The Journal of Screenwriting paper and our 'Sequence-Scene Definition' page on this website demonstrates the definitions of 'Sequence' and 'Scene'. Once the definitions had been derived by consolitation of the difference definitions presented by McKee, Field, Cowgil and Karetnikova, the question was: How are Sequences distributed within the 3-Act Structure, and how does this distribution related to other identified milestones, including the 'Set-Up', 'Inciting Incident', 'Call to Action', the 'First' and 'Second Comittments to Act', the 'Midpoint', 'Climax' and 'Resolution'?


The published paper in the Journal of Screenwriting answers these questions through a quantitative analysis of 132 feature-length Hollywood-style and independent films made between 1941 and 2010 that were produced in the United States, Great Britain, Russia, Germany and Japan. The paper was reviewed by two independent experts on film narrative structure, as well as two members of the editorial board: authors Jill Nelmes, University of East London, UK; and Julie Selbo, California State University, Fullerton, CA, USA. 


ABSTRACT: To understand the utility and value of sequences in the construction of screenplay narratives and the emotional experiences of audiences, I developed and utilized composite definitions of ‘sequence’ and ‘scene’ to quantify the sequence content of 132 feature-length Hollywood-style and independent films made between 1941 and 2010 that were produced in the United States, Great Britain, Russia, Germany and Japan. The 3-Act Model was used as familiar reference points. I also contrasted the results to Frank Daniels’ 8-Sequence Model as described by Gulino. I argue the results directly support a fundamental 19-Sequence Model of screenplay and film narrative structure. I propose that sequences expand vicarious and empathic emotional experiences of audiences into ‘contextual emotional meaning’, where significant autonomous emotions are generated that create the enjoyable and satisfying experience of what the story means to both the characters and viewer. 


The principle markers of the broad validity of the 19-Sequence Model includes:

  • The 19-Sequence Model is based on a stringently developed composite definition of ‘sequence’. 
  • No screenplay contained less than nineteen sequences. 
  • The majority of screenplays studied contained nineteen sequences. 
  • Additional sequences were scattered throughout Act subdivisions according to narrative needs. 
  • Key sequences corresponded to subdivisions already defined within the 3-Act Model.
  • There was no relationship between film duration and the number of sequences. 
  • The fundamental nineteen-sequence construction was found whether screenplays were written as an original story, or adapted from a play (originally written as ‘acts’ and ‘scenes’: e.g. Osborne, Shakespeare), or developed from a novel or short story (originally written as chapters: e.g. Capote, Clancy, Crichton, Dick, Fleming, Forsyth, Le Carre, Llewellyn, Ludlum, Melville, Rowling, Spillane, Sillitoe, Wouk)
  • The general/overall applicability of the 19-Sequence Model is emphasized because the screenplays studied represent a broad spectrum of genres, plots, studio types (major and independent), as well as classic and contemporary movies spanning over 60 years. The films studied ranged from winners of multiple national and international awards from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and the British Academy of Film and Television, to mainstream movies, and to films that predominantly play in ‘art-house’ theatres.


Dr. Julie Selbo, Co-Editor commented:

"American Melvyn Heyes, Ph.D., a biomedical research scientist in Maryland who specializes in finding patterns in psychological and neurological disorders, turns his attention to finding patterns in film narratives in ‘Development of a Fundamental “19-Sequence Model” of Screenplay and Film Structure’. Dr Heyes is not a screen- writer (and does not even play one on TV), but is clearly a lover of films and film narrative and we expect many will find his singular analysis intriguing"