The Sequence Approach To Screenwriting


Following my recent posts on The Mini Movie Method and The History Of Drama, the sequence approach to writing your film scripts by Paul Gulino, deserves a mention. My personal view is that it can be superimposed over the traditional three act superstructure of your story, giving writers more intimate guidance during the writing process via 8 to 10 sequences comprising 8 to 15 minutes each. I don’t believe any modern screenwriting paradigm can ultimately displace Aristotle’s Poetics, but rather enhance it with more detail.

SEQUENCE 1

The first sequence often starts with a hook, a riddle, predicament, or questions used to stimulate audience curiosity. In Hollywood parlance, it’s the strong opening scene to draw the audience.

Minimal exposition is also given, so that the story can commence logically. This builds up to point of attack or inciting incident, which destabilizes the status quo and thrusts the initially resistant protagonist into action.

SEQUENCE 2

The main tension (central dramatic question) is set out. This introduces the theme and a potential course of action. After initial reticence, the protagonist accepts the change in circumstance. This attempt fails and the predicament intensifies for the protagonist.

At the end of the sequence a key event (first turning point) occurs, which signals a marked change and the point of no return for the protagonist.

SEQUENCE 3

The protagonist tries to resolve the conflict. This is usually fails, initiating a zig-zag upward trajectory of tension (complication).

It is a ‘special world’ because often the protagonist has to venture alone (or with one or two trusted confidantes), from their known ground (sometimes even banished) to gain knowledge and understanding of the new world before they can move forward. It builds on exposition.

SEQUENCE 4

The easy fix inevitably makes this worse (reversal), there is a desperate attempt to return to normality.

This usually results in the First Culmination (midpoint, climax of tension) catapulting to the second turning point. At this point it is clear what the protagonist must do to solve their problem. However, complications ensue, making the path a treacherous one. The protagonist experiences repeated setbacks and they eventually hit hit rock bottom (fallen angel).

SEQUENCE 5

The protagonist grapples with intensified conflict as the rules of play change.  The protagonist will begin on a new quest at this point (the story within the story).

At the end of this sequence we can guess whether a success or failure is imminent. A resolution occurs of the secondary but not primary conflict.

SEQUENCE 6

At the end of this sequence the main dramatic question is often answered, the main tension is resolved as all other avenues are exhausted. This results in the Second Culmination (second turning point).

It is a profound reflective, meditative moment in the evolution of the main tension of the protagonist by either resolving it or reframing it.

SEQUENCE 7

The apparent resolution previously is not the final conclusion. Unexpected developments occur, the stakes are raised and the protagonist often will change objectives completely (final hurdle) at a more frenetic pace. An example of this is when Dorothy finally reaches Oz, but the wizard won’t help her return until Glenda reappears to save the day.

SEQUENCE 8

After a climatic moment, the equilibrium is restored and the protagonist can begin their new life in their new world. Usually there is a coda, or epilogue that ties off any loose ends and allows the protagonist to settle into their new world.

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. Reblogged this on emmavincent166 and commented:
    A useful breakdown of the Sequence method reblogged from Gideon’s Screenwriting Tips:

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