The Snyder School ™ is now in session!
I will say that Zack Snyders new zombie heist movie Army of the Dead, it really knows how to cast its spell over you. From the cold open broadcast gone wrong to the fantastic opening title sequence, you can really see Snyder’s vision and sheer film enjoyment on screen.
Especially this opening title sequence is really a feast for the eyes! And I’m glad the Snyd master himself took the time to sit down to give some insight into his filmmaking process as it really feels like a short film in itself.
So let’s take a look at episode one of Netflix’s four-part “Snyder School,” which is about how Snyder conceived, directed, and edited this table-covering opening title sequence.
A prologue to the film
It’s interesting how much narrative information and exposure is included in the movie’s opening title sequence. When you normally think of opening titles, you usually think of examples from classic cinema where the names and roles are simply listed in black. Or finally through stylized pictures or works of art.
However for Army of the DeadSnyder feels his opening title sequence is really “a six-minute silent film”, which is narrative important. He also admits that he’s aiming to establish some sort of centralized imagination that the film will be both confident and harrowing.
Setting the style and tone
Through the films of his own Snyder verse, the writer, director, and DP actually got some really great insight into the way title sequences can be used to set the style and tone. Starting with his first feature film debut, Dawn of the Dead, Snyder is very conscious of the planning and design of the title sequences.
Dawn of the Dead intended to establish a documentary style as well as the tone of realism while 300 is supposed to go back to the roots of the graphic novel of the film. You can follow Snyder’s steady career advancement as he shows off some of his meticulous storyboard sketches for films such as Guardian and Justice League and how they evolved themselves during production.
Create backstory and characters
The opening title sequence too Army of the Dead is also very important, not only for building the plot, but also for easily defining the characters. It’s cool to hear Snyder’s thoughts on these tableau recordings of the various main characters in his cast.
You know the ones I’m talking about who have Dave Bautista in front of a backdrop with an old family photo. Snyder shares that these recordings in particular were necessary to lift the disbelief a bit, but also to anchor the roles in more real characters with emotions and backstories – not just mercenary soldiers.
Choosing the right font and placement
After all, by his own admission, Snyder seems to be pretty picky about the exact font, styles, and placements for the movie’s opening titles. Understandable, because we realized how important the sequence is for the film as a whole.
You can see some of the alternate fonts and styles that Snyder considered throughout the planning process, as he also shares that an entire slot machine title reveal was scrapped due to a rhythm and timing feeling.
Overall, however, the lessons here could be simple, that title sequences can be whatever you want them to be. If your story calls for a more traditional look and presentation, go for it. However, if you want to use your opening as a way to establish narrative, characters, and themes, there aren’t any hard rules to keep you from making it as stylized or explosive as your heart desires.