Week 9 – The Image

“Often we have to get away from speech in order to think clearly.”

Robert S. Woodworth

This week is about thinking visually. Whether we take a photo with our smartphone, whether we are inspired by art, interior design, architecture, fashion, the girl or boy at the next table, whether we go to Pinterest or Instagram or whether we present an idea to someone else visually by setting up a pin board with photos, drawings, post-it stickers in different colors: everything can be or become the visual representation of an idea. Always remember: a picture is worth a thousand words.

Place a physical picture in front of you. You can take it from a magazine, the daily newspaper or a book you have. It can also be a postcard from a flea market or an image from the Internet (print it!). Imagine the picture as a freeze frame of a film. Imagine that the character in the picture begins an action and if there is no character imagine one about to enter the frame. Which story could unfold? Do the same with a second and a third picture. Play this game with your friends. Every time you meet they have to bring a photo, an image. But remember: take images as what they are – just images -, for the start do not try to impose any dramatic line.

Create your own images or even cards with icons by using e.g. Adobe Spark Post and by combining them, come up with a story. I used the CLOSAT categories for the following ones:

Train station

Or set up your own deck of cards with 4 photos of

  • 4 characters
  • 4 locations
  • 4 props / objects
  • 4 headlines from a newspaper
  • 4 genres
  • 4 colors
  • 4 clothes

Now shuffle the cards and then take 4-6 cards randomly. Put the cards on the table, next to each other. Find the story! Do it for yourself or within a group.

Creating mental images is another task you should work on a daily basis. You may call it daydreaming:

“How can we be utterly lost in a movie, yet still be aware that we are sitting in a theatre? That is day-dreaming: to be both absent and present at the same time.“ (John Boorman)

We can try to recreate this mental state by doing the following practice. You can do it wherever you are: you are sitting in a coffee shop, looking or better starring totally focused outside or towards the entrance. Let the image burn into your brain. Now slowly close your eyes with this image in your mind. Imagine an image or a scene that satisfies all the senses.

The image itself already can have an implied narrative, but sometimes this is not the case. Let the image, the possible idea breathe. Go back and forth, you are looking for a direction! If the image is fading away open your eyes again and repeat the whole process.

Check out Tracy Chevalier’s TED talk >Finding the story inside the painting<:

“When Tracy Chevalier looks at paintings, she imagines the stories behind them: How did the painter meet his model? What would explain that look in her eye? Why is that man … blushing? She shares three stories inspired by portraits, including the one that led to her best-selling novel “Girl With a Pearl Earring.”

Andrea Arnold once said in an interview that all of her films were born from an image that lodged itself into her mind’s eye. Referring to >Fish Tank< she explains:

“I had an image of a girl pissing on the floor in someone else’s house. I thought, ‘What is this girl doing?’ I start thinking about what that means, who she is, and where she comes from.” (Andrea Arnold)

Finally: in his book >Praxis des Drehbuchschreibens & Über das Geschichtenerzählen< Jean-Claude Carrière mentions that Jean Luc Godard now and then had the habit to pop up with a photo and by putting it on the table he asked: “Is there a hidden story in this photo?”

Your turn!

Watch Chris Marker’s >La Jetée< – if you don’t know the film yet. In 2004 I was taking a trip on a containership. You can find some of the black and white photos here:


Make a short film in the style of >La Jetée< by using these photos. Bring them in whatever sequence you want. Find the story behind all these pictures. Let a narrator, as a voice over tell the story. If you need some help or a hint, go to the very end of the References chapter. There my original idea is laid out.

Films to watch

Tengiz Abuladze

  • The Entreaty (1968) IMDB

Lindsay Anderson

Michelangelo Antonioni

Christian de Chalonge

Andrey Konchalovskiy

  • The First Teacher (1965) IMDB

Kornél Mundruczó

  • Underdog (2014) IMDB

Cristian Mungiu

  • 4 Months 3 Weeks 2 Days (2007) IMDB

Bodhan Sláma

  • Something like Happiness (2005) IMDB

Athina Rachel Tsangari

  • Attenberg (2010) IMDB

Karel Zeman

  • On the Comet (1970) IMDB