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The best way to start a film?

Posted: Sun, 5th Dec 2004, 4:00pm

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TommyB

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Hi,

My crew and I have been working on a project for some time now, but we're struggling to create an effective opening. We've had a look at a range of films, for example... Pulp Fiction opens with a chunk of rich dialogue, where as Kill Bill hints exposition of revenge.

Our film is set in the UK. It is about two men who carry out illegal jobs for their top dog. These are usually things like the transportation of illegal goods, but rarely they are hired to kill. So, we're trying to get this accross in an effective way at the beggining.

The film's timeline runs from 1996 (when they first meet) to 2005 (the present) They are eventually 'dismissed' by their boss, and told not to look back. However, one of the men wants to know the big picture... and because of this he ends up at the bottom of a very deep hole.

So we've got a range of scenes in the film, but we can't decide what to put at the beggining. Any suggestions? If not, which one of these would be the best?

1) A Conversation between the two, which DOESN'T give away any of the plot. Sort of a topical conversation/argument over something insignifcant. After it ends, the Beggining credits begin.

2) Same as above, but the conversation is directly related to the plot. They argue about now knowing anything about their job, and one of the men opens a suitcase they've been asked to transport, when he opens it... he looks inside wordless... the Credits begin. (setting up plot/mystery)

3) A scene which visually demonstrates the plot. Perhaps a group sitting in a bar playing cards who are gunned down by the two men?

It's extremely difficult to decide, I like the second one... but what do you guys like to see most in the opening of a film?

Cheers,
Posted: Sun, 5th Dec 2004, 4:04pm

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Andreas

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Well. the first seems kinda wrong. the scenes are in the movie to tell a plot. it the scene dosen't tell anything neccecery the movie will work without it.

I would prolly prefer the third one, or the second one.
If you got a bar to shoot in, go with the third one.

Always think what you got avaible for you, and then write your script around it. If you DO got an access to a bar, you should take advantage of it.
Posted: Sun, 5th Dec 2004, 4:41pm

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MrShmoe

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I'd like to see number three more, but number two would probably make it a better movie.
Posted: Sun, 5th Dec 2004, 5:07pm

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TommyB

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So you're saying the opening should be an action sequence?
It's easy to put the dialogue after the opening credits, like in Pulp Fiction.

I'll wait for some more opinions.

Cheers,
Posted: Sun, 5th Dec 2004, 5:17pm

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DigiSm89

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#3.

Better style IMO.
Posted: Sun, 5th Dec 2004, 6:44pm

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Two Gunned Saint

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The whole playing cards at the start of the film, then get gunned down has been done to death (no pun intended) I've even done it before. But that seems to be one of the better ways, something that'll grab the audiences attention.

I definately wouldn't got for option 1, it'd possibly be boring and if it's got nothing to do with the bulk of the film, then the audience is possibly going to end up confused when the film properly starts, they may not link too well. It'd develop character well, if it was done right, but if it's done wrong it's way too self-indulgent and dull like a Tarantino movie. Also if it's a pre-title sequence I'd feel short changed. Pre-title sequences should normally be amazingly cool and stuff, then the caption "Monkey Boy Productions presents" (or whatever) appears as the music kicks in and the already thrilled audience, as one thinks "and it hasn't even begun yet." Two guys talking about insignificant stuff won't get that feeling and it'd be a waste.


The second one'd be really good, to build up intrigue and involve the audience from the get-go. If it was really well written and performed as well as shot it'd get that fabled "and it hasn't even begun yet" reaction as mentioned above.

The third seems a bit formulaic, but it could be the stongest opening out of the bunch if done right.

But then again I don't know if you're going for a balls to the wall stylistic action flick, super slick, super cool, super bad kind of thing. If so, go with 3, if you're going for more of a thriller, maybe a comedic thriller then option 2. If you want to make a film that'd suck manball go with option 1. smile (just kidding about option 1 and the whole manball situation, but I really don't think it'd work or be any good.)

