We watched an old BBC Television production recently about the “Art of opening a film”, many famous and respected directors and other people involved in the film industry were asked on their views about how to start a film, and the components needed or preferred by them. It was evidently a matter of opinion, and after watching a couple of openings to films and having seen many different ones in my lifetime I know that there are indeed many ways to open a film or television production, they are suited to the content or mood of the production and make sense depending on the show or film that follows.
A characteristic of most big films we see in the cinema is the title at the start of the film, even TV shows have this same characteristic to show when a new show has started on the TV which is different from the show on previously before it. However in films, before the title is shown, the certificate of the film is shown for a short while, and that has come to be the accepted point where the “film has now started” and everybody in the cinema starts to become quiet and gets ready to watch the film. Next is usually either the title, opening credits or an establishing scene which later cuts into a title and then back to the start of the actual film. In many modern day films the titles or opening credits are an essential part of the film. Orson Welles said in the BBC production we watched about openings that in a film he directed there was a battle with the production studio and himself for a creative decision to have his own choice of music over the production house’s logo ident at the start so it blends nicely into the start of the film and to not have any credits in the immediate opening of the film because it would ruin the atmosphere at an existential part of the film. However he lost the battle and the production house “ruined the film” in his opinion.
Different ways to start a film include:
- Establishing shots and landscape shots to set the scene and mood of the film.
- Starting at the end, then coming back to the beginning and showing how the action played out.
- Opening credits or no opening credits.
- Fading in from black.
- Graphic sequence for instance 007 intro.
- Theme tune and sequence.
- High octane action sequence.
- Slow start, setting the tone.
- Chuck the audience in at the deep end.
The opening of a film is “magic for a director” said Ridley Scott because the audience usually comes into the cinema expecting to see a good film so their mood is good and are relieved the adverts have finished - in my opinion. The audience usually doesn’t judge the film yet, they are just looking forward to a good film, and it’s a great time to set the tone or mood of the film. If its a slow film start slow and get people ready to sit down and concentrate, if it’s a high octane action thriller you may want to chuck the audience in at the deep end and explain later!