, blending with the

chaotic shadows casts by the glimmer of emerging stars.

TOMMY LEAPS INTO THE SCENE, TACKLES SILENT

On the ground, Tommy pins Silent face down and speaks with a

southwestern drawl.

TOMMY

You ought to a stay out of things

that ain’t your business, girl.

SILENT

Let me go!

Silent makes a valiant but useless attempt to escape.

TOMMY

I reckon not.

Tommy puts a hand on the back of Silent’s head and shoves her

face violently into the ground, holds her there.

A FLASHLIGHT ILLUMINATES THE SCENE

Pedro is there on horseback holding the flashlight.

PEDRO

We finished here, jefe?

TOMMY

Finished? Hell no! I’m just gettin’

started.

Tommy grabs the waist band of Silent’s pants with his free

hand. Silent struggles and SCREAMS like a warrior, manages to

half turn and scratches Tommy deeply on the side of his neck.

Tommy grabs her by her hair--

POV SILENT: TOMMY PUNCHES HER IN THE FACE--

BLACKNESS

EXT. NEARBY IN THE WOODS - BORDER RANCH - NIGHT

POV Silent awakens on the ground to see grinning Tommy

standing above her, buckling on his gun belt.

TOMMY

That was real nice. Too bad there

ain’t gonna be no second date.

He pulls his pistol from its holster with murderous intent--

Silent feigns resignation, abruptly pulls a knee to her chest

for leverage and WHACK! kicks Tommy hard in the balls. She

rolls aside as he loses the handgun and drops to his knees.

Silent leaps to her feet and runs into the trees, melding

with the shadows of the night.

END TEASER

Phil Clarke

Glad to hear my opening scene post got you thinking about your own. My work here is done! :)

Dash Riprock

I'm re-doing a script from long ago that I still kinda like. It's action. It's fun. It's sci-fi. Here are the first 5 pages of "Henry Plotz":

https://www.stage32.com/sites/stage32.com/files/assets/screenplay/175467...

Rutger Oosterhoff

Good read Dash. A lot happening. Good action with some sutile humor.

Nelson Christian Amador

Oh on opening Scenes. Well for me which I believe is a habit of mine, I always start script out with the studio logo presentation and if' it's a specific movie then I always add in some key details about the studio logo presentation intro as well. And always write what song is playing as well to get mode of movie going as well.

Craig D Griffiths

Nelson Christian Amador people will tell you “that isn’t your job”. But if it works for you in setting up your story, why not. What about something other then visuals. What is the best start of a story you have written?

Dash Riprock

Much obliged, Rutger.

Craig D Griffiths

Phil Clarke I forgot how much I love a great opening for a film. I have stuck in a script at the moment. About 50 pages in and the characters are showing me a new direction. Great for the story. But I have booked marketed going back and rewriting a great opening shot.

Craig D Griffiths

Kay Luke a single shot can tell so much. You know that it is set in an incredibly contentious area of the world.

Which is a bit of a redirect in a way, because all the action takes place later. It also sets up a conflict which doesn’t involve the people in the opening shot.

Have you seen Steven Knight’s ‘Dirty Pretty Things’. It opens with a couple talking in a Taxi. You think it is about them. Then they get out of the taxi. The driver is the protagonist.

Craig D Griffiths

CJ Walley Just like your experience. When you write your first great/confident/cinematic opening is like riding a bike without training wheels. You know “I can do this”.

Kay Luke

Craig -- A SHOT is what the camera sees. A SCENE is what a writer writes. A SEQUENCE is how a screenwriter tells a story.

I bring my readers into the world I’ve created. You tell the Director where to point his camera. Is your story so week that a single shot tells it? I suggest you read There Will Be Blood. It starts with a meaningless shot that segues into a sequence of scenes that combine to form one “shot” in the reader’s mind and lead her into the story.

Don’t say I never gave you anything.

Craig D Griffiths

Kay Luke a single shot makes your script 7 days. You’re correct a word in a conversation can make all the difference.

