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Thursday, November 13, 2008

Why Table Reads Are Fun and Cool!

Last evening at the Attic Theater, as I am wont to do about once each month, I hosted a table read. This time the guest of honor was Rouge Waver Chris Bosley. Chris was nice enough to stay up late afterward and write a blog post for y'all about what it was like:


One of the challenges for an aspiring screenwriter -- okay, any screenwriter -- is becoming comfortable with uncertainty. Even if you come up with what you think is a solid story premise and dedicate yourself to executing that concept in the form of a well-written script, i.e., unique voice, visual scene descriptions, memorable characters, snappy dialogue, complete unity of theme, until someone reads that script and puts up a truckload of money to turn it into a film . . . you just. don't. know. Will anyone "get" my vision for this story? Or is it just 110 pages of self-indulgence that will only cause the reader to hurl it across the room in frustration??

So it's nice, short of an actual sale or the like, to have those occasional moments when you can see your work click with others and be reasonably confident that, okay, maybe it doesn't totally suck. I was lucky enough to have one of those moments tonight at the table read Julie arranged for me at The Attic Theater. The subject matter was the first act of my rom-com titled SOULMATING. Although I placed in the quarterfinals of Silver Screenwriting with it, there was obviously something that wasn't connecting enough to take it into the later rounds. And since I hope to enter it in other upcoming contests, I need to figure out what the problems are before I can fix them. This was the first step for me in that next rewrite phase.

Naturally, Julie being the font of support and encouragement that she is, took that goal and amped it up about 500% by surprising me and bringing along her friend Steve Faber, writer of "Wedding Crashers." So that was pretty damn cool right there. And in the interest of making the most of my read, I also dragged along my friends Max Adams and Lee Patterson. Max is a past Nicholl fellow, writer of the feature "Excess Baggage," and coordinates the online writing workshop that I've been in for the past two years; Lee is a fellow workshop member and just in from London because he won the Nicholl himself this year. Like the old Sesame Street song says: "One of these things is not like the other, one of these things just doesn't belong." I'm only the guy with the first act of a script that needs some help.

But then another cool thing happened as the read began: people laughed. And in the right spots. This might sound like a minor thing, but especially with a comedy, making people laugh is somewhat of the essence. So that was good too. But the best part was getting notes and feedback from the actors and other writers in the room. Like, insanely great feedback. Steve diagnosed several fundamental character issues with laser precision. Things I kind of knew were hanging out there became instantly clarified. And with plenty of possible fixes for those issues as well. Max, Julie, and the others also gave me awesome suggestions on plot and story improvements that, if I can implement them, will (hopefully) make a good script great. My head is still swimming as I try to absorb and process everyone's comments, but in a good way. In a way that will fuel a whole round of new creative thinking about the script as I take the next pass. Many thanks to everyone -- actors and writers -- who gave of their time and selves to help me become a little more certain about my script.

To paraphrase Ferris Bueller, it is so choice. If you have the means, I highly recommend taking advantage of the service that Julie provides. All you have to do is bring snacks!

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Joe Public said...

When I first jumped into this business several years ago, I wrote a thing with no training, just loved it and brought it to Stage West in Springfield Mass. Stage West sponsored a workshop and it was something of a round robin event. Entrants are passed off to different writers who gave their two cents. I received comments that went something like..."Lots of passion." "At least you have a vision." And there was this ONE guy...who just ripped me apart, merciless.

The second part of the event was a cold reading of our works. I wanted to leave and skip it. But, hell, I paid the money and I don't know any of these people. So I stayed. I was near last, and several people left right after they were read. About fifteen decent souls stayed...out of kindness. Then it was my turn. The play was a modern day take on The Screwtape Letters. I added God, and the devil was a Danny Devito type. Long story short, the guy who played God, really sounded like God, read my words exactly, and the scene was funny, and people moved in their chairs, leaned forward...and laughed! My fiercest critic defended himself by saying "how did we know we would get such a good God!" I didn't care, I was on cloud nine. I made people move, physically, move in their chairs and had them talking afterward.

If there is drug in this world more powerful than a great, shared audience reaction, I just can't imagine what that is.

wenonah said...

Joe Public, you made me feel so much better about this weekend. I'm heading out to Atlanta to have a portion of my script read as a prize for winning their film fest script competition. I'm terrified. I've had shorts produced but I still cringe when I hear my words coming out of people's mouths, I don't think I'll ever get used to it and I've never had a live table reading. BUT, if you can do that on an early draft of something that was previously torn apart and hold your head up and get something out of it, then I can too. Wish me luck :-)


p.s. if anyone is in Atlanta this weekend the script is Sleeping with the Lutefisk, which was a finalist here at the Silver Screenwriting Competition and will be at the Margaret Mitchell House on Saturday night.

Anthony Peterson said...

I'm having a table reading for my script on Sunday. I'm excited AND nervous.

I'm looking forward to putting it under a blowtorch and exposing its every weakness.

Anonymous said...

HI Julie,

I'm sorry if I offend anyone for what I'm going to say.

I saw a some round table reads on YouTube.

Boring stuff.

Why can't a round table meeting be exciting like those you see at Marketing meetings.

Okay, I might be off a bit, but all I ask is for the reads to be exciting.

And why do most writers dress with boring fashion?

Why do they have bad posture?

And why do most writers think they are weird and try to be weird? Just be hip and cool and very business-like.

Why do they not have direct eye contact?

Why are they shy? Get a grip guys!

Why do they wear funny eye-glasses? Just wear a normal ones.

Why do they carry a plastic bag?

Why are they not tolerant of other genres? Don't roll your eyes at me.

Why do most writers cross their legs?

That's why I'm affraid to go to a round table and pitch my TV shows. I rather dine and wine them.

Sorry Julie for this.

Just being honest.

Joe Public said...


Good luck. Sorry this is late. I haven't been near a computer since Thursday.

I hope it went well...if so report back!