Screenwriting : Table reads: Cold or warm? by Hardy Awadjie

Hardy Awadjie

Table reads: Cold or warm?

Hi all, I am preparing for my first table read of a script I have done. I am wondering what is better: to do a cold read and hand out the script to people when they arrive or to give it to them in advance so that they can read through it and prepare for it? Any thoughts, comments or suggestions?

Marvin Willson

Advance, advance, advance. Get the best quality actors to read that you can, and try to get them to be "off book"

D Marcus

So you have cast your actors and you want to do a table read? Or are you asking actors to help you by donating their time so you can hear how your script sounds?

Hardy Awadjie

hey D, actors have not been casted yet. I am going to conduct a table read to determine how the script sounds and to get feedback from those in attendance.

D Marcus

In that case the actors will be doing you a huge favor. I suggest making the experience as comfortable as you can and allow them to be creative. And you're going to have an audience? You're an actor. As an actor you know that understanding the entire arc of the character and story helps you develop your approach to the character. You want feedback from an audience. I cannot for the life of me think why you would want the actors to read the script cold in front of an audience. But maybe I'm missing something here. Are you, as an actor, comfortable doing a cold reading in front of an audience? Of an entire feature? Is that something you, as an actor, would like to do? Maybe you would get better feedback from an audience with actors completely unfamiliar with the script.

Ray Greenfield

First off, edit your script for the read. Really pare down your descriptive passages. If you're using "real" actors, let them read the material beforehand. Trust them to carry the telling of your story forward. Break a leg...

Janet Biery

At local TSA meeting, they just pass out script pages cold with character names highlighted and it works out great. Just found the coolest program, you may already be using it, but it's free and it reads your script through. I stayed up the other night letting it read a script of mine, loved it. Uses computer voices or actor voices. Think this link will get there, Marvelous free app that also lets you cowrite with someone far away. Only tried it once but loved it.

D Marcus

One of these days Janet, you should allow actors to read your script out loud. What the human brings to your word is so different than what a computer program brings. Also what a prepared actor can bring to your words is quite different than what an unprepared one brings.

Janet Biery

D Marcus, members did read the first fifteen of a couple of them, some of whom were actors. I admit it was a thrill.

David Taylor

Copies in advance.

Mark Cabaroy

Definitely copies in advance and if can you cast the reading as if you doing the film. You want get the best actors you can in the right part. So that you can hear your dialog spoken properly otherwise it might sound off and you'll wind up changing things that don't need to be changed .

Sal Rastegar

copies in advance but no need to memorize.

Rick Hardin

Here's a great article on to do table reads Enjoy! R

Maric Yates

If you do not intend to produce this script, but only want it read out loud to hear the dialogue and plot flow for your benefit as the writer, then whether to read warm or cold is not much of an issue. Most good actors can internalize and deliver character dialogue on the spot. If you've invited good actors for the read, then give it to them cold if you like. More often than not, this spontaneity can inject life and unexpected surprises to what would otherwise be a pedestrian reading. However, if it is convenient for you to provide scripts beforehand, then by all means do so. If you intend to produce this script, then you should have already made your selection of actors through an exhaustive audition process. A table read should not be an audition. I'm very familiar with the process because I do table reads every week, both as writer and actor.

D Marcus

I would argue that while most good actors can internalize and deliver character dialogue on the spot all good actors can benefit from reading the script before a table read. Even if the reason for the read is only for the writer to hear the dialogue. In that case the actors are doing a favor for the writer (as opposed to having the job) and a little prep is extremely helpful.

Dan Goforth

Agree with D Marcus. A good actor will find many different ways to deliver a line, and sometimes they can really surprise you with how they interpret it with their inflections, tone and sometimes even body language (even in a table read). I've been in reads (someone else's script) where a character came out totally different from what I had pictured, just based on how the actor presented it. Example, imagine a table read of DIE HARD with Gary Busey reading for Hans instead of Alan Rickman. You'd probably see Hans presented as more "on the edge", even using the same dialogue.

Lew Osteen

Have them read first and assign roles.

Mark E Clason

As an actor, I've done both. Cold reads are more fun. Fun for you, because you get to see who has the chops to bring their part to life right before your eyes and ears. Fun for them, because they get the roller-coaster thrill of performing through their anxiety (if they have any).

Caroline Gauthier

Cold read! That way the actors have to be creative and connected in the moment. No preconceived ideas.

Gaile Ferguson

Greetings Hardy, congrats on your upcoming table read. I recently did a table read and we did a cold. What we received from that experience is much like what you will experience when an viewing audience see your movie for the first time. It's priceless to get the feed back from the actors after a cold read. That's when you find out how clear your story line is. I recommend that you do several table reads. If you give the actors the read ahead - it will distract from that experience for you. The (the actors) will be more interested in capturing the character. Good luck.

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