You must hook or grab your audience in the first few minutes. What I mean by "hooking your audience" is to get their attention immediately. In the television industry there are many competing networks, cable stations and independents vying for viewers. If you can grab your viewers' attention and hold it through commercials until your movie is over you will have written a good script.
That is the reason you often see an exciting scene taken from the middle of a television movie and shown out of sequence before the movie begins. This is known as a "Teaser" or the "Hook." It is shown so as to grab the viewers so they'll continue to watch. For example, if the movie is about a detective, the teaser might show a chase scene or a crime being committed. This gets the viewers interested immediately. Hopefully, they'll be hooked! It takes the best type of writing to accomplish this feat.
In motion pictures you want to hold your audience's attention from the opening credits until "The End" flashes on the screen. You want to keep them in the theater, so they won't leave, or worse yet, ask for their money back. One way of accomplishing this goal is to ask yourself when you open your screenplay the following question: "Why is this day different from any other day?" "What happens at the onset of my story that is going to set-off the entire action of my structure?"
In the opening of A.I. a little boy, David, is the product of a company which built him. He is called a "mecha" and is a robot, who is also created to experience love. He's adopted by an employee of the company and his distraught wife, because their son is in a comatose state. David is getting to know his parents and beginning to have feelings for them when suddenly he has to go out on his own when his adopted parents' son recovers. The dramatic question which sets off the story in film is: What will happen to David when he is thrust out into the world alone?
The reason an opening is so important is that it draws in your audience to your story. If they had never seen David getting to like living with his adoptive parents and rooting for the relationship to work, they wouldn't be emotional when he's told to leave. They wouldn't care. However, because the audience is involved with David they now worry about what will his fate be. What will become of him? Will he survive? Will he get hurt? Will he find other parents? These are the questions the audience are watching to see if they are answered during the course of the film.
Your audience must understand what the movie they are going to see is about. They must be interested enough to keep wanting to watch it through to its conclusion. For some reason a lot of writers like to keep their audience in the dark. This doesn't work and is a sure-fire way to lose your audience. It's important to immediately involve your viewers and bring them into the world of which you're writing. Your audience must have a sense of who the players are and what the rules are of this new world. You want to immediately get your audience to identify with your characters and their plight.
If you've decided to write a romantic love story, you must first decide if the couple will get together in the end or break up. After you know your ending, you must relate your opening to it. Think of the wonderful romantic feature films of the 1940s and 1950s, the ones with Spencer Tracy and Kathryn Hepburn, or Rock Hudson and Doris Day. They followed a usual formula. Boy meets girl in the opening. Boy loses girl somewhere in the middle. Boy gets girl in the end. The beginning always relates to the ending
In the opening of The Royal Tenenbaums, the estranged father played by Gene Hackman wants to reconcile with his family, and so he tells them he's terminally ill. This event sets off the story. But the story is really about healing the relationships between the father and his children. Will they finally be able to have a positive relationships ? Will the children be able to get over their resentment towards their father abandoning them? This is the dramatic question that will be answered in the end of the story.
Now that you've learned the importance of constructing the framework of your story, you are well on your way to developing the rest of your Blueprint for Screenwriting. You have the ending that gives your story its direction, and the opening that sets off your screenplay. You're now on the road to steer your story in the right direction, create a complex character with a goal, and develop a blueprint to follow so you'll know where you're going, how to get there and when you've arrived.
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