That's what I think.
Posted: Sun, 5th Dec 2004, 7:05pm

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Gibs

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Personally, I would go with number 2. As Two_Gunned saint mentioned, a scene of people dying at the very beginning has been used a lot. Not that it's really a bad thing to do it also, but I think it would start the movie off better if there is some emotional dialogue that starts building the story, and the mystery and intrigue of it.

If you do decide to go with number 3, be careful that you don't make the scene too action packed. If there is a big action scene at the very start, it's going to get people all riled up, and they might become bored if there is no more action for a while (after the credits, then some building up of the story). Also, try to convey a mysterious feeling from the deaths, as you would do with the dialogue in number 2.

I think either way could work effectively if you put some time and effort into composing the scene together. Have fun. smile
Posted: Sun, 5th Dec 2004, 7:25pm

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DigiSm89

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Why not do all 3? biggrin

1.) They start off talking about something irrelevant.."Was it the chicken or the egg?"

2.) Then they start talking about the plot. Opens the suitcase...stares at it.

3.) Coincidentally, one of the guys they're supposed to kill walks in the background. They shoot him.

4.) Then they go back to staring at the suitcase.

5.) Credits.

How's that? razz
Posted: Sun, 5th Dec 2004, 7:33pm

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TommyB

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Great feedback guys... Cheers.

How about Scene 2 is set POST Scene 3? for example, a few smashed bottles on the table, perhaps a few shotgun cartridges on the floor... maybe one of the characters has blood stained hands? I like the idea of subliminal exposition... something that isn't highlighted by dialogue, but is there for noticing.

I'm more of a fan of something well crafted and solid as an opener, but I like the idea of showing the buildup to (idea 2) later on in the film. If I end it with one character opening the case and looking in, the audience will want to know what's going on. This can be completely dropped while the following scenes explain the past, but can be reintegrated in to the film later...

Sometimes you don't need action to create a 'slick' or 'cool' effect
Skilfully written dialogue can be equally as pleasing... right? However, without action it's hard to keep the pace and momentem high.

I actually like Digism's point 3... Perhaps after they look in the case, a mangled guy steps up and they turn around and shoot him, then look back at the case.

So the final decision will be how to start after the opening credits. Do I enter another dialogue scene, or perhaps a confusing scene... or full on action? Whatever I chose, it has to be set 6 years in the past, before the two men have met... so perhaps their first meeting is a violent one?
Posted: Sun, 5th Dec 2004, 7:37pm

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DigiSm89

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TommyB wrote:

I actually like Digism's point 3...
Yay! cool

Perhaps the mangled guy was his tailor for whom the main character was complaining about earlier for not getting his measurements correct.

"You sir received your measurements from nature. It it the tailor's art to interpret them and move the buttons later! My humble respects, I shall leave my bill."

And that moment, they shoot him and then go back to looking at the case.



Erm, I'd do action, dialogue, and then confusing (the plot). First define the setting and the time period, cut to one of the awesome "OMG!!!" jobs that they had to carry out. Go into dialogue about their next case. Confusion. This case has to somehow tie or relate to the bigger case.

Last edited Sun, 5th Dec 2004, 7:47pm; edited 1 times in total.

Posted: Sun, 5th Dec 2004, 7:46pm

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Marek

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It seems like you're sort of going for a Tarantino type film, I'm guessing from your references to his films wink

In which case, I'd suggest start off with an intriguing exchange of dialogue, maybe start the body count there. Then credits, then start to slowly get into the plot after the credits, have it start off sort of slow after the credits and then build to a mini-climax where they meet and then drop back down and start the true rising action.

I don't know. I'm working on a somewhat Tarantino inspired film as well. And well, if Tarantino isn't what you're going for, it will still work wink
Posted: Sun, 5th Dec 2004, 7:59pm

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TommyB

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Well, I don't want to admit it... but we're trying to bring Pulp Fiction into 2005 biggrin I'm trying to capture Britain, through exploring something that, in reality, doesn't exist...

