Perhaps you’ve written a film and you’re about to do a casual reading. Or perhaps you’ve been asked to conduct your first professional reading and you’re wondering how to organise it. Script reads can be absolutely invaluable - but you need to be clear about...
The first question is: What’s the purpose of the reading? Is it for everyone involved to get a taste of the material when it is read aloud? In that case, run the table read with this in mind.
Is it for the writer? This will give them lots of time to scribble down a million notes on this draft as they hear the words spoken aloud by someone else other than themselves.
Is it for the director to decide they’ve miscast the project? (Since a table read is not a rehearsal or a performance, then it’s important that the director just listens with an open mind).
Is it a table read to try out a few different actors? So is it for casting? Decide in advance the purpose.
Is it designed to just bring everyone involved in the project together, to launch that project? This can be a great way to set sail as a team.
ONE THING ABOUT WHY
Whatever the purpose, make sure everyone knows the purpose, otherwise people may misinterpret. Actors might feel like they have to give a final performance on the day, directors might feel the need to make suggestions, writers might want you to try it a different way… State the purpose in your early communications.
LOCATION LOCATION LOCATION
Make sure that the location of the table read is easy to find, has adequate transport links and that there is parking. Communicate this information to all visiting as early as possible.
A REAL TABLE
A script read or ‘table read’ as it is often known does work really well around an actual table. If you can get everyone around a table, it has a certain feel to it, but don’t stress if you can’t. A paste table covered with (clean bed) sheets could work very easily.
Make sure you have everyone’s email and everyone’s phone number. When you invite people, send a google link to a map of the location, add your phone number, the time and date very clearly too.
Make sure there are some notepads, highlighter pens, pencils, eraser etc. People might want to make notes.
Don’t expect them to print their own copies. It’s your script reading, you print the copies. Bind them where possible. And decide in advance whether you want them to keep the scripts or hand them back at the end.
DO IT LIKE A BOSS
Start and finish on time. Respect everyone’s time and show you’re a pro (even if you’re not).
DO YOU WANT OPEN FEEDBACK?
Decide this in advance. Writers and directors could be extremely unhappy with a general feedback session.
Write to everyone individually the next day and thank them for the attendance and efforts. It’s good professional courtesy and people like to be appreciated.
ONE LAST THING
It might not seem important, but everyone drinks water, most people drink coffee or tea and wouldn’t say no to a biscuit, so don’t be stingy with the refreshments, everyone appreciates them.
To You, the Best
Mark Westbrook is the Head Coach at Acting Coach Scotland