The Rhizomatic Script

I provided the rhizomatic script to the performers a couple of weeks before the filming and instructed them to read it slowly and attentively many times, without trying to rationalise it or form logical connections between its elements (indeed, this instruction itself appears in the script). This process led to interesting results, many of which are apparent in Becoming, Barcelona. The lines from the script often spontaneously emerged, or were paraphrased, and the meditative instructions as well as the physical gestures and movements described in the script found their way overtly into the performance. Equally, as the performers told me afterwards when reflecting jointly on the process, they often felt a little lost or self-conscious, and some direction and guidance would have helped. Certainly, providing all direction in writing and in advance created a conflict with the pure becoming in the present moment: while the performers knew that they should simply be in the moment, and let anything from the script spontaneously emerge (rather than trying to remember and consciously activate anything from the script), the affective atmosphere still requires points of renewal or guidance, so that the relaxed, meditative state can be sustained.

As part of the practice research process of making Becoming, Barcelona, I wanted to capture the entire affective atmosphere directorial process in writing, to see whether the performers could internalise the affective atmosphere direction on their own in advance of the filming. I would then be free to engage more as a performer during the filming itself, rather than as a director, providing lines of dialogue for the performers to respond to or to repeat (when my own performer’s intuition would urge me to utter such lines in the moment, and under the influence of the affective atmosphere). I compiled various layers of direction (including meditative instructions, gestures/physical actions, and action verbs, images, and ‘as if’ suggestions rooted in Stanislavski*) and random lines of dialogue. Rather than a conventional, linear, narrative script,** this resulted in what I refer to as a rhizomatic script, a term inspired by Deleuze and Guattari’s Thousand Plateaus (1987). They compare the multiplicity of the rhizome to the linear, bifurcating structure of the tree and the root, which reflects the semiotic structure of rational thought, but which can also be understood as reflective of the internal logic of a linear narrative script. Deleuze and Guattari contrast the rhizome to the tree and the root, which ‘inspire a sad image of thought that is forever imitating the multiple on the basis of a centered or segmented higher unity’ (16). They explain that ‘a multiplicity has neither subject nor object, only determinations, magnitudes, and dimensions […]. There are no points or positions in a rhizome, such as those found in a structure, tree, or root. There are only lines’ (8). The rhizomatic script aims precisely to create a sense of non-linear multiplicity that can inspire yet more multiplicity – inspire the production of the new – rather than simply provide instructions to be followed, repeated, or represented. Deleuze and Guattari liken the rhizome to a map (as opposed to a tracing), which is a notion that elucidates my concept of the rhizomatic script (as opposed to an ordinary linear script, as a sort of blueprint for a film) even more clearly: 


What distinguishes the map from the tracing is that it is entirely oriented toward an experimentation in contact with the real. The map does not reproduce an unconscious closed in upon itself; it constructs the unconscious. It fosters connections between fields, the removal of blockages on bodies without organs, the maximum opening of bodies without organs onto a plane of consistency. It is itself a part of the rhizome. The map is open and connectable in all of its dimensions; it is detachable, reversible, susceptible to constant modification. It can be torn, reversed, adapted to any kind of mounting, reworked by an individual, group, or social formation. (12)


The rhizomatic script is not a tracing, it is not a blueprint or a set of instructions for a film to be made based on it. Rather it is a map ‘oriented toward an experimentation in contact with the real’. The rhizomatic script creates a dissociated non-linear structure that emancipates itself entirely from narrative or dramatic conventions, and thus engenders an opening rather than a limitation; it removes the symbolic connections between a script and a film, and instead inspires new, rhizomatic connections that are non-linear and qualitative, rather than linear and quantitative. In a sense, the rhizomatic script gives rise to a plateau: ‘a continuous, self-vibrating region of intensities whose development avoids any orientation toward a culmination point or external end’ (Deleuze and Guattari 1987: 22). 



*Giving performers ‘physical actions’ (small achievable tasks), ‘as if adjustments’ (imagining the action is taking place in a different but completely relatable and recognisable context, e.g. ‘engaging in a flirting dialogue as if it were a formal job interview’), and ‘action verbs’ (verbs that lucidly express ‘playable’ actions toward other performers) are methods informed by Stanislavski (2008), which were later adapted by Weston (1996, 2003) into methods of directing actors for the screen. Providing suggestive, evocative images to performers is then inspired by Stanislavski’s ‘emotion memory’. Stanislavski ‘believed that feeling and truth were strategic to opening the door of creative intuition. He also believed that the pathway to the command of truthful performing lay through the subconscious’ (Bartow 2009: xvi). Therefore, ‘Stanislavsky wished to find a pathway from the conscious to the subconscious and back, to reinstate an imaginary belief that would summon lifelike behaviour’ (xvi).


**A narrative fiction script represents the envisioned linear sequence of the film, including the description of (audio-visual) actions and events taking place (on the screen) and lines of dialogue spoken by the characters. The purpose and practicality of a conventional script is precisely in its linear, chronological correspondence with the intended film – giving the reader of the script a comparable narrative experience to watching the film. 

The Rhizomatic Script had been provided to the performers ahead of the filming as a set of six double-sided loose pages, so that there was no established sequence or order to the pages. They had absorbed the script ahead of the filming, and various elements then emerged spontaneously at different points in the affective atmosphere – as verbatim utterances, paraphrases, specific actions, or merely as a vague inspiration. 


The script includes instructions under the categories of ‘Say’, ‘Do’, ‘See’, ‘Play’, ‘Move’, and ‘Become’. These categories adopt an ‘in-the-moment’ language but represent both established and experimental directorial methods adopted and reimagined specifically for the affective atmosphere process. While the Say category contains disjoined lines of dialogue, Do has action verbs – an acting tool stemming from Stanislavski (2008). These are verbs that strongly convey and inspire a specific action, and do not require rational interpretation, and are therefore compatible with the affective atmosphere approach. The See category includes evocative images, which is an approach informed by Stanislavski’s ‘emotion memory’, and Play contains ‘as-if adjustments’ – another established directorial method. Move is about direct physical actions. Become then has directions that convey and help sustain the affective atmosphere itself. There is no intended sequential order or meaning to these script elements, although there is a certain balance established between the individual pages.

Open The Rizomatic Script as pdf.