This is what I'm looking at so far...

1) Two characters are in a garage, as they open the case and stare in disbelief, an un-focused, mangled guy appears in the background. One of the men turns around and shoots him, and turns back to the case.

2) Opening Credits... Should I use energetic music? or damp music? I'm thinking of adding one of my friend's soft, guitar solos there...

3) The Past : Shows one of the men in his room, watching football or something. The picture is VERY distorted and 8mm-like. He gets a phonecall.

4) A very violent, energetic scene with lots of tension. It turns out to be a 'test' for the man. He has past.
Posted: Sun, 5th Dec 2004, 11:05pm

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Gibs

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TommyB wrote:

2) Opening Credits... Should I use energetic music? or damp music? I'm thinking of adding one of my friend's soft, guitar solos there...
Definitely go with damp, mellow, and possibly mysterious music. Especially if it's right after a cold-blooded killing. A guitar solo sounds good, or if you can't think of anything else, check out this thread for ideas.
Posted: Mon, 6th Dec 2004, 2:47am

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ben3308

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I think that you should do number two, and do it in an open, outdoorsy place with no trees. On a park bench. That way, if you set the exposure right, you can have an ominous looking white sky, and be free to do a multitude of angles without being constricted by walls. And I think you should have a conversion kind of about nothing at first- one of the people in the conversation should walk in, both people shouldn't already be there talking, it just makes more sense movie-wise. That way, you have basis for the spur of the arguement- one guy being late. Then, ease into the main plot content in the conversation, maybe even using some flashback shots(?) And then, close it all with a harmonic sound build up after the antagonist of the conversation says one really dramatic line. For an example of the last things I said, watch X3i by CX3 where the bald guy with the sunglasses talks to the spiky haired guy and, nearing the end of the conversation, he says, 'Weaving our way...' and there is this big musical buildup and then the screen goes blank. Its a really cool method of ending a scene. Then just cut to the opening titles. And maybe throw some dramatic/energetic music in there. Like the Spiderman main credits or the 'He's a Pirate' from the Pirates of the Caribbean soundtrack.
Posted: Mon, 6th Dec 2004, 11:00am

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Simon K Jones

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TommyB wrote:

We've had a look at a range of films, for example... Pulp Fiction opens with a chunk of rich dialogue, where as Kill Bill hints exposition of revenge.
A range of films...that are all Tarantino films? wink

Anyway, personally I wouldn't do any of those options. I'd start with the guy in the hole, taking his last breaths, so we see just how bad everything has gone. Once you've started with this nasty and desperate scene, then you can cut back to the normal 'start' of the story, showing these guys at the top of their game; clearly a massive contrast with the start.

Then it'd be about how they manage to mess things up. The journey is often far more interesting than the destination. And when you get to the point where it all goes wrong, the audience will suddenly realise that they're back at the start, which will raise the tension - especially if they've grown to like the characters.

That's what I'd do, but that might not be the film you want to make. smile
Posted: Mon, 6th Dec 2004, 5:20pm

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TommyB

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Lots of suggestions here...

Rethinking about what I said, although it's a good idea, I don't think a simple garage + what's in the suitcase? formula would build up the excitement too much. It's good, but not perfect...

I also like the park idea, it would indeed create a damp atmosphere, and perhaps It'd be more of a realistic meeting place for such characters. However, filming this would be tricky... I'd like my opening scene to be set in the evening, so It'd be difficult to somehow film in a park. I'll look into this though.

Tarn, I take it when you said 'in the hole' you were talking metaphorically? So you're saying I start with a scene that shows how much trouble he's in? Whenever I read this, I think of the beggining of Kill Bill... which can't be too good. If I did go down that route, I'd like an extremly simple scene that doesn't show who is shooting them, so that I can leave a possibility in the film that his partner is the one who kills him.

Final question, would I be better making obvious transitions in time (the film will run on a dual timeline - 1996 and 2005) or would I be better subtly switching between them?

