Workshop: How to Do a Sequence Analysis

Session Summary

In this session, we will bring together everything we have worked on in the Film Style unit. We will learn to do a sequence analysis, which is a detailed examination of a short segment from a film (usually 3 minutes or so in length) that comments on the interesting aspects of mise-en-scene, cinematography, editing, and sound in the chosen sequence. It then ties this formal analysis to the film's meanings in this sequence and in the film as a whole.

 

Assignment Due for this Session

Review the sequence analysis worksheet, which we will use as a guide in this session. Watch Citizen Kane (dir. Orson Welles, USA, 1941). (Citizen Kane on the Blackboard) We will use clips from this film in our workshop.

If you had to pick one short sequence (3-5 minutes in length) as the most crucial to understanding the film, which sequence would you choose? Post your response in the comments below.

 

Sequence Analysis Explained

What is a sequence analysis?

A close examination of a short film clip (approximately 3 minutes). The clip should be significant—it should stand out in the film as a whole. Hint: Beginnings are almost always good subjects for a sequence analysis.

How do you do a sequence analysis?

As you watch a scene, record your observations under each of the four main sections (mise-en-scene, cinematography, editing, and sound). You will have to view the scene several times, looking at a different aspect each time.

Then what?

Afterwards, consider how your observations relate to the film as a whole, how they affect the meaning and impact of the entire film. Now take your notes and write a paragraph that highlights the most important elements in the sequence and their meanings.

Elements of a Sequence Analysis

The following questions are meant to help guide your sequence analysis. Not all questions will be important in all sequences. The idea is to figure out what is significant and focus on those aspects.

Mise-en-Scene

Mise-en-scene refers to what is being filmed. What is the setting of the sequence? Describe the acting, make-up, props, lighting, and colors. Is anything else significant in the mise-en-scene?

Cinematography

Cinematography refers to how the sequence is filmed. What is the look of the sequence? What perspectives (positions) does the camera take? What is being focused on? How is it framed? Is there movement? Is anything else significant?

Editing

Editing refers to how the shots are put together. Is it continuity editing? Are there visible cuts? What is the average shot length? Is anything else significant about the editing?

Sound

Sound refers to anything present on the soundtrack? What sounds are present in the sequence? Where do they come from? Are there non-diegetic sounds? What else do you notice about the soundtrack?