As is the case with all of writing in general, screenplays are also hugely important in their first paragraphs. First impressions are the most important in attracting readers, so the opening of your screenplay and potential movie should instantly hook people in and make them invested to check out the rest of the story. The style, tone and the overall atmosphere and effect that the opening produces is crucial in attracting attention.
1. Make the genre of the story clear from the very beginning:
This is crucial. Whether making a comedy or a horror or a fantasy movie, the very first thing that people should get from your opening should be the said genre that you had chosen previously. The first couple of lines should instantly make one think of a horror for instance with the descriptions of the looming dread or some imminent danger etc.
2. Instantly create some sort of conflict for the story:
This is all about the main conflict, not the side ones. Most people are not interested in uneventful stories and even the slowest and most artistic of dramas have at least some main conflict at its core, so it is incredibly important to make that conflict known to the audiences from the get-go.
3. Quickly introduce the protagonist of the film:
While there is a lot to be said about the importance of protagonists and whether or not they are needed or if the more ambiguous approach is more interesting, audiences like what they like and that is certainly the case with the main characters. Everybody wants to gravitate toward a central figure, so the very first thing that you should do while writing an opening scene is at least introduce this character toward the end of the scene, and maybe even sooner.
4. Set up a promise for the audiences:
This is simple. You should promise to your audiences what they should be expecting later down the line, so hook them in from the start what they should expect and set up a central question that you will answer for them in the second half of the movie. Intrigue is very important and it should be present in the very first scene.
5. The opening should be important:
This sounds simple, but it’s something many people forget. Do not start your opening with some kind of a backstory or a side story or a flashback. That is a wrong thing to do as audiences are expecting the start of the main story from the first sequence. Later on, you can introduce some other subplots etc, but the opening should be focused solely on the most important storyline.