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Screenwriting: The Sequence Approach Paperback – April 27, 2004
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Top Customer Reviews
Gulino focuses on how the movie unreels in the mind of the viewer. A sequence works dramatically when it hooks into the psychology of the audience to keep them involved in the story, wondering what's going to happen next.
Gulino locates the origin of the dramatic sequence in the limitations of early movie making technology: movies started as one-reeler stories with a maximum play time of about 15 minutes. When films stories expanded beyond one-reelers, each reel still maintained the same narrative structure because the viewing experience --and narrative flow -- was interrupted every time the projectionist had to swap reels. Each sequence/reel was designed to be a mini-story within a larger story to pique viewer interest so that they would wait in the dark for the reels to change to find out what happened next.
The dramatic unity of the sequence was also necessary for serials shown in installments over the course of weeks. Stories were written so that the reels ended with a cliff hanger, a dramatic hook to make the viewers come back next week to find out what happened next.
Even after technology made it possible for theaters to show a full-length film without interruption, the time frame and dramatic dynamics of the sequence has persisted. Why? Because, Gulino suggests, there are psychological factors at play in the viewing experience. "The notion of a feature film having eight parts [sequences] is, like all else in dramatic theory, tied to human physiology.Read more ›
In the interest of full disclosure, I taught a TV writing course at Chapman University this spring where Gulino is a tenured professor. And I won't argue with those who might dismiss this review as influenced by that association. I can only point to my produced credits -- there's not a feature among them -- and my desire to write films (in addition to episodic TV) as justification for seeking out this book and embracing it. I strongly encourage others interested in screenwriting to do the same.
Gulino offers a thorough explanation of the eight-act sequence approach (pioneered by Frank Daniel at AFI, Columbia and USC) and an eclectic set of examples. His use of classic and contemporary features lets the reader reconsider and reconnect with some of these great films. Personally, I found this portion of the book an entertaining trek through the history of the craft. Along the way, Gulino also provides a concise and valuable summation of screenwriting techniques.
While beginners will benefit a great deal from this book, I think those who'll likely get the most out of it are those (again, like me) who've already wrestled with the standard screenplay structure -- and lost too many matches. Gulino is an encouraging coach with a different approach that makes a hellava lot of sense. Battered and bruised screenwriters will want to get back in the ring and try again.
Two more books every story writer should have: "Advanced Writing," by Wells Earl Draughon, and "A Story is a Promise," by Bill Johnson.
As a screenwriter myself, I'm familiar with the traditional three-acts paradigm and the various writing techniques. In Gulino's book I found the anwers to three major questions I had about screenwriting:
- I noticed that all my favourites directors have the ability to create long, beautiful and well-structured scenes, or sequence of scenes sharing at least one unit of time, place, action. Classical directors like Kubrick, Hitchcock, Lean, Kurosawa and Leone all had these ability, so as Scorsese, Spielberg, Cameron and Tarantino. The sequence approach confirms this intuition and shows that it all happens in a more general way, that is dividing the whole screenplay in blocks that, just like short movies, have their own acts, protagonist and dramatic tension.
- Another classical feature is the ability to enrich and deepen the narration by shifting the thematic point of view from the protagonist to another character. Gulino's book shows that it's easily achieved building some of the movie's sequences around a character other than the protagonist.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Ummmm i like it but it quite boring. I don't know if i want to read this book. Its no fun and it just put me in sleep.Published 21 days ago by TJ
Very helpful method for anyone working to learn this craft. Breaks 120-page screenplay into eight sequences of about 15 pages, each with a different but specific goal. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Doug Williams
I really enjoyed this book. Although a lot of people will criticize it as being simplistic or formulaic (and there's some truth to that), the real value is in the way the author... Read morePublished 4 months ago by Stefanie Hutson
...for professional screenwriters. As I'm certain the author would be the first to say, this does not pretend to be a one-size-fits-all formula. Read morePublished 7 months ago by Daniel Petrie Jr.
A blog post could tell as much information as this book offers in one paragraph. Not worth the time. Very few pages on the actual sequence structure. Read morePublished 8 months ago by Ryan Binaco
It's a shame the only book on script sequencing is written by this author. He gives many examples, but his film choices are mostly ones no one has seen, and for good reason. Read morePublished 15 months ago by Tawn