Cheers,

(still open to further suggestions smile)
Posted: Mon, 6th Dec 2004, 5:27pm

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Simon K Jones

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Dunno, you're the one that mentioned a 'very deep hole', so whatever you meant by that. smile

And yes, you wouldn't want to show any details - just show the guy in the really bad situation. Then the rest of the film can be about how he ended up there, and the tension would come from a) when it's going to happen and b) who is going to do it to him.
Posted: Mon, 6th Dec 2004, 5:54pm

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TommyB

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The thing is the conversation in the garage is vital to the film's plot... as the whole thing is about one of them men trying to find out why they were fired (that's how he gets in a mess) Could I put this straight after such a scene, or after the opening credits?
Posted: Mon, 6th Dec 2004, 6:03pm

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Mellifluous

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Hey, have you actually started filming this movie? I suggest shooting a few different possible pre-credit sequences & see which one works best.

What you're talking about should be decided in the edit more than anywhere else.
Posted: Tue, 7th Dec 2004, 10:27pm

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jstow222

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On a side note: I love pre-credit openings. When I use them I try to make sure they do not tell any of the story. The events that occur in the opening happen as a a result of the story and leave the viewer with questions.
Posted: Wed, 8th Dec 2004, 10:41pm

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TommyB

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The biggest question I'm facing write now is...

1) Do I have a scene of Brett (the one the men) suffering, coughing up blood, crawling a long the floor, suffering - that sort of thing... and cut when he gets shot.

2) Do I have the conversation with the breifcase, leaving the audience thinking 'what the hell was in it'

OR do you think it'd be better to do a whole scene where Brett is doing something, say making a cup of tea, and suddenly he is shot?
Posted: Thu, 9th Dec 2004, 1:34am

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Marek

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I definately like option 1 better. The second one is too Pulp Fictiony. Although the first one bears a striking resemblance to Kill Bill but not as close I think.

I like the way it sounds so far. Even though we've only read about glimpses of the story, still seems like it has potential smile
Posted: Thu, 9th Dec 2004, 5:47pm

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Maetrix66

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EXT. ALLEYWAY. NIGHT

From the roof of a large building, two shadows slowly move into view from the bright light of the intersecting street. One of the men slows up, before doubling over and vomiting behind a dumpster

Man2
God, that's disgusting.

Man1
Forget it, I'm fine. Let's do this.

Man2
Hey, I'm not happy about it either,
I wish he'd find someone else to do this sh*t.

Man1
Just be glad that he usually does.

Man 1 spits into the dumpster to clean out his mouth, and pulls a PISTOL from his waistband.

Man1
Let's just get this over with.

CUT TO

INT. VIP CARD ROOM. NIGHT

A round table is populated by approximately 10 of the sleaziest motherf*ckers you would ever want to avoid. A young girl, obviously down on her luck and certainly out of place in this room, quietly and nervously carries a tray of drinks from a nearby counter to the table. A large man with a fedora, cigar and fistful of cards slaps her behind, knocking a glass over and spilling thealcohol on her shirt. She drops her head even lower and continues on.

BANG

The back door crashes to the floor, followed by gunshots fast and heavy. Three of the cardplayers are wasted before they get a chance to drop their cards. Four more struggling to get their guns from their jackets.

The fat man in the fedora gets off a lucky shot, grazing Man1's shoulder, but slips on the drink spilled on the floor while getting up and is shot in the back before he can turn to squeeze off another round.

Three more scamper for the door, before tripping over various bodies and furniture.

Man 1 walks around the table and methodically plugs each one.

The room, now full of gunsmoke and suddenly more likeable sleazeballs, becomes quiet. Man 2 looks over at Man 1, who is inspecting his shoulder wound.

Man 2
Is that all of them?

Man 1
No, theres one more, did you see where he went??

Man 2
Nobody made it to a door, so he's still gotta be in here somewhere.

The two begin to count the bodies, when halfway through one of them twitches and grabs for a nearby gun.

Man 2 is caught totally unprepared, and struggles to pull his gun.

