Wow! This is one of the best introductions to a character you are ever going to see (or read). When you hear Bryan Cranston and some of the writers discuss the script being more cinematic than most pilot scripts, you’ll read below those opening three pages and see what they’re talking about. Vince Gilligan, the creator of Breaking Bad, wrote a simply magnificent, entertaining, intriguing opening sequence that set the tone for what was to follow. For those of us that have become huge fans of the series, this was the first “Holy Shit!” moment before we knew there would be so many of them in the series and it happened in the first three minutes.
This is from a 2005 draft of the script and there are really very few changes. The location changed because New Mexico offers great incentives for television and film productions. Other than that, the opening sequence they ended up shooting is almost exactly what you’ll read below, minus the cow pasture.
As you read, notice how descriptive Gilligan is without wasting a lot of words. And notice how he injects personality without being overbearing or obnoxious. He does it without getting in the way of the story.
Just amazing writing. Sure, there are things you and I should avoid, like all of the direction in the script, but this is written by a seasoned television and film writer who was pitching a show he would ultimately run. That is not much different than what you’d expect Quentin Tarrantino to do, writing for himself to direct. But don’t get caught up in the rules. Just take note of how effective Gilligan is at telling a story. Three pages in and I am hooked. What the heck am I watching (or reading)?
Now watch the sequence as it aired and see what you think. (if the video does not play then go to vimeo directly here http://vimeo.com/18473433 to watch it.
If you’re a screenwriter, it might be unfair to read this because it is so good you might want to give up. Don’t. Read great material like this and keep writing. You’ll get better and better.