Beginning With a Flashback – Movie Screenplay Mistakes


Starting your movie screenplay with a flashback is an option, but it is rarely if ever best for the opening scene. It just doesn’t make sense when looked at critically, particularly in opening scene. You can’t have a flashback to a storyline if you haven’t established a present situation or circumstance in your script.

For a flashback to be more realistic, there has to be an already established circumstance from which you are flashing back. Prologues merely point to information that explains situations that are yet to come. It provides a preemptive reason for their occurrence. The act of starting a script with a flashback, however, appears even more unattractive when read or viewed. Industry readers and audiences want to be thrust into the present as soon as possible, and a flashback might be off-putting for most of them.

At the same time, using a flashback early on served its purpose in Penny Marshall’s 1992 sports comedy-drama, A League of Their Own, staring Madonna. The first scene opens with the veteran baseball female players entering the Hall of Fame as memories rush them before the movie then flashes back to how the women got to that point. Even in this scenario, however, there was enough time for the viewer to establish an understanding of the present state of the women and their league before the flashback began. It serves more to show where they came from and the deep history as opposed to slowing down the story. These are finer points that are more apparent to experienced screenwriters such as Marshall.

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