“Don’t put out too much food.”
I stare blankly at 4 grocery bags full of snacks from Trader Joes on our kitchen counter and don’t say anything. Hopefully Ryan won’t be able to decipher my silence through the phone as telling.
“Oh, yeah, totally. I’m only putting out a few snacks. Ya know, a little salty, a little sweet.”
But that was a lie. I put out yogurt covered pretzels, Oreos, flat pretzels, hummus, nuts, cookies upon cookies, grapes, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, … and some water glasses. I wanted to try to impress my actor friends who set aside this night to brave the traffic and parking to read my script to me… so I can hear it and make some notes and get some feedback.
It is asking a lot of friends to come out and read the script for us. But I also know that many of the actors in my life are always itching for an opportunity to act.
Ryan and I wrote a script called “12 Movies of Christmas.” It is a relationship comedy following old college friends on the 12th year of the annual 12 Movies of Christmas tradition. Their lives have changed, their interests have changed, and they are struggling to keep the tradition alive. This script is in honor of the adulting-pains shift that happens in that first decade or so after college.
I knew that this script would be a riot to read with some funny people and we were RIGHT! I had a blast and I could tell that many of our actors really connected to their roles and were able to give us fantastic feedback. Over the following week, I took notes, asked for thoughts, and made some positive changes that I think resulted in an even stronger ensemble comedy for the ages.
Now… that’s where things got really fun. A casting director and producer friend of mine in Arkansas asked if we wanted to do a script reading of our new script while we were traveling to Arkansas for a film festival that same month.
“Well, we just did one… would that be selfish to do another with the updated version? Actually, YES, can you set that up?!”
And he DID. There is a fantastic new sound stage in Fayetteville Arkansas called Rockhill Studios. They hosted our second script reading. It was SO much more formal, much more room, and a very different vibe. I was so nervous that I wanted to throw up. These were mostly strangers from Actors Casting Agency in Fayetteville. They came in prepared and ready to go, pile of printed scripts, highlighters in hand, and fancy chairs. I was honored, but I also felt foolish having everyone come out and do so much just for our script. But I was able to relax once I noticed a typo in my name sign by my script (see main photo).
During this reading, we laughed so hard that I cried. I had to stop reading from laughing. It was a hit.
The whole point is…
Ryan and I wrote this script. I was overjoyed to have actors read it at all, let alone 2 whole separate casts reading it! But, there is a point. You should DEFINITELY do two script readings. I learned a lot in this process.
- No matter the venue, make people feel special and comfortable (either too much food or a fancy venue – either is fine)
- No matter the group of friends or strangers, engage with everyone before the reading to get comfortable with them.
- Always have a person reading the ‘stage directions/action’ separate from reading any of the acting parts (otherwise it hurts the performance and flow).
- Don’t sit and demand notes afterwards, ask a few questions and talk a bit, but ask for a full run down personally from people in the next day or so, that way they can digest, and you don’t have to get everyone’s thoughts all at once at the end of a long experience.
- Give the reading your full acting/listening/attention, energy matters in these situations. Low energy makes the experience drag and jokes disappear.
I received tremendous feedback during this experience. Most of which was ultra-positive. BUT these were actors and an audience of producers/directors. These were not writers (although some actually are), so the feedback is different from different types of participants. I now have the confidence it takes to really push through to the next stage of development and get this film made.
Don’t be afraid to do more than 1 script reading. Don’t feel like you are putting people out, it’s an inspiring experience for everyone. Don’t back down from this opportunity to ‘workshop’ the script through seeing different types of actors perform the same roles. Don’t worry about enough food or too little food, just make sure there is water! And don’t skip this step, what it does for the content of the script is really a small impact compared to what it’ll do to YOUR confidence. Which is really what will get you through to the next step of the process.
What have you found to be helpful in workshopping your scripts?
Tell me about it @JennicaRenee