I want my screenplay to begin with a short statement from my main character, just over the black screen prior to the film beginning, then cutting to that specific character already in action. I’m unsure how to format this.
Currently I just having his statement in quotation marks prior to any actual formatting:
EXT. BLACK SCREEN
INT. HOUSE – DAY
Character stands in his home, exclaiming things.
I don’t like the looks of that, because it doesn’t state who is speaking. I’m unsure of how I should handle this, which is disconcerting as it is my first sentence.
A black screen is a black screen. It’s not INT. or EXT. Whether you start the film with a black screen, or you create one mid-way with a CUT TO BLACK, you can simply have your characters speak over it.
Dialogue always has a name above it. Always.
Even if we haven’t yet been introduced to the character speaking, it’s okay to use the character’s name. Depending on the situation, you might use a descriptor instead, e.g. “NERVOUS WOMAN” or “BOY’S VOICE.”
In your case, the intro might look like this:
A black screen.
What I saw today was failure. No, worse than that. I saw surrender. I saw someone taking all the opportunities they’d been given and throwing them in the trash.
INT. DOG SHOW – DAY
MAX HERNSHAW (33) is on his knees, berating an adorable YELLOW LAB PUPPY.
Do you know what I sacrificed to get you here today? A personal life. Girlfriends. Drinking buddies. Do you know how many times Andy got to see Inception? Four. How many times did I get to see it? One-and-a-half.
The puppy begins to lick its crotch.
You don’t have to say “black screen.” Until you’ve shown us something else, we’re going to assume it’s a black screen. But it’s not a bad idea to call it out anyway.
I used (O.S.) after Max’s initial dialogue, but one could make an equally good argument for (V.O) or (PRE-LAP) — or using nothing at all. It’s your preference. The reader is unlikely to get confused.