The Next Step: Reading

Now that we have a budget (which is still only an estimate at this time) it’s time to focus once again on the script. The producer wants to hear the script out loud. There was a casual table reading last year, but this will be a step up. Instead of in a friend’s apartment, we will have this reading in a more professional environment. This time, there will be an audience of sorts: potential producers, trusted writers and directors with script evaluation experience, and other potential collaborators.

So I booked a theater in the Victory Theatre Center in Burbank. The 49 seat space was perfect, feeling almost like a screening room. We assembled the cast, most from the previous reading joined by a few recommendations from the producer. We invited a select group for the audience, and about a dozen were able to attend. The reading went off without a hitch. My biggest mistake was not taking a photo of the reading for this blog. So instead, here’s a selfie of me and my drooling son:

This has nothing to do with the reading. I promise I won't forget to take pictures at other important times!

This child has nothing to do with the reading. Just a reminder to keep taking pictures of the process!

Some of the lines didn’t work, and some of the acting wasn’t right, but generally I was pretty pleased with the whole evening. The audience was engaged, laughing at (some of) the right times and, of most importance, paying attention throughout. No creaking of seats, stretching, or other rumblings.

We chose not to have a post-reading discussion. Instead, I had a half page questionnaire for the audience to fill out, with the following questions:

What was your favorite part of the script?
What did you like least about the script?
Was anything confusing?
Not counting Nina (the protagonist), who is your favorite character?
Do you feel the script is too expositional, like a Law and Order episode?
Was the amount you learned about Nina’s past too much, not enough, or just right?
Would you see this movie if you didn’t know anyone involved in making it?

While the audience filled out the form, we served wine to the cast and audience in the lobby, drinking and discussing for a few hours. On the whole, it was a positive experience. Every creative endeavor should end with a party.

Coming up next… the results from the questionnaire are in!

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Reading Recap

Two days prior to the reading, and I am all about revisions. I would happily delay work on the script and procrastinate (look, more baseball on TV!) but I wanted to get the script to the cast at least a day in advance so they could have the option of reading it in advance. Plus, to be green, those who had e-readers needed to get it on their devices. So I worked late into Thursday evening, and Friday before and after work I continued my paper edit. By 5pm I had completed paper edits and sat in front of the computer to input all the changes. By 6pm Catia had returned from her commercial shoot, and since it was her birthday, we opened a bottle of bubbly to celebrate, then I continued with my paper edits. That is one stereotype I do not fit, the writer who drinks through the process. Fortunately I was almost done and I nursed my glass. Around 7pm I finished, saved the script, and sent a pdf to the cast. No proofreading here, gonna fly by the seat of my pants.

Saturday a quick trip to the local copy store to print out copies for the e-readerless (double sided, you’re welcome Mother Earth) and before I knew it, time was up. Let’s begin.

The last time I heard a script read out loud was my debacle with The Actors Studio in July. I was not concerned this time; after all, it’s a closed reading, just a handful of talented actors who all happen to be friends. A few other respected listeners. A positive room.

Reading 10-12-13 1

Talented actors hard at work.

And it went well. The pace moved quickly. There were more laughs than I anticipated. The actors connected with each other. Sure, the flaws were glaring when the dialogue was heard out loud. It didn’t go far enough with some of the protagonist’s obstacles, and some moments weren’t believable, but all in all it was a success. The script works.  With a little reworking and revision, this could be something. I am satisfied.

After the reading I opted not to have a group discussion, which sort of threw the cast for a loop. Ordinarily following a reading everyone would sit around and discuss, but since we started a bit late and since the reading was turning into a birthday party for my wife with other guests about to arrive, I decided to abandon the usual critique session and talk to people individually or in smaller groups, throughout the evening. This worked out surprisingly well as people could speak freely without considering the opinions of others. Plus, this allowed me to hear similar opinions without worrying about bandwagon opinions, which are those from people who might agree with something that they wouldn’t have considered on their own. There was some general consensus, though:

* The script is too procedural. Much is revealed in conversation, which isn’t active. And similarly:

* Be more visual and less married to text. A common problem for us playwrights who switch to film. Not insurmountable, my scripts are getting more visual the more I write, but something to always consider. Talk in images when possible. One great note I received from a writer friend who watched the reading is to consider approach each scene as a dance.

Now I will take a few days away from the script to stew it over, but I am encouraged and excited to take this to the next step.

Progress…and a deadline

So I jumped off the diving board.

Not pictured: me Pictured: someone on fire

Not pictured: me
Pictured: someone else on fire

Too dramatic? I’ll tone it down in the next edit. The point is that I leapt. It’s time to move things forward with my script, and there is no turning back.

First: picked my actors. A tougher job than I thought, considering I wrote the script with specific actors who I personally know  in mind. The hard part was deciding who gets in at this early stage. There are easily a dozen actors I have in mind for roles that I did not consider for this reading because I don’t benefit for a large room at this time. For now, just a core group of people with the more substantial parts.

Second: picked three possible dates for a reading. A generous friend donated his apartment; cleared the dates with him.

Third: composed the email: “Can you do the reading? Are you interested? Do any of these dates work for you? Do you know who I am?” Send.

Fourth: held my breath. Didn’t take long. Half of the actors wrote back within an hour, giving their preferred dates. Hopefully the rest will get back in touch over the weekend. All tentative dates are less than two weeks away.

Fifth: Now that there is a deadline, it’s time to start the script revision. Go!