Experts across the writing spectrum tend to agree that if you can write a great introduction, you’ve accomplished one of the most challenging parts of a script. Usually, that introduction or early setting stage of a script is found in the first ten pages, making it such an imperative section of the script.
Of course, an entire script needs to be written well to possibly even see the light of day. Still, it being a compelling and great story needs to mainly stick out in the first ten pages. So, why do the first ten pages matter so much, and what should you keep in mind with the matter? Let’s take a look!
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10 Pages = 10 Minutes
When discussing page counts and scripts, it’s essential to know that a page should represent roughly a minute of screen time. Of course, this isn’t always the case; it’s just a general rule to keep in mind. Nevertheless, when people think of a film they enjoy, it typically grabs them immediately.
There are some longer-oriented films such as a Tarantino or Tarkovsky flick that go past the usual ten pages to entice the audience. Still, even then, the great minds of iconic directors are mindful that a story needs to have something compelling or exciting early on; otherwise, no one will care.
People Have Short Attention Spans
The primary reason the first ten minutes of a film or television series are so vital is because of people’s attention spans. There’s a reason so many people complain about older films feeling and being slower pace-wise. Although there are undoubtedly endless great films from the past, many of these films got away with being slower since people were typically more attentive back then.
Nowadays, we have endless technological innovations around us ranging from streaming to YouTube to our phones, etc. In order for a film or television series to make us sit down and actually watch it, it needs to be enticing early on. Now, this isn’t always the case since there are plenty of film buffs who don’t mind watching a film that drags. This is just a notion regarding general audiences.
Hooking the Reader
The first ten pages are all about hooking the reader. Going back to what a general audience is and their attention span, they want to be pulled into the film for whatever reason. Whether it’s a story they’re familiar with or just a genre they enjoy, all of it revolves around the hook.
Hooking the reader can be a challenge since many think of it as intense conflict. Although conflict is ideal in virtually every script scene, it doesn’t need to be a crazy introduction to keep people interested. It just needs to have enough of the world, its characters, the genre, and a theme to keep people along.
Many argue that it’s a script sin if a script doesn’t introduce its main character within the first ten pages. Some may go as far as to say the main character should be introduced on the first page. There is some exception to this rule, but it’s most ideal for introducing characters early on.
For example, if you’re writing a family drama, you better think of a great scene that introduces all family members’ personalities and interests. Think of a show like Shameless and how they manage to pull it off. It doesn’t need to be an exact replica, but always introduce characters early.
Introducing the World
Similar to displaying your characters early in the script, it’s equally important to introduce the world. The world can be anything from the neighborhood the story is set in, the living space where your characters live, their work, etc. Do what you can to show off where your story takes place.
People enjoy the aesthetic of a good script, most of which is based around the world it’s set in. Whether it’s the house in Monster House (2006) or the Sandlot in The Sandlot (1993), all of it is important. Even if your story only takes place in one room, that room should be described early on.
Establishing the Genre
No matter how broad someone’s particular taste in film is, films vary significantly with their genres. Establishing the genre is critical for the first ten pages, allowing viewers to know what they’re getting into. Although some films change tonally, people tend to know what they’re getting into early on with films and television series.
Teasing the Theme
Similar to establishing the genre, the first ten pages of a script should tease its theme. The theme can represent many points of a film but typically revolve around the film’s point. It doesn’t need to be significantly described early on but rather hinted at so people can get a sense of what it means.