“BBC writersroom employs professional readers to assess all scripts. They sift scripts by reading at least the first ten pages.”
One shot, ten pages. That is all you have to make an impact. The majority of spec scripts are never produced. They use it as means to assess your style and ability. How do you make someone believe within the first ten pages?
Now of course there is the timeless and ever popular method of starting at your climatic end in scene 1, and then opposing your characters dynamics dramatically in the second scene set only a short time before. Personally I would hate to give away so much so early, It does create mystery and instantly draws you to the narrative but leaves you without the suspense you crave for the finale, as all roads lead to an inevitable path.
My search has led me to as far back and obvious an answer as Shakespeare. The enigmatic opening to Shakespeare’s Hamlet has always stuck with me. It simply reads:
These two words spoken on a blacked out stage with fear and curiosity open up a thousand scenarios. They provide the mystery, suspense and drama. Most importantly, they captivate. This short an effective line almost magically sets up the theme for the entire story yet at the same time contradicts itself; as an outward expression of what will become an inward journey.
I have been looking at the themes of my screenplay; racism, suffering and class difference. On pondering ‘the Hamlet enigma’ I have opened my story with a single line over black. This line could be said by either my protagonist or antagonist and draws different meaning when said by either. Hopefully this will be the hook that sinks into the mouth.
Once again, thank you Shakespeare.