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Book: Screenwriting - The Sequence Approach by Paul Gulino

Book Review: Screenwriting - The Sequence Approach by Paul Gulino

categories: Books, Entertainment, Movies, screenwriting

Author: Paul Joseph Gulino
Publisher: Continuum
Brand: imusti

 Insightful yet Lacking

I own dozens of books on screenwriting. Gulino offers a fresh approach that allows writers to break down their stories into more manageable sequences. This book is clearly meant for those who already have a basic understanding of screenwriting. Gulino only touches on the basics before getting into the main focus of the book: The sequence approach to screenwriting. Before getting into the details of the sequences, Gulino gives us 4 tools to enhance story during the writing process and references these tools throughout.

The only issue I have with the book is that its core, the sequence approach, is explained in only 4 pages. This 4-page overview left me wanting more, and seem to need a more detailed explanation of each specific sequence. The strength of the book is not in teaching the sequences, but in showing their application on several successful films. And the that's what the majority of the book is about: analyzing these films and showing us how this approach applies to each. Overall, the book is more of a case study on the sequence approach, rather than a detailed "how to" teaching tool. That said, Gulino's work is still helpful in understanding how to make writing more manageable.

Regarding Lord of the Rings (referencing a earlier review):

Gulino's analysis of Lord of the Rings is accurate. He is analyzing the movie (what we saw on screen) and not the book. Thus, any reference to appendices cannot (and should not) be included in his analysis since it is irrelevant to his discussion of the sequence approach. Also, Frodo is clearly the protagonist of the Lord of the Rings. His goal is to destroy the ring. Sam's goal is to look after Frodo. Even though Frodo inherits the ring from Bilbo "The ring must go to Frodo.", Frodo willingly chooses to be the ringbearer when he asks Gandalf: "What must I do?". Frodo could've refused and said "You deal with it. Not my problem." But, for the sake of the Shire, he doesn't refuse. Thus, by making this choice, Frodo is our protagonist. Furthermore, Frodo makes this choice, not just once (as is typical in a story), but THREE times.

1) At the end of Act 1 - Frodo chooses to take the ring away from the Shire to ensure its safety because he realizes Sauron's knowledge of the ring would "lead them here!" and realizes that the ring "cannot stay here.".

2) At the midpoint - While at the Council in Rivendell, Frodo willingly chooses to take responsibility for destroying the ring. "I will take the ring to Mordor."

3) At the end of Act 2 - After Boromir tries to take the ring, Frodo realizes that Galadriel's warning ("One by one it will destroy them all.") is coming true.

As a result, Frodo chooses to undergo the journey alone, telling Aragorn "Look after the others, especially Sam...he will not understand.". At this point, his mind is already made up, even though he doesn't state it explicitly. (It's revealed in subtext.) So, while Sam plays a key role, it is Frodo who is driving the plot forward. Thus, Frodo is the protagonist.

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