Man 1 fires two more rounds, and the body becomes a dead body once again.

Man 2
Okay, twelve, that's all of them.

He steps behind the bar, opening the cabinets and digging through them, before pulling a jug of AMMONIA and carrying it out with him.

MAN 2
let's go.

They step into the alley, and MAN 1 stops his partner.

What's the Pine Sol for?

MAN 2 opens the cap, and pours the entire bottle over the spot where the other had vomited a few minutes earlier.

MAN 2
DNA.

MAN 1
DNA?

MAN 2
Yeah, I saw this on CSI.

MAN 1 shakes his head.

MAN 1
You watch too much TV.

MAN 2
Do you want the cops after you?

MAN 1 shakes his head no.

MAN 2
Alright then. This job is our last one, now we're free. And I'll be damned if I am gonna spend the next 40 years of my life looking over my shoulder.

MAN 1
Fine, sorry. But you think a bottle of Pine Sol is gonna help you sleep at night?

MAN 2
Nah, but in this line of work, it's all about minimizing risk.

MAN 1 smirks at his friend as they round the corner and hop into their beat up 85 Olds Cutlass.

MAN 2 (contd)
I know how you feel, I don't like these jobs either. I wish our last job could have been another pickup or delivery, but you know, the boss has his methods.

MAN 1
Yeah, I suppose he does.

A uncomfortable pause as a siren is heard in the distance, but the two relax as it fades.

MAN 2
OF course, we could have been paid a little better....

MAN 1
Yeah, I wonder if we'll ever know how much money has passed through our hands in briefcases or packages?

______________________________

And it could go on from there......

But you get the idea. You could even have the briefcase be in the back seat, with them getting a call from their boss on their cell telling them that it is in the backseat and needs to get delivered as the TRUE last job, and have them decide to open that. The are plenty of ways to do this, but I think the best way to accomplish what you are after is a combination of 2 and 3.

Good Luck
Chris
Posted: Thu, 9th Dec 2004, 10:45pm

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TommyB

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You have a great imagination... I really did get a good scene in my head, but realistically I don't have the resources to pull it off exactly like that, but you have inspired me!

EDIT : Read below biggrin

Last edited Thu, 9th Dec 2004, 11:00pm; edited 1 times in total.

Posted: Thu, 9th Dec 2004, 10:58pm

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TommyB

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1.The ‘One Touch’ Studios logo, graded in sepia and distorted in 8mm emulation.

2.There is a blank screen, and a sound of breathing before the film cuts in. The film is distorted, in black and white, and appears to be filmed in 16mm. It is off Bret, one of the two modern-gangsters, crawling along the floor. The scene is revolting, for example… there’s blood, bullets and broken bottles everywhere. Brett is truly mangled. In the background there is the sound of a reeling revolver. There is a moment of silence, and a bang. The camera shows for no more than a split second Brett’s back exploding.

3.Almost immediately after scene 2, with NO PAUSE, this scene begins, this time in full color with no added distortion in post. After some introductory dialogue the two characters enter an old, abandoned garage. They kill off the people in there, after a short fight. Brett turns over to the suitcase, and notices a note on the desk saying ‘twelve squares… added together to form one big square. The code is that square.’ He thinks and starts playing with the case whilst the other man receives a phone call. As Brett cracks the suitcase, his partner turns around and yells, ‘don’t open the case!’ – as he has been told something on the phone, but it’s too late… and as Brett lifts the lid, there is a white flash (not a corny one a really abstract, freaky thing) and a blank screen.

4.The intro credits, accompanied by either a mellow guitar solo by my friend, or another delicate, damp piece of music.


So, from this the audience learns,

1)They are obviously working for someone, and acting as hit men.
2)The contents of the case are something vital to the plot.
3)Brett dies… but it isn’t clear if this happens in the future, or if it happened (and he survived?) Although the distortion implies it’s the past, although it could very well be the future!

