I am a Camera.

Updated: Sep 4

A world building exercise.

Who, what, where? The basic building blocks of a scene. Once they have been established, we have a strong platform on which to play. But often people don’t imagine the details in a location. Details that can give us further clues as to how to play the scene. They just end up in a generic place that doesn’t itself have a mood or a feeling to it, and that mood can inform us as to who we are, what we are doing – and ultimately why we are there.

We created the exercise ‘I am a Camera’ (named after the play by John Van Druten) to help people build a rich and evocative World around themselves. It uses the classic cinematic opening shot - 'The Reveal' - as its device.

I get two people to sit opposite each other, close their eyes and start to build a location from a close up on an object, then they ‘Pull Back’ to reveal more.

For instance, someone might start with:

“We focus on a shiny pebble.”


“Pull back (or pull out) to reveal sand.”

“Pull back to reveal shell and some dries seaweed.”

“Pull back to reveal the legs of a deck chair.”

“Pull back to reveal a red and blue sun umbrella between two deck chairs.”

“Pull back to reveal an elderly couple reclining with cocktails in their hands.”

OK. So, we have two pensioners having drinks on a beach. We could start there, but why not fill in the picture even more?

“Pull back to reveal a pristine deserted beach.”

“Pull back to reveal a luxurious beech cabin.”

“Pull back to reveal a tropical Island.”

So, we have an elderly couple on a deserted beach sharing drinks by their holiday cabin.

It’s time to ‘zoom in’ and add more detail to uncover the story.

“Zoom in on the couple, a man and a woman holding hands. She is tenderly twisting the wedding ring on her husband’s finger.”

Now we say what we see.

“We see the man has a saline drip attached to his arm.”

“We see he is pale and drawn but smiling.”

God that is sad! But we now have everything we need to begin the scene.

Then I put two actors on stage and they play out the scenario. It works a treat and the performers have so much to go on.

The exercise also works really well for online workshops - here's a little clip.

Stay safe and carry on Improvising.

Ian x

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