Monday, 6 January 2020

Why Every Writer Should Hold A Table Read

Lately, I’ve been going to many table reads, and had scenes from my own script being read at a table read. As there’s more and more contests for table reads, table reads events, I’ve been asked several times what’s the purpose for them? 

First, let’s go over what a table read is...

What’s the point of Table Reads?

There’s the script table reads for the actors, writers, directors. In TV, this happens prior to shooting the episode.

I’ve seen table reads for short films too, but it’s more rare.

During the table read, everyone hears the story out loud, the dialogue, notes can be taken, and revisions can be made.

It’s a great way to test jokes too.

A very famous example of what a fancy well organized table read looks like here.

(Let’s not debate about the final season of this show… again).

More and more often there’s now Table Reads contests, Table Read My Screenplay being one.

They team up with a Festival and if you win, you get a table read of your script in a well-known festival like Sundance. 

But what does it look like?

Usually, there’s a stage, seats and mics (and bottles of water, gotta keep Meryl Streep hydrated). Established actors play characters in your script, directed by someone who reads the action.

They don’t play your script out physically, but they give emotion and life to your lines (pace, voice, tone).

Actually, I was surprised at my first table read on how much actors can bring to the dialogue without physically doing the action.

You often discover things you didn’t even realize while writing those exact lines. It is a very magical thing. This year I went to the Nicholl Fellowships Table Read and the performances were mind blowing. 

So should you consider hosting a table read or participating in a table read contest? My answer is yes, if you can.

Of course, you might not get access to the same kind of established talents if you host a table read yourself but it is an amazing way to test heavy dialogue scenes.

Maybe something you could imagine doing with cast and crew before a final rewrite for example. If you’re writing a comedy, it’s an exciting and very honest way to test jokes too. 

In sum, table reads are a reminder that a script is just the beginning of the whole magic, it is a huge piece, maybe the most important part but movies are the ultimate collaborative art and hearing your lines out loud proofs that everyone can bring something more, something magical, to an already greatly written script. 

Lena Murisier speaks and writes in four languages. She’s originally from Switzerland and graduated the New York Film Academy of Los Angeles in September 2019. 

She’s been crewing (DP, PA, 1st AD) on many short films and has directed several times. Don’t be surprised if you turn on the TV and see her play extras once or twice (like in the upcoming independent TV show Everyone is Doing Great).

What she loves most is writing. Features and TV.

Currently, she’s pitching a Female Driven police drama pilot she wrote during her time in film school. Hit her up on Instagram: @lenamurisier (tip: send her a meme, she’ll answer immediately).

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