I thought it would be cool to share the first lines of dialogue from all the screenplays that I have written so far. The absolute first lines of any screenplay are almost always set up lines of narrative – not always the most exciting lines to read. What follows are almost always the first line of dialogue. There have been many famous first lines of dialogue in film. Mine are not nearly iconic, but they are original and they lead the reader (audience) onward.
“Andy! I’m not telling you again…!” From ‘My Mother Wants to Meet Anne Murray’: Andy’s mother is about to barge into his bedroom to wake him up for his job singing at an old folks home. What awaits her is a shock.
“Rebecca, slow down. What’s the hurry?” From ‘Final Decree’: Rebecca’s mother urges her to eat more slowly as Rebecca scarfs down her dinner – rushing to go star gazing with her friend Bobby. A short time later Rebecca discovers a new planet.
“Damn it!” From ‘Lost Together’: Waking up from a drunken stupor, Will realizes his car is stuck in the mud on the side of the road. As he leans over the trunk, he sees bloody hand prints on the car. He opens the trunk and sees a dead body.
“Maaaaxxxxx… You killed me Max!” From ‘Why Won’t You Die Miss Tutley?’: In an opening dream sequence, Max is chased and terrorized by his teacher Miss Tutley through a cemetery.
“Shut up you stupid dog!” From ‘Postal’: A mailman is having a bad day on the job. After discovering his wife is having an affair with his best friend, his son is an internet porn star, his step-daughter is his son’s manager, his physiotherapist is running an escort agency and his union is a cult – he has a run in with his wacky customers and a dog.
“Let go you stupid boy!” From ‘Sally Turple’s Revenge’: Racing out of a Hollywood Hills mansion, a teen and an ex-con wrestle for a gun. A woman dressed in an evening gown bashes the ex-con over the head with a People’s Choice Award.
“Terry! Come back here!” From ‘The Seventh Saint’: A woman walking her dog near a pond calls after her dog as he bolts from her to investigate what turns out to be a body in the pond.
“Max! Max, where are you going?! Come back here!” From ‘Stanley’: Similar to the opening of ‘The Seventh Saint’, a dog leads a woman to a fatal discovery.
"Geez Teddy, slow down. I’m wearin' out my dishcloth here. Poor little dishcloth." From 'Bob's Burgers - Manic Mailman Monday': Linda Belcher wipes the counter of Teddy's bits of food as he wolfs down a burger.
"So hot... Marge, bring me a beer!" From 'The Simpsons - I Doodly, Doodly, Doodly, Doodly Do': Homer, in a hammock, yells at Marge to bring him a beer.
It was amusing to see the similarities in all of the first lines of dialogue from all the screenplays I have written. They all have a sense of urgency and it’s very clear that there is some action going on. That’s a good thing. Somebody or something is causing some action to occur – pushing the story forward. There is nothing static about the dialogue. It is begging for something to happen. I like to start my screenplays in the middle of some kind of action or a situation. That way, the reader (and the audience) is right in the middle of it and their attention is grabbed and held. Even dramas, which are very hard to begin with action, can benefit from this type of setting.
When I started screenwriting, dialogue was the hardest part for me to master. Dialogue in my very first draft of my first screenplay was horrible. After writing several dozen drafts of various screenplays in my portfolio, I now feel very comfortable with it and it comes almost as natural as plot, story and characterization – which I was always very good at to begin with.
COMPLETED FEATURE SCREENPLAY: A shy, celebrity-obsessed teen tries to overcome bullies at school, her overbearing mother and the realization that her favourite actress is a shallow, self-centered, ego maniac.
GENRE: Dark Comedy
COMMENTS: The inspiration for this comedy comes from all the people who are obsessed with celebrities. I wondered what would happen if one of them suddenly snapped over something trivial. This is the result. *This was previously titled 'Sally Turple's Revenge'.*
COMPLETED FEATURE SCREENPLAY: A bullied teen exacts revenge on his tormentors.
COMMENTS: I had wanted to write a horror script for a long time – it was on my list of things to do to put into my portfolio. This was originally titled ‘Gary’, but I changed the title because it sounded too much like ‘Carrie’. Although there is some gore, I tried very hard to replace it with suspense in tribute to one of my heroes, Alfred Hitchcock.
COMPLETED SHORT SCREENPLAY: A terminally ill woman and her suicidal grandson make a pact.
COMMENTS: This is the first short screenplay that I’ve ever written and it was a surprise. I had written the short story first about 4 years ago, then just put it away. One weekend I took it out and thought it would work as a short script. It did and I finished it in 2 days with great results.
COMPLETED SPEC TV TELEPLAY: When Mike the mailman doesn't show up, the Belchers set out to find him.
GENRE: TV Comedy
COMMENTS: This script was written specifically for the Nickelodeon Fellowship. It worked out really well. I knew it had a shot when I had a fan of the show read it and it was "excellent".
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