One of the things that weigh on screenwriters is the number of people who actually read your material. Unless it’s getting made, perhaps 30 people TOPS will read the work you’ve spent countless hours on. Such is the vagaries and frustrating aspects of the business.
What is doubly irksome is a screenplay isn’t a work that is supposed to be “read”, it’s a document that is designed to be performed and to marshall resources and personnel so it can be filmed.
However, to get it to that stage, the screenplay has to convey a sense of urgency (i.e., fuck, we have make this). Many scripts are prematurely put out into the marketplace for judgment, but that’s the gamble.
To a certain extent, you don’t know the emotional power of your work unless you witness actors breathing life into it (remember, a screenplay — when it’s working — is an emotion delivery machine). And that’s where a tabling reading comes in.
VALUE OF A TABLE READ
A table read can tell you a lot about your work… the pacing, the nature of the dialog WHEN SPOKEN, what impact your action/description has on an audience, and it is a joy to get other talented artists to contribute to your work. I guess you can say there’s a sense of validation that occurs… if you go in for that sort of thing.
I came across this recording of the official cast table reading of the groundbreaking comedy SUPER BAD (2007); specifically, the sex scene. I guess this surfaced because Emma Stone just won the Oscar, and you know how the internet is, those algorithms populate your feed is ways you don’t anticipate. It’s worth taking a look at because you can see how these fresh and on-the-rise talents handled this material.
When actors step it up and shine during a table read, they do so because they’re responding to the emotional energy that has been earned on the page, from the words you, the writer, carefully crafted. And that energy is infectious; when you’re doing it for real-for real, the table read sets the tone for the upcoming production.
Until your film is getting ready to go into production, consider doing this… you’ll learn a lot. And, of course, you’ll do this right before production for cast bonding purposes (or you might only get page turns, but that’s another post). Be sure to get solid talent for the roles, and whoever is going to read the narration is critical for the success of this endeavor. One last caveat, read it aloud yourself three or four times before you do the table read; you’ll thank us.