The Improv Life: Why You Have to Read Books, Watch Movies, and Listen to Music

The Improv Life: Why You Have to Read Books, Watch Movies, and Listen to Music

I’m a big believer that everything you consume informs and contributes to your art.

You don’t know how it’s going to manifest in your art.

Unless your making a conscious effort to channel specific themes and references from a work of art that inspires you – which a lot of artists do in other kinds of mediums (but not usually improv) – you’re just going to go out there and see what comes out.

Improv is spontaneous and unplanned – there’s no way you can go into a scene knowing what’s going to inspire you in the moment.

Yes, you get a suggestion, but that’s just the starting point, not the whole scene.

You’re mind/gut sends you an impulse, you hold onto it, and use it to build a character, or to explore the scene while you figure out what’s going on.

But what is that impulse? It’s probably an idea for a character, or a vague feeling pushing you in a certain direction, with every move giving you more handles for you to grip your character.

But where does that idea come from? Well,  that probably depends on you. For me, and I don’t know how this developed, I’ll think back to some random thing I read, watched, listened to, remembered – and I totally have no control over this; it just arrives on its own, prompted by the moment and its unfolding action – and I use that for inspiration.

And you can create some wild stuff when you take what your mind gives you to cobble a character together. Some characters feel like they’ve been waiting to come out fully formed, and others feel like a mosaic I’m slowly piecing together with every choice. But the point is this: my subconscious is processing everything; the more I give it, the more it will give me for my art; I don’t control how it manifests, but I embrace whatever it gives me because I know there is gold there waiting for me to uncover it.

And that’s why you have to go read books, watch movies, and listen to music – you don’t know how it’s going to inspire you, but you can bet it will.

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