In my humble opinion, the opening sequence needs to serve these purposes:
- Help audience members open their minds
- Forget, momentarily, the worries of the day
(ie: Did I turn off the iron? Will my boss give me a raise? I hope the credit card payment arrived in time.)
- Open the mind of the audience member to receiving new information
(ie: I'm about to watch a documentary. This means it's most likely a true story. I hope it's a good film.)
- Allow the late-comers to settle in
- In the theater, it will provide a few moments for the late comers to find seats and settle in.
- At home, it will provide a few moments for the room to quiet down, people to get comfortable, and take care of basic needs.
(Haven't you started a DVD, then realize you wanted popcorn? Or needed a blanket to keep warm? Or wanted to cuddle with the person next to you? This will hopefully help with that so no important info gets missed.)
- Share gratitude for the people that have made the film
- Credits for some of the people who have made the film possible
- Cast information so you see the names before the people start talking
- Provide a preview of what's about to come
- The opening will provide the information of what the rest of the film will be about. It's a preview that will put your mind at ease so that you feel comfortable knowing what might come next. This is something like the sales pitch method of "tell them what you're going to tell them, tell them, and then tell them what you told them."
- Visually show the things that will be explored in the film, in a very succinct way, that gets the interest of the audience member.
I recognize that the opening sequence has a lot more power than these four things listed. I've been studying them lately, fascinated with how filmmakers approach them creatively. There's a lot that goes into an opening sequence, and I'm learning more about them every day. There are certain rules about the order in which people's names are presented (and how), so I'm doing my best to prepare for doing that according to industry standards.
One of my graphics guys is working on the opening sequence for our film, using pictures from the cast members I've collected. I can't wait to see what he puts together. When it's finalized, we can likely have our composer score the opening sequence. There's more work to be done, but I love the feeling that the forward momentum is staying strong.
Sometimes I have to pinch myself. This work is entirely too much fun.