I was listening to Anthony Atamanuik’s episode of the UCBTNY podcast and you were mentioned as being part of the movie class he took with a bunch of people who are almost all still involved in improv. What’s THAT like? The class and the people, I mean, not the mention.
Anthony was talking about Instant Cinema, which I’ve posted about here, namely in being the worst person on the team.
My memory’s terrible, but here’s what I remember (and I originally wrote a long response, but shortened it to prevent TL;DR).
- Instant Cinema started out as two consecutive classes (32 people!), about half of whom were on Harold teams. I think this was one of the first performance classes, actually.
- I wasn’t in the class with Anthony, Neil, Gethard, Curtis and John. I remember their first show, though, and watching Anthony for the first time and being blown away. He wasn’t on a Harold team yet, I’m pretty sure.
- They asked 13 students to audition for basically the next generation of Feature Feature (the UCB’s original Movie show). If asked why I got to audition, I’d say 1) I was good in the performances 2) I seemed to take to the Movie form naturally and 3) I had a very open schedule.
- Somehow I made it onto the team! We were Anthony Atamanuik, Neil Casey, me, Matt DeCoster, Kate Emswiler, Angeliki George, Curtis Gwinn, Dave Martin, and Zach Woods, with Silvija Ozols and Joe Wengert eventually replacing Kate and Curtis.
- Despite being a nine-person cast, we were rarely all together. That might have colored my belief that it’s better to have smaller shows than larger. (And now there’s a Two-Man Movie, so there’s that to consider.)
- That first year was stressful for me (and for Kate, the other newer improviser). I wasn’t confident or aggressive enough to step out against some of those heavy-hitters, so I didn’t really pull my weight. That kinda sucked. I usually felt out of my league, and it was hard to make my presence felt since these were a lot of big performers.
- Also, it took time for the team to get our bearings. Despite that line-up, we still all had to learn a new form, and Narrative stuff can be a bit tricky. It requires people playing micro and people playing macro, and that takes time.
- This is where I started getting better at playing macro, which is something I prefer to do years later - hanging back, filling in holes, connecting strings and making the scenes move. I can only remember playing the lead once (in a Shawshank Redemption-like show) and I hated it.
- That first year we did a weekly double-feature, so by our first anniversary we’d performed 100 Movies.
- (This corresponds with the unpopular theory that it takes 100 Harolds to really know a Harold.)
- By the end of that first year, I’d say we really knew the Movie form. We could consistently improvise good to great Movies, including what I think was our best, Police Broad starring Neil Casey.
- As you can see from the link, I maintained a (very incomplete) database of the Movies we improvised.
- In our second year we lost our weekly double-feature and were paired with different shows like The Real Real World and Monkeydick.
- This is when we performed a 19-minute Movie (The Car That Lived: The Adventures of Mr. Fenderbottom) - the shows were running behind schedule and a quick show would help out.
- We decided to retire at the end of 2005, and photos of our final show are archived here on this celebrity photo site (full disclosure: I worked for this company at the time).
Overall, though, I think it was sometimes stressful, sometimes fun, and sometimes magical, which basically amounts to most improv experiences, right?