Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Webshow - "I hate flash-forward openings!"

The puppet is back again, this time ranting about one of those thing that I almost always hate to see in the early pages of a script.


  1. Wait... that's a puppet?

    Thanks Bitter - for confirming what I already knew: I've been getting super annoyed at the prevalence of flash-forward openings in film and TV lately, then caught myself trying to do it on my last script :(

  2. I agree that it's overused (and have been guilty myself), but I think it can be an effective device if the flash forward opening gives us an assumption, that the story unravels or overturns so that when we arrive back at the scene we've already seen, we realise that the opposite of what we thought was happening is in fact the case. So, not only does it not really give anything away, but is actually part of the storytelling process by deliberately misleading the audience (maybe who we assumed to be the bad guy in that flash opening turns out to be the hero, and a theme of the movie is that appearances can be deceptive or something), rather than just a gimmick to give a screenplay a more exciting opening.

  3. I started a script (with a flash-forward opening) last night. I'm going to take this as a sign and reconsider if it's really the best way to begin the story. Here's what Scott Meyers has to say about it:

    * Am I using a flashforward or flashback to convey important information or just to be cute?

    * Does my flashforward or flashback immediately pull the reader into the story?

    * Does my flashforward or flashback create a mystery / important questions which immediately grip the reader’s imagination?

    Bottom line: Is beginning my script with a flashforward or flashback the most effective way to start the story?

    If your answers to these questions is a resounding ‘yes’ on all fronts, then my advice is to say to hell with what you think script readers may like or not like. Your goal is to write the most entertaining story possible. Period. Just make sure if you use a flashforward or flashback, write it in such a way that it really works.

  4. Used very effectively in the The Debt with Hellen Mirren.

  5. very good points! never thought about it that way.

  6. What worries me is the distinction between what a script reader hates -- and what an audience wants. Someone once said that a script should not be re-written just to satisfy one reader.
    If a reader is reading for a producer, does that producer also hate flash forward openings? Does he care? The assumption may be that he wouldn't be asking for the reader's opinion if he didn't want it. (Even though the producer is free to ignore those parts of the opinion that he doesn't agree with.) At any rate, readers and assistants are the gate keepers. Their job is to second guess what the producer wants. And they will tell you with great confidence that they know what their producer is looking for. (Even though I have had the opposite experience.)

    Have readers read so many bad scripts that they've become bitter? :)

    The answer, in any case -- write scripts that are so compelling, they can't be ignored.

  7. I always find it siggghhhh inducing when an exciting scene abruptly shifts back a day or week and you mostly know how it's going to end up.

    Exception: Mission Impossible 3 did it superbly...

    Instead of setting up a common flash forward viewer question like "How did they all get there?", MI3 sets up a situation so intense and conclusive that it drove me as a viewer to want to find out what happened.

    However, I much prefer openings like Scream or Minority Report that build tension slower and pump out thrills, whilst teeing-up the rest of the story, to the smash-in-the-face flash forwards.

  8. I haven't done this yet but the movie Running Scared did this technique very well.

    I did consider it for one project a long time ago but since abandoned opening a movie like this. What I did instead for one script was very unconventional but was told it worked well: open with the beginning, then flash-forward to a point in the movie where the conflict is presented, replay the beginning once more...but this time it's more complete, revealing certain important segments were taken out in the original beginning which present how the protagonist got into his predicament. When the flash-forward scene is played out, its revealed it the mid-point of the movie and the rest of the film goes on without the protagonist nor the audience knowing what the climax will be.

    It sounds complicated but in the scheme of the story, it makes alot of sense to go this route. The main theme is "everything is not what it seems", what seems ordinary is actually a facade. And its happening in a real world scenario, nothing like "it's all a dream or simulated." Plus I don't want to give away the climax so early.

    The main problem with the script is that it doesn't have a satisfying conclusion. It feels like a "To Be Continued". I'd like to leave it on an open note but the main conflict isn't resolved despite numerous stabs at it. Thankfully, I came up with the solution: which this needed was a main menacing antagonist. The antagonist in this script is more like a rival than anything. Plus the main conflict is too big to stop, so i'm making it more compact and contained. It's one of those "evil organization" things, but instead of a national level i'm going to make it on a community level. I'd like to keep it open for a potential sequel though, so I can convincingly reveal that the organization is in fact national but they were led to believe it was smaller than that. But this fact is completely absent in the first movie.

  9. I learned to hate this trick from reading comic books. You can tell within two pages that the writer was rushed or didn't think things through.

  10. I think it's necessary if you need to warn your reader or audience that the beginning of the story is a loooooong way from where it ends. "Alias" was unnecessarily addicted to it -- duh, of course she's gonna end up in trouble, she's a spy. But "Breaking Bad" HAD to have a flashforward at the start of the pilot or people would have rebelled at the shift in story material when Walt starts cooking meth.