Rosalind Winton

My screenplay begins in an attic and an 11 year old girl is looking for a tool box for her father. In among all the rubbish around the attic floor, she spots a cardboard box with old black and white photos of family members, she's curious and looks at one photo in particular that becomes the link to the rest of the story. In the corner of the attic in the darkness is a pile of books covered with an old blanket, the girl does not see the books, but one of the books has an importance that is revealed at the end of the screenplay.

Surina Nel

My current play begins with Liam, sitting on the edge of his seat, shaking his head in disbelief. His hands is covered in blood. Infront of him a table, littered with drug paraphernalia. The cops knocks on his his door but he doesn't repond. After an unanswered 2nd knock, the door flings open ripping the hinges from the door. Liam is apprehended and while being cuffed the second police man discovers the body of is wife knife in hand, in the kitchen. While calling for help he hears a faint cry from an adjacent room, where he finds a tiny infant, with a big gash on her neck

Jim Boston

Craig, I'd have to say that the best opening I've been able to come up with thus far is the one to "Jingle Belles."

"Jingle Belles" starts out with Kirby walking along Broadway and stopping to hear the singing group that eventually became known as the Doo-Woppers. (Gotten some positive feedback about the script...especially from Nick Holle, the very documentary codirector I inherited my Power Mac computer from: "Jim, I could really feel 'Jingle Belles.'")

Stefano Pavone

From my own works:

1. The prologue to "Vox Populi" - we are introduced to our Robin Hood-like "protagonist" and his modus operandi (and his justifications for doing so). First thing he does is beat up an academy principal (a "headteacher" in the UK) for assaulting a pupil who indirectly violated the school's dress code policy (he threatens the headteacher with a return visit if he abuses his power again and warns him to let the pupils wear whatever the hell they want, since it doesn't impact their learning).

2. The opening sequence to "Icon of the Defender" (my 3-part novel, which I later adapted into 3 separate screenplays and is my precious magnum opus) - not only do we meet our trio of lead characters and how their polarising personalities (identifiable by the colours of their clothing) complement each other and drive the story (one is an angry no-nonsense rifleman, another is a sympathetic but manipulative ex-Gendarme and the third character is a civilian with a weakness for damsels in distress who mediates between the two), but there is a sense of genuine companionship and even brotherhood present.

Craig D Griffiths

Jim Boston you tease, I started painting a picture in my head and you stopped.

A single sentence and I saw it. Nice

Jim Boston

Oh, man, thanks, Craig!

Brian Fitzgerald

From CHICLE:

It’s a quiet and peaceful scene. Until… YELLING! Lots and

lots of yelling, getting gradually louder.

SPLASH… A pair of small wheels plows right through a huge

pile of donkey shit lying in an open sewer. A tired, high-pitched

engine sputters with all its might.

A RED MOPED comes into focus. A thin, athletic Gringo is

riding the beat-up contraption. All he has on is a

makeshift cape, American flag Speedo underwear, cowboy

boots… And a BEER BOX… He’s wearing an empty Tecate 24-pack

over his head!

Craig D Griffiths

Stefano Pavone nice. I like opening that tell you exactly what you are in for if you keep watching. Like the start of Pulp Fiction two cool dudes talking “gangster shit”. You know the type of film you are getting. To start with one guy beating another guy senseless is confronting and confusing. Who is the good guy? Pose those questions make the audience engage.

Craig D Griffiths

Brian Fitzgerald read this a few times. On a phone the format went funky. The images made me smile.

Not my place to say, but I saw a trail of smoke from the moped as it zoomed along.. Don’t know if that was how beat up the machine is.

Brian Fitzgerald

Craig D Griffiths Yeah, the format came out wonky for some reason. Glad you smiled though. Smoke, yes, there would definitely be smoke coming out of that beast - nice touch!

Curtis Kessinger

I like to watch the opening credits scene for Saturday Night Fever...shots of NY City then John Travolta walking down the street carrying a can of paint with the music tells you everything about that character. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HVEqy6K18Yo

Craig D Griffiths

Curtis Kessinger it tells so much. The way he is looking at people, making sure they are checking him out. tells you that he thinks he is great. Feed perfectly into the disco thing of, stop dancing and look at me.

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