Couple of weeks ago I found out I’d won the Grand Prize in the Table Read My Screenplay contest. Being flown out to L.A. next month and should be fun.
What is a table read? A table read is a group of actors brought together to go through a script. Each actor is assigned character or several characters.
Why do this? Screenplays should contain realistic dialogue. A table read allows you as writer to hear the work performed and make adjustments. Actors may trim words or take approaches to the character. Certain lines will appear redundant or on the nose. All of these improvements can springboard from a table read.
There are additional benefits depending on the genre. For example, a talented comic actor may get into character and improvise creating usable material.
How to do this?
1. Location. Pick a location where you have some degree of privacy. You want the actors to let it rip. If they get in character and begin yelling or moving about you’ll quickly become a distraction, if not annoyance, to a public location. Classroom, private room at a restaurant, or your home are suggestions.
2. Pay. Actors appreciate a show of respect for their effort. Some nominal pay (20-30 bucks) is good. Or just offer to buy dinner if you meet at a restaurant. Everyone will be more likely to show up and come back for the next one. You want trained actors. If a scene is flat or dialogue sloppy, you’ll know it’s on you as the writer rather than an amateurish performance.
3. Pre-Read. Send the scripts to the actors ahead of time or hand them a copy. Want them to have a chance to read through it and annotate their lines
4. Incentive for Actors. If you are a filmmaker or producer as well it’ll help you network with actors. Lead to future rules for them.
5. During the read. I suggest taking a food break in the middle of the read or at least a bathroom break. May take two hours to go through a script.
6. TAKE NOTES. If possible, have someone else read the narration. You want to be marking up your script and taking notes. You may also wish to video or audio record the performance to play later.
7. It’s a wrap. Pay everyone if you agreed to do so. Pick up the tab. Email ‘thank you’s. You’re creating your team.
Best of luck. Look for the video posting from my contest win in the months ahead at tablereadmyscreenplay.com.