Study the beginnings and endings of movies and you’ll notice that they match. That means once you know your beginning, you automatically know your end and once you know your end, you automatically know your beginning.
Two ways to begin and end a screenplay are:
- Focus on action. Start with a small conflict that foreshadows a much larger conflict in the end.
- Focus on change. Start by showing the hero’s dead end life and the end by showing how the hero has changed.
Look at the beginning of “Rocky” where Rocky is fighting a boxing match in a dingy gym with few spectators. Notice that this beginning foreshadows the ending where Rocky is fighting in a packed arena against the heavyweight champion of the world, Apollo Creed.
“Star Wars” is another example where the beginning shows Darth Vader trying to capture Princess Leia’s starship. This foreshadows the final battle in the end where the Death Star is trying to blow up the rebel base. In “Star Wars,” the beginning shows a small starship battle but the end shows a massive starship battle.
The beginning is always related to the end. A second way to create beginnings and endings is to focus on change, often showing the hero’s emotional change through his or her physical journey.
In “WALL-E,” WALL-E starts out as a lonely robot alone on a dying Earth. By the end, WALL-E has returned back to Earth but is no longer lonely because he’s brought back the entire human race. In both the beginning and end, WALL-E is on Earth but the drastic change in WALL-E’s situation shows how he progressed from being isolated and alone to being with friends and someone he loves.
Another example of a beginning and ending that physically shows the journey of the hero is “Die Hard.” In the beginning, the hero is on his way to his wife’s Christmas party with the hopes of getting back together with her. By the end, the hero has finally succeeded in getting back with his wife.
Although “Die Hard” is an action thriller, the beginning and ending highlights the hero’s changed situation from being separated from his wife (beginning) to being back together with her once more (ending).
When creating your screenplay, think of beginnings and endings. Create a small beginning that foreshadows the bigger ending. Then create a second beginning that shows the hero’s dead end life matched with the ending that shows the hero’s much improved life.
By creating two different types of beginnings and endings, you can decide which method is best for telling your particular story.