Descriptions are a bit lengthy, but clear. This is a fun scene and would be a good opener with a few tweaks. I'll get to those later.
1. Why does Cabal have ash on his face?
because he passed out while smoking -- I was trying to be economical
didn't quite work
2. What significance does the phone being unplugged have?
so no calls could come in -- this isn't so much a rowdy crowd as a dangerous and paranoid crowd. why were the shades drawn? so no light could come in, but also so nobody could see into the room. I obviously didn't do a good job of expressing this in only two paragraphs.
To avoid STORY FLAWS, the above must mean something and add to the story. Remember, this is your opening scene.
The ash on CABAL'S face and the phone unplugged must have some kind of significance! In screenwriting, EVERYTHING on the page contributes something to the story. Think through it. If it doesn't tell us something get rid of it.
I see, in the story the ash is not so important I guess, but in my head it was meant to speak to the the untidiness of his situation. It seemed like it belonged when I was writing it, but I can certainly see your point for getting rid of it.
CABAL wakes up brushing ash from his face. He's the first one awake in a room full of passed out bikers. There's a litter of whiskey bottles, mostly empty, some drug paraphernalia, and musical instruments strewn about the room. The shades are all drawn and the phone on the counter is unplugged.
Cabal roots through the pockets of the passed out bikers, pocketing money and cigarettes, grabs one of the guitars off the floor. As he cracks the door to leave, a blinding light shines into the room. He shields his eyes, steps back inside, steals a pair of sunglasses off the counter, and hurries out the door into the light.
CABAL, 20, stirs awake. He rises from the barroom floor littered with comatose bikers, empty whiskey bottles and some broken guitars. He roots through the pockets of his unconscious comrades; money, Zippo lighters, cigarettes, a pack of over-sized condoms. Then to the last man by the door; bike keys, a gold skeleton key - A GOLD SKELETON KEY?
Cabal grabs the man's wallet and stuffs it in his pocket with the gold key. A quick look about the room. On the bar he spots a bunch of SPILLED SHOT GLASSES with ONE STILL FULL. He downs the last shot and opens the door. BAM! The sunlight pushes him back inside. Cabal grabs a pair of shades from the man who had the gold key, he stirs - Cabal is out the door.
By the end of this OPENING SCENE, we know several things:
1. Cabal is part of a hard living crowd (bikers)
2. Cabal can't be trusted
LOL, in my story, Cabal is the protagonist
He is a victim of circumstance and is fleeing this crowd -- but I clearly didn't do a good job of communicating that in this opening scene. To be honest, I wasn't thinking that the opening scene would even reveal that but rather that we would need to get to know Cabal before that became clear. I may be thinking too much like a novel?
3. He's got a golden key of Mystery
4. By the last shot on the bar, this is probably his "last shot" at something in life.
5. Those bikers aren't going to rest until they find Cabal
This is what an opening scene should do. Each of the five questions above MUST PAYOFF (be resolved) by the end of the film to avoid STORY FLAWS.
I took some liberties with your idea Rgr, only to show how much you can communicate in the same amount of space with economical writing.
You had a guitar as a central object of interest (MacGuffin). I used a key (it was easier for me to carry ) either object would work fine.
My point here is: (This is to everyone): You want something for the audience to focus in on that represents the characters need, that will pay off at the end of the film.
Not so much a question but an observation -- if I want to tell the story i had in my head, it doesn't seem like the simplicity of this format is a good mapping. The story you changed it to fit the format a lot better, but wasn't the story I had in mind. What would it take to have a first scene, opening shot, whatever, that isn't as clear or obvious, but about which more will be revealed?
For example, the ash on his face may have left a smudge he would have noticed in a rest room mirror and maybe had a flashback as to how it got there ... a glimpse of the previous night spend mostly in blackout from drinking, just not in the first two paragraphs.
I'm just thinking that if I need to tell so much of the story in the opening scene, it seems a little constraining and I'm wondering if there are formats where this information can still be compelling even if it's not entirely clear why yet. (note: I'm sure I didn't do a good job of this, but I'm wondering if it can be done this way at all).
Thanks so much again for your time and patience!