At the beginning of every movie, we get to see the hero’s typical day, but this time it’s not typical because something happens at the end that forever shatters the hero’s typical day. In “Mrs. Doubtfire,” the first few scenes reveal the hero’s ability to do voices as an actor and his propensity to get himself fired from jobs so often even his kids know about it. Then we learn that the kids love the hero and the hero goes too far by throwing an outrageous birthday party that finally causes his wife to snap and make her consider a divorce. So although we get a glimpse of the hero’s typical day, we also see how the hero’s typical day can never be the same again.
In “Alien,” we get to see the crew’s typical interaction with each other right before they venture out to investigate the strange signal and discover an alien spaceship that will forever change their lives.
In “Harold and Maude,” we see Harold’s typical life dealing with his confining life with his rich mother, and then he meets Maude and his life will never be the same again.
In “Rocky,” we see Rocky’s typical life and then he loses his locker to an up and coming boxer, so Rocky’s life will never be the same again.
In “12 Years a Slave,” the hero meets two men who will eventually kidnap him and his life will never be the same again.
The beginning of your screenplay needs to show us your hero’s typical life while subtly setting up future events. Show us your hero’s typical life and his or her characteristics, and then introduce something that will change your hero’s life forever. Once this breaking point arrives in your hero’s life, there’s a point of no return. Whatever your hero does from now on will be something the hero’s never had to face before.
Your first scenes should do the following:
- Introduce your hero and your hero’s fatal flaw
- Set up future events
- Show us your hero’s typical day
- Show us something that changes your hero’s life forever.
Do this in an interesting manner and your screenplay will get off to a strong start. Omit this in the beginning and your screenplay has a gaping flaw right from the start that will likely never be overcome later. Show us a typical day and then wreck it. That gets your story off as quickly as possible.