First Ten Pages
When it comes to screenwriting, you only have so much time, so many pages, so you don’t have the luxury to meander, and this is especially true in your first ten pages. You must maximize script economy and move the story forward immediately because you’ve only got about 10 pages to accomplish five major components:
- Establish the tone/genre (is this a comedy, fantasy, spoof, etc.)
- Introduce your main character: interesting, flawed, and if not likeable, at least empathetic… somebody we can hope and fear for.
- Clarify the world of the story and the status quo.
- Indicate the theme or message (Good vs. Evil, Man vs. Nature, etc.)
- Set up the dramatic situation – that is, what the story is going to be about.
It’s important to note that there is no absolute order in which these five rules are applied. Often a screenplay begins with main character and his/her status quo, but sometimes the dramatic situation comes first, and occasionally all five elements will be covered in one scene alone. As long as these five core elements are executed well and established early on, you’re screenplay is one step closer to achieving success.
Each analysis of selected features takes a detailed look at how each of these five essential elements is established in the first ten pages of the screenplay.
Screenplay by: Christopher Nolan
Quite often, the first ten minutes of a screenplay are the slowest, bogged down with so much information that we need to pile through before we get to all the action and the car chases and the explosions. There are exceptions to the rule, like Up, with it’s early tear jerking 4-minute silent-film mini-movie retrospective of Carl and Ellie’s married life, or the opening to Inglorious Basterds with its awesomely sinister table conversation between Col. Hans Landa and Perrier LaPadite.
But regardless of movie genre and award-winning accolades, those first ten minutes are vitally important to any film’s story. It introduces our character and the world he lives in. We learn his problems, and the world’s problems. We plant seeds in those early moments that will sprout into memorable and exciting scenes later on, and there will be revelations that link to those early moments in the film. This article will examine how Inception’s first ten pages are designed to draw us in.Add a comment
Screenplay by: Peter Benchley and Carl Gottlieb, from the original novel by Peter Benchley
In this examination of the opening pages of Steven Spielberg’s 1975 summer blockbuster Jaws, screenwriters Benchley and Gottlieb do a masterful job delivering the 5 major rules within the first 10 script pages. In fact, they do it in 4.
Note:The following analysis comes from the final draft of the script, not from the feature film. And even though some of these early scenes were omitted from the final cut of the film, they are still instrumental in establishing tone and atmosphere for the “reader” to understand the world of the story.Add a comment
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