The Opening Defines the Tone

From the beginning, your story has to grab the audience, but more importantly, it has to set the tone for what type of story you’re going to deliver.

The title “Star Wars” implies a battle in space, so “Star Wars” opens with a battle in space.

The title “Ghostbusters” implies fighting ghosts, so the opening scene shows a librarian being frightened by a ghost.

“Men in Black” is about space aliens sneaking on Earth, so the opening scene shows Mexican immigrants trying to sneak into the United States.

“E.T.” is about an extra-terrestrial, so the opening scene is about a space alien getting separated from his flying saucer and being stranded on Earth.

“The King’s Speech” is about a man overcoming a stuttering habit, so the opening scene shows him stumbling during a public speaking ceremony while everyone looks on with embarrassment.

To create your opening scene, just ask yourself what the basic idea of your movie is about. In “Terminator 2,” the basic idea is about the battle between the human race and robots, so the opening scenes shows the hellish world left behind after the robots have taken over.

Of course, there are always exceptions. “Die Hard” is about battling terrorists, but the opening scene just shows Bruce Willis arriving in Los Angeles on an airplane. That’s the exception though because most movies start off with a more visual grabber.

Think of your own story. Is it a sports story? Then you might want to open with a sports contest in action, such as the opening boxing match in “Rocky.” Is your story about racism? Then open with racist remarks and confrontation such as “Crash.” Is your story about nuclear war? Then open with the threat of nuclear war such as in “Wargames.”

Your opening lets your audience know what type of story you’re going to tell them. After your opening, it’s up to you to deliver on your initial promise and give your audience exactly what you promised them from the first scene.

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