Improv for Writers
Guild members tap into their inner thesps and learn techniques that translate onto the page...and in studio pitches. 

By Rochelle (Shellee) Batzdorf

(December 7, 2012) 

(L-R) Event chair Rochelle (Shellee) Batzdorf with Jennifer and David Skelly, facilitators of the "Improv for Writers" workshop.  

As a writer, you put words on paper for actors to bring to life. Ironically, most writers know very little about acting and aren’t aware of how it can help them in their work.

With this in mind, the Writers Education Committee last month convened a unique interactive workshop, “Improv for Writers,” which was designed to help writers use improvisation and acting techniques to enrich their work and careers. Led by David and Jennifer Skelly – writer-actors, consultants and teachers at the California Institute of the Art (CalArts) - the workshop took Guild members through a series of interactive exercises with quizzical names like “I Failed,” “Yes, And,” “New Choice” and “Name, Occupation, Flaw, Diaglogue.” They learned tips for creating believable and dimensional characters, refining story, overcoming writer’s block and using improvisational techniques to improve “performance” in a studio pitch.

These exercises may sound like party games, and in some ways that’s exactly how they felt. But in the end all enthusiastically agreed that we had learned useful techniques for making ourselves better writers.

“Some of our best ideas come when we don’t censor ourselves – when we're not afraid to offer an idea that everybody else might think is silly,” said David Skelly. Added Jennifer Skelly, “That’s when something really special can happen. No idea is a bad idea because it can lead to something completely unexpected.”