15 July 2013

Writing + Improv - a winning combo

Preparing to improvise a potato pasta-based scene for the camera

I just wrapped shooting on a short film a couple of weeks ago. It's a supernatural horror film, and the story is wonderful and haunting.

But when I arrived to shoot my bits, I was told that there was no script. The dialogue was too awful.

The writer/director agreed that he'd written a great story and terrible dialogue. So me and my scene partner (who is not an improviser) just made up all of the dialogue, to carry on the story. It was fun and, I imagine, will look quite naturalistic. We'll see soon enough when it's all edited together.

It's another example in what has been an avalanche of recent experiences highlighting the multitude of connections between writing and improv.

Writing and Improv share a lot of similarities. They are creative disciplines about telling stories. They require you to commit to an idea and follow it to its conclusion. And if you're writing scripts, you've got that in common with improv as well.

Plus with filmmakers like Christopher Guest and TV shows like Curb Your Enthusiasm there is an almost unbroken line between writing and improv.

There are, in short, many ways to combine the two. I've been meeting up with another Amsterdam-based improviser and writer by the name of Peter More and talking about this. We've also been thinking about how to quantify and share the connections, and train those instincts in other writers and improvisers.

And then he and I, being both practicing writers and improvisers, over the course of a few coffee sessions, created a really exciting weekend workshop. Which we will be teaching the weekend after next. It combines story theory, script structure and script writing, developing ideas from improv, using written material as a jumping off point, dialogue, relationships, characters, exercises and more.

For anyone in Amsterdam who's interested in writing and improv, and the cross-fertilisation, or just wants to be able to overcome some writer's block, or just have great weekend, the course is now open for registration.

It will be writing for improvisers, and a little bit of improv for writers, and will include lots of on your feet and in your seat exercises to unlock scenes and stories and ways of working that combine page and stage.

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