Screenwriting: The Sequence Approach

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The great challenge in writing a feature-length screenplay is sustaining audience involvement from page one through 120. Screenwriting: The Sequence Approach expounds on an often-overlooked tool that can be key in solving this problem. A screenplay can be understood as being built of sequences of about fifteen pages each, and by focusing on solving the dramatic aspects of each of these sequences in detail, a writer can more easily conquer the challenges posed by the script as a whole. <br/> <br/>The sequence approach has its foundation in early Hollywood cinema (until the 1950s, most screenplays were formatted with sequences explicitly identified), and has been rediscovered and used effectively at such film schools as the University of Southern California, Columbia University and Chapman University. This book exposes a wide audience to the approach for the first time, introducing the concept then providing a sequence analysis of eleven significant feature films made between 1940 and 2000: <br/><br/>The Shop Around The Corner / Double Indemnity / Nights of Cabiria / North By Northwest / Lawrence of Arabia / The Graduate / One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest / Toy Story / Air Force One / Being John Malkovich / The Fellowship of the Ring>

Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Academic (April 27, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0826415687
  • ISBN-13: 978-0826415684
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces

Customer Reviews

Provides a building block missing in most other books on screenwriting

34 people found this helpful.
 on June 26, 2005
By Ars Gratia Artis
Typically screenplays are divided into three acts. Paul Gulino goes beneath the 3 act structure to lay bare a critical building block for each act: the sequence. His insightful book discusses how a properly written sequence improves the audience experience of the story.

Gulino is a great coach for battered screenwriters

45 people found this helpful.
 on July 12, 2004
By Jim Macak
Although I’ve had some success as a TV writer (with drama, sitcom, MOW and soap opera credits) I’ve never been able to crack the three-act structure commonly associated with screenwriting. For those like me, Paul Joseph Gulino’s “Screenwriting: The Sequence Approach” is a godsend. He manages to cut that intimidating and unwieldy structure into much more manageable portions.

One of the best books on screenwriting

69 people found this helpful.
 on June 5, 2004
By Jeffrey L. Armbruster
Presents a superb approach to writing a screenplay, or any long story. Much more natural than Syd Field, or, God forbid, overly-Dramatica. Sequences break a story into eight manageable, bite-sized chunks, like chapters, instead of trying to break it up into 3, very large and very intimidating acts (Aristotle’s “beginning, middle, and end” — what the hell does that mean? Aristotle’s advice equally describes a story and an elephant. Useless). Each sequence addresses a specific dramatic question in your story (sub-questions of the full, 3 act story), sets up the question, builds the conflict and resolution, while increasing the dramatic tension toward your full-story climax. The book provides examples from known movies, and explains dramatic techniques you may not have read before. This is an excellent book. Goes deeper into story building than many other books. Too many writers seem to forget the 1st Commandment of story writing: seduce the reader/audience into wanting to know what happens next. That’s it. That’s the bottom line for story writing. Any writer or writing teacher who snubs their nose at the 1st Commandment is full of B.S. This book helps you focus on the 1st Commandment.

The answer to a lot of questions

25 people found this helpful.
 on August 14, 2005
By Riccardo Marchesini
Gulino’s book is one of the best screenwriting handbooks I’ve ever read. It’s simple, clear and concise, providing a powerful tool that can help a screenwriter to engage an audience. The first chapter introduces the sequence concept and shows the four fundamental techniques used to capture the audience attention. In the following chapters the author uses the aforesaid tools to analyze eleven movies, covering six decades and various genres, and showing the effectiveness of the sequence method. Once you have learned the method, it’s quite simple to apply a similar analysis on whichever movie you want.

Helped me transform a piece that was languishing…

12 people found this helpful.
 on December 11, 2004
By Veebis
…Putting it through the “sequence” filter opened up many wonderful ideas trapped inside. Sequences were there, mostly, just unorganized, limp. Book is also now pumping new life into other stories, helping me to FINISH (finally)!

A Book for Every (Aspiring) Screenwriter’s Bookshelf

3 people found this helpful.
 on September 6, 2014
By Mitch
This is a helpful book for screenwriters that will help them avoid a sagging story during the second act. Paul Gulino learned this approach at USC. So did Chris Soth, who markets this same approach in a more formulaic way as the Mini-Movie Method.

This is a smart, useful book

16 people found this helpful.
 on March 28, 2005
By WriteStuff
I cowrote another book on screenwriting, and teach screenwriting at grad school level. So this book is, in a sense, my competition. But I don’t think of it that way, I think of it as wonderful complement to my book and the few others out there worth reading. I don’t know Paul Gulino, but I do know that his book is excellent. Does it address everything you need to know about screenwriting? No. But it gets to the heart of what makes a script good, in a readable, clear fashion–and in a way that writers will find practical and useful. And so, in addition to my own book, I’m using Mr. Gulino’s in my next MFA class. I can’t offer a better recommendation than that.

Exceptional Approach to Screenwriting

7 people found this helpful.
 on November 27, 2007
By Fred
It’s been a little while since I went slightly crazy and started buying screenwriting books machine-gun style. I’m much calmer, thanks.

Yo ho, yo ho, the sequence approach for me.

2 people found this helpful.
 on January 21, 2015
By Abner Rosenweig
An instant classic in the field, STSA is essential reading for any screenwriter, and helpful for novelists, too. Gulino joins Aristotle/Syd Field (3-Act) and Joseph Campbell/Chris Vogler (Mythic) by offering a third paradigm of screenplay structure, the Sequence Approach.

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