A while back I wrote a post about Point Of Entry. I got pinned down by classic movies with famous first scenes. Today, I want to add to that subject with some other great movies that nailed their openings. Remember what we talked about last time concerning point of entry:
Point Of Entry is a tricky one. Robert McKee, one of the original Script Gods, in his book Story, wrote about inclusion and exclusion. One of the most important skills a screenwriter will ever need is knowing what stays, and what goes.
So where do you start your script? Any rules that can help guide you?
Couple things. Events should be interconnected, not random. It’s not A happens, then B happens, then C happens. More likely, it’s A happens, therefore B happens, which in turn causes C to occur. Causality. We want the Point Of Entry to set off the chain of events that will become the movie.
I look for four things to be established in the first pages:
- The world
- The tone
- The key characters
- Beginnings of conflict
So, let’s look at the opening of The Mummy…
With period-piece epics, sci-fi or action flicks, I’m a sucker for information, right at the top. That’s what we get here. This opening satisfies the criteria for causality. If the Pharaoh doesn’t catch that smear of paint on her shoulder he never discovers these two fooling around and there’s no Mummy or Mummy movie. Of course there’s also no way you’re opening an action without some major visuals at top, and this movie has it in spades. This roles on for five pages so I’ll give you just the end of the opening sequence, setting up the world-tone-title character and conflict:
INT. EMBALMER’S CHAMBER (necropolis re-vamp) – NIGHT
Inside a TORCH-LIT CHAMBER, Imhotep is held by Anubis-headed
EMBALMERS. He cringes at the flickering, impressionistic
glimpses of his Priests being embalmed and mummified alive.
The horrid-looking Embalmers, using knives, needles and
thread, calmly perform their ghastly surgery on the SCREAMING
Priests, who are going insane from the procedure.
A red hot POKER is pulled out of a pit of burning coals. A
Priest’s head is wedged between two strong boards. His eyes
widen in terror as an Embalmer moves to insert the red hot
poker up his nose.
All twenty-one of Imhotep’s Priests squirm inside their
wrappings. Imhotep is forced to his knees. His arms are held
back. His mouth is pried open.
I was condemned to endure the HOM-DAI. The worst of
all ancient curses. One so horrible, it had never before been
Using a pair of tongs, an Embalmer slowly pulls Imhotep’s
TONGUE out of his mouth, then places a very sharp knife on
top of it. WE-GO TIGHT on IMHOTEP’S EYES as his tongue is
apparently cut out.
The Embalmer flings Imhotep’s tongue onto the floor. The
Mumia’s dogs attack and quickly eat it. Imhotep is WRAPPED.
Only his mouth, nostrils and fear-filled eyes are left free
of the slimy bandages. Detritus muck boils inside a black
cauldron. Embalmers scoop out the fetid muck and apply it to
Imhotep’s wrappings as he squirms.
He’s then laid in a wooden COFFIN inside a stone SARCOPHAGUS.
An Embalmer with a BUCKET steps up and looks into the coffin.
Imhotep’s wild eyes stare back. The Embalmer empties the
bucket over Imhotep’s chest: dozens of SCARABS, disgusting
dung beetles. They scurry across Imhotep’s SCREAMING face.
Some vanish into his tongue-less mouth and up his nostrils.
By eating the sacred scarabs, I
would be cursed to stay alive
forever. And by eating me, they
were cursed just the same.
The lid to the coffin is SLAMMED SHUT. Then, using a strange
four-sided KEY, the Head Mumia locks the coffin lid tight.
The heavy sarcophagus lid is shoved into place and with a
loud WHOOSH seals itself airtight. Once again, the Head Mumia
uses the strange key, locking the sarcophagus lid tight.
I was to remain sealed inside my
sarcophagus, the undead for all of
The blue-skinned, strangely tattooed man carefully collapses
the sides of the key, –turning it into a little puzzle BOX.
I would arise a walking disease, a plague upon
mankind, an unholy flesh-eater, with the strength of ages, power
over the sands, and the glory of invincibility.
Imhotep’s sarcophagus is dropped into a DETRITUS PIT. The
disgusting muck SPLASHES up, drools down it’s sides, and then
is mysteriously sucked into it’s seams, vanishing clean.
And if I could raise my beloved
Anck-su-namun from her place in
hell, together, we would be an
unstoppable infection upon this
world. The Apocalypse. The End.
Imhotep’s horrifying tongue-less SCREAMS can be heard coming
from inside his sarcophagus as grave diggers shovel dirt onto
THE MAIN TITLE IS SUPERIMPOSED ON THE SCREAM: THE MUMMY.
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