The audiences doesn’t know

1)What’s in the case?
2)What happened when Brett opened the case?
3)Why Brett was killed at the beginning
4)Who they work for?
5)The main plot.


So… the big question!

Would you guys find that an interesting, entertaining, perhaps original opening… or Hollywood formulaic bulls**t? smile

Any suggestions? The scenes that follow immediately are about the past, and how the two met… but you don’t have to worry about that! Cheers!
Posted: Fri, 10th Dec 2004, 12:52pm

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Maetrix66

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I'm just gonna give my opinion, so if you think it's wrong, the post above this is mine, with my opening, go ahead and pick it apart, LOL

The first thing that came to mind is that the opening is too Tarantino. Eventually this opening will be able to be used without being compared to Kill Bill, but with this film containing some similar plot elements (ex-hitmen dealing with old bosses, etc.) I would think that you would want to try to establish this film on it's own from the get go.

The second thing is, and maybe this is just a personal preference, that showing one of the lead characters death in the opening scene as a flashback tends to keep the audience from getting too attached to them, which keeps them from getting an attachment to the character. I mean, death is the ultimate finale, and once you know that someone is going to die, in the first five minutes, then the rest of the movie matters less, since they are going to die anyways. At least if you allude to it, but don't actually show it, then there is doubt, and still suspense. Basically, all I am trying to say is that with this type of character, you want the audience to care about them, to believe that deep down they have redeeming qualities, and people don't want to get attached to someone when they already know that they die, and how and when.

Of course, the exception to this is when there is the ability to change this fate, giving the knowledge a whole new weight and urgency.

The ideas are good, don't get me wrong, I just think that for this film, as much as I understand it, the suspense of the finish is a card you want to hang onto as long as possible.
Posted: Fri, 10th Dec 2004, 6:59pm

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TommyB

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I'm just gonna give my opinion, so if you think it's wrong, the post above this is mine, with my opening, go ahead and pick it apart, LOL
Sorry for being dumb, but are you refering to my post? or yours?

So, what would you actually advise I do... something very similar to what you suggested?

I like a beggining to a film that leaves an image-scar in your mind, something you can rememeber...

I like your idea, but I don't have the actors to pull of the scene as you suggested. So, would it be cooler if the camera was focused in on a bottle of beer... someone picks it up, puts it down... and suddenly it explodes, the camera switches to reveal the two men in a blanket of smoke.[/quote]
Posted: Fri, 10th Dec 2004, 7:58pm

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Maetrix66

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Yeah, sorry. What I meant was that if you didn't like my criticism of the opening that I offered up, I had typed up a short intro as well that had plenty of holes too. It was meant as a joke, sorry.

As far as the opening goes, that's the beauty of writing for a short film with limited resources, if you have to, you can tweak the script so that it still tells the story you want. You can change the number of people in the room, change the setting to make it work with a smaller cast, etc.

If you want, PM me a little more of the script, along with what you are working with for resources (locations, cast, budget), and I could give you a hand writing an awesome opening. What i wrote above was just done in 5 minutes to give you an idea. I agree with what you said about an image-scar, you want the horrors these guys have seen and participated in to linger with you so that you can understand where they are coming from.
Posted: Fri, 10th Dec 2004, 8:47pm

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TommyB

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Hi,

I've contacted you via PM...

It'd be great if we could talk either on msn messenger or on a private channel in the chat room.

Get back to me,

Cheers
Posted: Thu, 16th Dec 2004, 7:16am

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nanafanboy

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I would throw the audience completely off if I were you. Set it up with something really mundane like your card game idea. Let the audience get to know the characters playing then game. Let the audience think they are the main characters. take time writing their dialogue so the audience either loves or hates these guys. Then have your real main characters bust in and gun them down after a good 2 minutes or so. ( they should probably pick up a briefcase or an envelope or something) and walk out. accent the scene with a body falling off a stool after a couple of seconds or something then roll your credits with some cool music. ( it would also be cool if this was done all in one shot.) Well that's my suggestion. Can't wait to see the movie.