What exactly is a table read?
A table read is gold.
Well, technically, it’s when you get about 10 to 15 actors together to read your screenplay. I say it’s gold because it is when your project comes to life after months of “construction”. Screenwriting is a somewhat lonely life. You outline a story and begin to construct and assemble scenes with various people. You then create dialogue between the characters. You type all of this on a page and it’s a bit unnatural.
Sometimes you read it out loud yourself, but nothing is as effective as having actors read the words you have spent months writing. Ultimately, that is what you write these scenes and characters for, so that they might be brought together in a performance to tell a story. A table reading is a way of hearing, for the first time, an actor give a voice, emotion and meaning to a story you have written and to a character who – so far – has only existed inside your mind and on a page.
I told the a story in the post “Hollywood calling” about my meeting with Marc and Elaine Zicree. I can call them my friends and through an organization they have set up in Hollywood and across the world which is really called “The table”, I was able to access a group of professional, almost all SAG (screen actors guild) or actors studio-trained actors to read my dramatic script, entitled Playing the Rush.
Who could pass up such a dream opportunity? You have a script read this way plus you have the chance to further improve the writing after hearing the words spoken, rather than, read.
Here is a brief synopsis about Playing the Rush.
“PLAYING THE RUSH Action Comedy Drama ALEC, an about-to-be married waiter finds his past comes back to haunt him when he unknowingly is involved in a gambling scheme involving a co-worker. While thugs converge on the restaurant to collect the debt, money he has never bet, Alec finds he has to save himself from gangsters and salvage his relationship with his fiancee, JANE, who believes he has broken his promise to never gamble again.”
You might be asking yourself what this has to do with Filippo Brunelleschi? Well, it’s pretty simple, really. I know I need to probably make two films before I can be even considered for a larger budget film on a subject the scope of Brunelleschi. So, this low-budget script along with another low-budget script I have written are first in the cue and I am attempting to get these made because they are more inexpensive and in the long run, easier to make.
So, it’s a baby step to get my script read at a Hollywood table. I have to say the quality of the feedback I got, and the ideas that this reading inspired, will be helpful but it also helped me realize that I love working with actors and that is most likely because I am an actor myself.
The reading itself was rather taxing. What if it all sounds like crap? What if the script is flat? What if the words are just not there to get the performances that make a solid film? It’s enough to keep you up at night. But I wasn’t really too uptight because I looked at it as learning. At the least you have a chance to fix what’s not working.
So, how did it turn out? I can gauge it by a few things. One, there were more than a few times where the whole room laughed, or there was attentiveness toward what was being read and where the story was going. That is a huge relief because it’s asign (for me, anyway) that the script is alive. The actors stuck around afterword to reread and help me rework some scenes. I tip my hat to that kind of professionalism and commitment to the job.
All the rewriting I have to do is not very complicated; it’s just some “tweaks and switch arounds” along with the addition of few scenes and dialogues to help the storyline and deepen character relationships.
What a ride.