Table reads are one of the most important stages in the pre-production process for films, television shows, and stage productions. They serve to define objectives, polish dialogue, and identify problematic areas, which may result in recasting, rewriting, or even rejecting a project altogether.

Find out more about this important pre-production process and the type of energy performers should bring to the (literal and figurative) table.

What is a table read?

A staged reading of a screenplay or script by actors who will be speaking in a movie, TV show, or play is known as a table read. Many times, everyone engaged in the production meets up for the first time during the table read. To complete the script and iron out project details, a test run is conducted toward the conclusion of pre-production and just before shooting.

Who shows up to a table read? The majority of those directly involved in the production attend table reads, including:

  • Actors with speaking roles: Cast members interact with one another and recite their lines aloud.
  • Directors: The director evaluates the best way to develop the visual story.
  • Writers: Writers make notes on any script passages that may require rewriting.
  • Producers: In a more utilitarian capacity, producers evaluate any script-related practical problems.
  • Department heads: Department leaders look through the lens of their department to generate innovative ideas and identify any potential problems.
  • Studio executives: During the table read, executives may offer creative commentary.
  • Investors: The table read either demonstrates to investors that their money is being used wisely or may suggest otherwise.

What do you need to hold a table read?

For a table read, you need:

  • Location: Although you can host a table read anywhere, it works best in a room with minimal outside noise and distractions. So that everyone can see one another, the read-through should take place at a table or in a circle.
  • Complete script: For the purpose of identifying any problems and enabling fruitful modifications, the entire script must be read through. Include character analyses and plot summaries as well.
  • Cast list: It makes it simple to identify performers and their roles thanks to the cast list’s inclusion of images, roles, and true names.
  • Video recording device: A video of the table read is very helpful for revisions.
  • Paper, pens, and pencils: Making notes during the table read allows for thorough evaluation of the actors and the script.
  • Water: Hydration makes table reads easier, especially for actors who have a lot of talk.

What makes table reads crucial?

Table reads reveal whether a script actually works and whether a team can successfully communicate. They promote:

Community. Actors frequently get to know one another and the rest of the film crew for the first time during table reads. This promotes a spirit of cooperation and camaraderie throughout the team.

Good casting decisions. Although casting directors get an idea of the acting abilities of actors from auditions, the table read can assist them validate their casting decisions—or reassign roles as necessary.

Creative flow. Speaking performances are a great way to get your creative juices flowing while developing characters and stories.

Even the most elegant script can have mistakes, gaps in the story, and odd dialogue. It becomes clearer whether there are any sections that need to be revised before shooting when it is read aloud.