Taken your script through a few rounds of notes and rewrites? Not sure what to do next? Maybe it’s time for a table read!
Hosting a table read lets you experience your script from an outside perspective and get real-world feedback from an actual audience. It can help you go into rewrites with more clarity and focus.
It can be intimidating to put your script out there for the first time. But remember: it doesn’t have to be perfect! Once you’ve taken your rough draft to a polished first draft, hosting a table read can be a great tool to see your vision come to life and find ways to strengthen your work in progress.
Before Your Table Read
- Set Your Details: Decide on a time, place, and guest list for your table read. Invite your friends, creative peers, and mentors! If you’re hosting an in-person event, you may need to book a space. If you’re meeting virtually, ensure your guests receive the meeting link ahead of time.
- Cast Your Actors: Cast people who feel comfortable reading scripts. While you don’t need to hire professional actors, try reaching out to local theaters or acting programs. Maybe ask your friends. Let everyone know which character(s) they’re reading for, along with a short character breakdown. Be sure to cast a reader for stage directions as well.
Hosting Your Table Read
- Make Your Guests Feel Welcome: For a virtual read, record your meeting and ask your audience to remain unmuted to hear their honest reactions. For in-person table reads, set out snacks and refreshments as a thank you for attending.
- Start and End Your Reading on Time: Account for about one minute per page of your script with an additional thirty minutes to an hour for questions and feedback (depending on length).
- Kick Things Off: Give a short introduction of yourself and your script. This is a good time to share things like your logline, why you were inspired to write this script, or any goals you may have for the work. Thank everybody in attendance and introduce your actors.
- Sit Back and Take Notes: Print a hard copy of your script and take notes. Listen for audience reactions as well as any stumbling blocks for your actors. Your table read is a time for you to listen and observe, so don’t cast yourself to read at your own table read.
- Ask for Feedback: After your table read concludes, offer up a few questions as jumping-off points What questions did you have about the world? Could anything be cut? What do you want to know more about? Is my protagonist’s motivation clear? What worked and what didn’t? Take notes to revisit as you go into rewrites, and be an active listener. Feel free to explain what you were going for if your audience has questions, but don’t fight your notes.
After Your Table Read
- Send a Thank You Email: Show your gratitude for your actors and attendees with a short and thoughtful thank you note. You can also send a link to your script’s PDF and welcome any additional feedback your audience might have.
- Rewrite Your Script: Take time to absorb the notes and feedback you received at your table read, and then polish your script. Use the feedback to focus your editing: for example, if your audience had questions about your characters, take some time to hone their wants and needs. Use your table read to take your screenplay to the next level.