Friday, November 14, 2008

Opening Title Sequences:

All too often I see indie filmmakers miss opportunities to make their movies better, more cohesive, more entertaining stories. That is, their films are riddled with dull camera work, flat lighting, dull action, padded scenes, and of course simple white on black opening title sequences.


I've spoken briefly about titles before, but I want to remind everyone reading that if you want to be a "pulp" filmmaker then you must, absolutely MUST take every opportunity to add to your story without adding to your budget. You can do that very effectively with your opening title sequence.

For example:

(click here to watch the title sequence)

Opening title sequences can be designed using still or video images that can be manipulated in all sorts of ways (Photoshop, After Effects, etc) and can add another level of story (background, tone, design) to your movie.

This saves you a lot of time in having to "set up" your story and get it moving along.

For example, in my script WOLFSBANE I set up a whole 30 days from one event to another in the opening title sequence:

A couple is attacked by a werewolf (the opening scene of the movie)...

[Begin titles]

The wife survives but the police think she actually murdered her husband (Booking photos, fingerprints taken, court date set) because she sticks to her story that a "monster did it and she hasn't any bite marks on her as evidence (though she swears she was bitten). She is committed to a mental hospital for observation pending trial, given drugs, and wastes away in a padded cell...

[end titles]

Cut to: It is 30+ days later and a new Full Moon rises in the night sky over the hospital.

All done in a style similar to this:

Thing is, your titles don't have to be this elaborate, but you do have to take every opportunity to tell your story more effectively. This establishes that your movie is going to be funny, or brutal, or fast, or colorful, or whatever. Why oh why would you want to turn your back on that and do lazy white on black titles?

(Maybe I just answered my own question)

Pulp filmmaking isn't about being cheap, it's about being the most effective without wasting money or time (which always equals money in this business).

Just as your key art can add a layer of story to your project so do your opening titles. Use this opportunity to get the most bang for your buck.

Now go read: Art of the Title.

1 comment:

Andrew Bellware said...

Doing something interesting with the front-title sequence also means you get to the point of the movie quick.

I remember being in the theater watching The Fugitive and there was actual applause by the audience when the "directed by" credit came up -- because the crime was done, the trial was over, Dr. Kimball was on the bus with a bunch of badass criminals, and we all knew we didn't have to sit through the long boring setup we've all seen before and we could get right to the cool part where Harrison Ford escapes. The front titles played over that boring montage for us. Brilliant!

I've given up on front-title sequences for the most part in order to try to get right into the story. The DGA, interestingly, frowns upon rear-title sequences (isn't that why George Lucas quit? I don't have to worry 'cause I'm not going DGA anytime soon.) But I love rear title. I think those are the pulpiest of all! ;-)