The Actors Table Read – The Do’s The Don’ts and Managing Expectations

The Actors Table Read at the Festival is huge fun as well and enormously educational. I was asked about the Do’s and Don’ts by a first time delegate, so I thought I would write a blog.

The ATR is your chance to see what Actors and Directors actually do. That’s one reason we ask Writers to simply observe for the first half of the ATR. This will give you a real world window into that world.

Beyond that you may be asked to contribute after halfway through.

We want you to have a real window into the world of acting and directing, so roll with the experience even if something unexpected or unorthodox happens. It’s always exciting.

  • Actors Table Read 005Know your script intimately – you will be surprised how it can change on the day once it is interpreted by actors and directors.
  • Actors' Table Read @ London Screenwriters' Festival 2013Get there ten minutes early so you are relaxed – you will have time to meet your cast and director too.
  • Actors Table Read 002Recording – you can ask if you can record the session BUT be prepared to be told no by the director or actors. Just like people reading your early drafts, actors and a director often don’t like people getting access to early rehearsals. If they do say ‘yes’ to your recording, audio is easy to record on your phone. Don’t obsesses about recording.
  • Actors Table Read 004 - CopyObserve and soak up – your first job is to be invisible so you can see what would happen on almost all filming sets. This is a valuable exercise in listening.
  • Actors Table Read session @ London Screenwriters' Festival 2013Contribute – after halfway feel free to get involved. Actors may well be interested in more information behind the words you have written. Then again, don’t take offence if they prefer their own ideas and interpretation. Be open to the evolution of your ideas.
  • ATR scriptDon’t rock up with rewrites – the script you submitted is the one that will be worked on during the ATR. Just like the real world, there is a machine behind getting your script to the performance on the day and that requires locking down the script at some point.
  • Actors Table Read 006Don’t fixate – this is an exercise. For some it will be an exercise in throwing away vast chunks of the script and improvising. For others it will be about refining like micro surgery. Just remember it’s an exercise and designed to open up new ways to see your work.
  • Actors Table Read 001Notice what can be dropped from the page – almost all scripts improve by dropping dialogue. Good actors may well suggest that lines be dropped as they can do more with less.
  • LIVE ATRPrepare for it to get emotional – it’s one thing writing big emotions, it’s electrifying to sit in the room with those same emotions made real by human beings.
  • IMG_5457Get contact details – we have had writers subsequently team up with their directors and movies have since come out of ATR relationships.
  • Actors' Table Read with Marcus Markou @ London Screenwriters' Festival 2013Thank your cast – actors LOVE feedback and a sense that their work matters. Pretty much just as we writers do too. So show them some love and appreciation. They will likely do the same in return.
  • P1010486Take a photo with your director and cast – you can use this on social media, it will get lots of comments.

We hope you have an outstanding ATR!

Chris Jones

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