Image as Plan

You see a scene, a social scene, so some people are there, doing something. It`s a moving image. You could reproduce this moving image without any understanding of the actions that happen, simply by rowing image after image in all their detailed changes in a frequency higher than about 24 Hz. Then somebody else, looking only at your reproduction and never having seen the original moving image, could still see and understand all the actions that happen, because they are, of course, contained in the image with all its detailed changes. This kind of reproduction is what a camera does. Many directors think so as well. They have a vision and then they work to fulfill the vision, like a sculptor, who has to see the figure that is still in the stone. Michelangelo didn`t find David by chance.

You can also work from the image if you are an actor.

Diderot`s “modèle ideale”, an inner audio-visual model that is created by the actor and that he then reshapes with his body in space and time is working from the image. It´s using the image as plan.

We also find working from the image in the books of Stanislavsky. Despite the fact that he was the first advocat of the great alternative to working from the image, namely a task-driven, proto-cybernetic approach to acting, he was far less orthodox in his views than some of his alleged artistic descendants and could always acknowledge good acting, no matter how it was achieved. He calls this reproduction of the image the second best art of acting and points out that there are actors who are really really good in it.


For many actors, a work solely from the image as plan poses a lot of problems and I`ve seen a lot of bad acting resulting from pathetic attempts to fulfill an image. The problems:

  1. It`s not even so easy to create a specific image. “Specific” meaning: Interesting.
  2. Moving images contain a lot of information. Which to select?
  3. People don`t know what people do. Their attempts to build images often lead to very vague and flat approximations.
  4. It`s difficult to fulfill the image if you are the image. Because you don`t see the image. So, whatever outside view image you want to achieve, you will have to translate it in a visual-self-image 3D-avatar whom you then can follow. This requires talent and/or technique.
  5. The human self-image ( in a very basic sense, not a deeply psychological one) is usually quite distorted, and it is a lot of work to calibrate it in a way that at least some movement axis in space become clear. In simpler words: People have no idea how it looks and sounds what they do. That explains why young actors are so horrified when they see and hear themselves for the first time in a recording. It`s not how they perceive themselves.
  6. Even the simplest movement structure is so complex that, if you try to reproduce it without any understanding of the movement, simply by adding points to a line, you will forget something, you will manage to put the coffee cup back on the table but you will forget to exhale and you will not be aware, that, were it a real conversation, your gaze would seek the eyes of the partner already before  you put your hand off the cup.
  7. There are so many details that this quickly causes overload and you will have to deal with some second order problems (problems that arise by the work) like muscular rigididity (feedforward problems). It`s when they all start moving like the future robots of the 1980s, a lot of tension, a lot of isolations, no integration, dead torso.
  8. For almost everyone it will be impossible to direct action units of 1/24 per second. I manage to distinguish 10 perception units per second, but this is with individual preconditions and half a life of organizing perception and self-perception. There are of course solutions for this, as there are pixel images and vector graphic images, an image can easily be reproduced by the extracted essential rule by which it is constructed.
  9. Action has momentum. There are no pauses in being alive. How to maintain momentum if you work from micro-images? Can you plan while you fall? (The answer is of course: Yes, you can. Everyone who does ball sports knows that. But they don`t row images.)
  10. Much of this can be taught and learned if you have the means to teach and learn this. But economic considerations might contribute to a search for more efficient solutions.

A lot of difficulties, but especially for actors who are good observers and good mimickers, using the image as plan might be a good way to work. And anyway, most actors use image as plan every now and then, even if their main technique is something else.