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Freeze and Switch

The techniques of improvisational theatre can improve your commercial writing. Read about them, take a class, join a troupe, practice, and get on stage if you want, but use these techniques. They’ll give your right brain strength and agility.

Here’s one technique that can help you yield better results from your brainstorming sessions: Freeze and Switch. Here’s how it works in an improv situation:
Two players begin a scene. When they are in an interesting position or the energy of the scene has reached a peak, an offstage player yells, "freeze." The onstage players freeze, the new player tags one out, assumes that player’s exact physical position (while the other player remains frozen in place) and begins a new scene, justifying in a new way the position both players are in. It’s the new player's responsibility to start the new scene, not the player who remains on stage.
The only way this can work is for the players to commit totally to the new scene, whether they believe in it initially or not. As one of the offstage players, you have to yell, “freeze” and jump in when the energy of the previous scene has reached a peak (or needs to be rescued because it is dying). You won’t have much opportunity to prepare a continuation in advance. You may have to abandon any preplanning you’ve done and create something brand new “in the moment,” and focus all your skills and presence on its success, as must the other player.

The flexibility and acceptance you’ll develop by practicing this improv technique is the key to making brainstorming work.

Use this technique to spice up a brainstorming session on commercials. At an appropriate moment, as a commercial is being described, narrated or acted out, yell “freeze,” jump in and take the commercial in a new direction. See if that doesn’t yield some new angles, insights or results (to be used sparingly, lest no one join your brainstorming sessions in the future).

Jeffrey Hedquist. Email jeffrey@hedquist.com

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