Written By:

How to Start a Film: Story Writing Tips

The first few minutes (or seconds for short-films) are absolutely vital for any story. Learning how to start a film (or movie) is all about coming up with the opening sequence that will grab the audience’s attention and hook them in such a way that they can’t wait to see what comes next. This is your chance to set the tone, establish the storyline, and draw your audience in. If you don’t get it right, your audience may not stick around and if they do, they won’t know what the film is actually about or what the filmmaker is trying to achieve. 


Planning out the opening sequence is just as important for a film as it is for a short, 30 second video advertisement – you’ve just got a little bit more time to hook the audience with a movie than you will with a commercial, but the concept is the same nonetheless. You’ve got to establish the important elements of the story, you’ve got to engage the audience, and you’ve got to do it all in minimal time. 

What Constitutes a Good Story?

Learning how to start a film is really all about learning how to write and show a great story. Remember, filmmaking is more about showing, than it is about telling!

You’ve got a few minutes to effectively communicate the characters, location, setting, time, and other important elements of the story to your audience. So what goes into a good story? 

Every great story has an important theme that the audience can relate or resonate with in some manner (even fiction!). A great story also includes a plot, typically with a conflict or some kind of tension that the main character struggles with.

The structure of a great story starts with a great beginning, that draws the viewer in and then immediately jumps into the plot. Characters are important as is the setting, style, and tone. 

Does a Film Always Begin with the Beginning of the Story?

Absolutely… NOT!

Sure, the most obvious place to begin a film is at the beginning of the story, but it’s not the ONLY place or way that you can start.  In fact, many great films begin at the end, and then work their way back to tell the story, like a reflection of the past.

Think of Titanic! Of course, the beginning is the beginning, but it’s not the beginning of the real story. It is in fact the beginning of a story being told, but the meat of the film takes place nearly 100 years earlier.

How Else Can You Start a Film?

story question mark

Learning how to start a film is all about learning how to tell a story that will captivate the audience and keep them engaged. Sometimes that means starting at the end, and working back.

Other times that may mean starting in the middle of the events, and allowing the rest of the characters and meat of the events that take place to intertwine with one another.

It certainly keeps things interesting and is the frequent choice for films that feature superheroes and for many dramas.

Many films start with an introduction and overplay of the characters. When and how a film starts, or where it starts, is really all about how the story comes together best, and it sometimes changes based on the editing when the screenplay is in the final stages of production or post-production actually.

Sometimes it just makes more sense to choose other methods or manners of telling the story. 

So, learning how to start a film means you need to focus on learning how to tell a story that your audience will engage with. Think closely about what you can do to capture their interest – that’s where and how to start a film!