A table read is one of the most important steps in the production process for any feature film or TV series. It offers an opportunity for cast, crew, and other members of the creative team to gather together to hear the script read aloud. Whether a first-time writer or a film industry veteran, table reads can give invaluable insight into the script.
Table reads are an essential part of the script development and writing process, as writers use them as an opportunity to fine tune stories, sharpen dialogue and make other necessary adjustments. These table readings usually occur towards the end of pre-production; before shooting begins.
These a great way to hear film, multiple times if feasible, helps with pacing and character, and will perhaps inspire rewrites if things that aren’t working are heard. For actors, the first table read is an opportunity to discover a character out loud.
Confirm Casting Decisions: This is often the first time the entire script read out loud by actors; main roles will already be cast. Listening to these actors inhabit their roles for the first time can help confirm whether adjustments are necessary. If not, table reads can be a great way to allow an actor to be considered to read the role in question to determine if they might be right for it.
Identify Screenplay Concerns: Even great scripts can have issues, and sometimes it’s hard to pinpoint a script’s problems until the whole thing read out loud. Whether it’s stiff dialogue, boring stretches, or plot moves that don’t make sense, occasionally, it takes a table read to truly determine the places where a script needs work.
Gather Everyone Together: Table reads often serve as the first occasion in the production process in which the cast and production team are gathered under one roof. In this sense, table reads offer an opportunity for the entire film-making group to meet each other, socialize, and discuss the script.
Table Reads Generally Include:
Cast -- Members of the cast will read their parts during the table read.
The Screenwriter -- The screenwriter is present to hear the script read out loud and identify areas where changes may need to be made.
The Director -- A director will attend a table read to take note of the actors' performances and begin thinking about the visual language he will use to tell the story.
The Producers -- Producers are there to meet with department heads and analyze the script for potential practical and budgetary challenges.
Department Heads -- Managers (such as the production designer, director of photography, casting director, and costume designer) will examine the script for issues and ideas related to their department.
Executives -- Executives will often attend to offer creative or mostly just the practical feedback about the script.
5 Tips to Ensure Your Table Read Goes Smoothly
Select a location. Table reads can take place anywhere, from a living room to a Hollywood studio back lot. All that is needed is a clean, comfortable location that can fit the participants. Whichever location chosen, it is essential make sure that it is relatively quiet of distracting background noise.
Arrange your cast. Arrange the cast around a large table so they are all visible. It’s also helpful to place name tags or placards in front of each actor with their character’s name.
Print out scripts. Make sure that every member of the cast has a printed copy of the script as well as one for everyone who is watching the table read. Provide pens so that the viewers and participants can take notes.
Film the table read. Film the table read for later viewing to recall certain aspects of the script that worked or needed improvement . A simple, static camera in the back of the room that records clear audio should be suitable. Oftentimes, the room’s audible response to a joke, a twist, or a key plot point is the best way to tell if the script is landing as expected.
Provide refreshments: Table reads can last a long time. A light snack or meal before or after the table read can help the team stay focused and energized. The actors especially should also have access to water during the reading, as they’ll be talking a lot.