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For Indie Projects: An Actor’s Table Read Offers Best Results

Time Saving Tips

– by Claudine Marrotte

As an independent filmmaker you will be wearing many different hats and in many cases the producer is also the director. It is not easy doing both at the same time; however, most indies are driven by the writer/director, who also ends up raising the money. If you find yourself in this position, try to hire someone who can take over the day-to-day producing responsibilities –  it will free you up to focus on the creative without being bogged down with the logistics.

The director’s job is to get the best performance possible from the actors. On an indie film set there is little to no time to rehearse and most of the times the story is shot out of sequence, so it makes sense to have an actor table read before you start shooting.

Who’s Invited?

Depending on the size of the cast, the director will invite all of them or just the key players. The actors will read their parts while the narration will be done by the Director or Assistant Director (AD). Typically this is a closed session without producers to give the actors the ability to explore without feeling pressure to perform.

What Happens at the Table Read?

The script is typically read in the order it was written to let the actors get a sense of the story as a whole. The table read is not meant to be a dress rehearsal. This is a place for the actors to work out ideas they may have about the characters’ points of view, questions they may have about the characters’ motivation, and what the director is looking for. A good director allows the actors to “play” instead of giving direction – watch and listen to the actors to see what lines are giving them trouble and how they are interpreting the dialogue. This is especially useful in comedies because the director can evaluate what jokes need work and what jokes are actually landing.

How Do You Know You’ve Had a Successful Table Read?

The actors feel excited and inspired to continue to develop their characters and they ask many questions. The director gets a sense of where the actors are coming from and builds a line of communication with each actor. From there the director can schedule one-on-ones to rehearse with the actors to give them an opportunity to discuss the character more in-depth and build relationships.

A good source for rehearsal techniques is the book Directing Actors by Judith Weston.

Break a leg!

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Learn more about NYWIFT at www.nywift.org.

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