Screenwriting 101: Grabbing Reader’s Attention

It’s always important for a movie to open with a scene that grips its audience, pulling them into its celluloid world for the rest of its runtime.

Although not meant for general consumption, screenplays need to do the same job to whomever is reading them. A junior executive wading through dozens of scripts, hoping to find the next big blockbuster, doesn’t have time to plow through all 100-plus pages of every script in their slush piles. A screenwriter has maybe ten pages at most to grab the attention of a reader who may hold the script’s fate in their hands.

Perhaps the best example of this that I’ve come across in a while is script for the opening scene of writer/director Robert Rodriguez’s segment of Grindhouse, a zombie thriller called Planet Terror. (Yes, what a surprise. We’re talking about Grindhouse. Again.) In just a few sentences, Rodriguez sketches out his protagonist Cherry, giving us some tantalizing information about her that will be explored through the film. And than he hits us with that last sentence, almost daring us not to continue reading.


Over titles, we are close on a pair of red go-go boots as the woman wearing them strides confidently onto the well worn stage.

This is CHERRY, a go-go dancer. She’s too good at what she does, meaning she should think about doing something else.

Oddly, tears run down her face through her dance.

Side Note: The next time Cherry does this dance, people will die.

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About Rich Drees 7192 Articles
A film fan since he first saw that Rebel Blockade Runner fleeing the massive Imperial Star Destroyer at the tender age of 8 and a veteran freelance journalist with twenty-five years experience writing about film and pop culture. He is a member of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle.
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