On August 20, 2017, I attended a table read, a pre-production activity, for Season 2 of Jolie East-Miji’s webseries “B-City”. By having actors in a group read the script out loud, this is a very important step as it puts all the plotlines into perspective and helps everyone understand the message Jolie wants to convey. I am not one of the actors. However, as a member of the crew and a funder, I am very interested in seeing and learning about every step in the process.
Read on for more details.
The Table Read
The table read is a pre-production activity of film, television, radio, and theatre production, which is an organized reading around a table of the screenplay or script by the actors with speaking parts. The table read is also known as the read-through or the table work. In addition to the cast members with speaking parts, other stakeholders usually attend the read-through. It is usually the first time everyone involved in the production will have gathered together.
Here is what I observed at the meeting on August 20, 2017.
Creator/writer/director Jolie conducted the meeting.
Jolie asks if there are any questions about the script. Jolie discusses cast changes and reports that a new actor will be playing an existing character from Season 1; there are also new characters in Season 2.
Meeting attendees introduced themselves and mentioned their role in the production (actor, producer, etc.).
Producer Morgen Whiteman discussed paperwork required to be filled out and signed by the actors, including a Yes/No contract (about being paid), talent agreement, contact information, and food allergies notification. In addition, she indicated that headshots have to be submitted.
Morgen informed the attendees that Slack is the tool being used for project management – all should be registered on the tool and use it to access applicable documents and updated information. She explained the layout and navigation of Slack.
Morgen explained the tentative shooting schedule and explained a spreadsheet (stripboard) – showing what episodes/scenes/locations would be shot on a given shooting day.
Morgen was in the process of creating a Google Maps presentation showing the actual shooting (physical) locations corresponding to the locations cited in the script.
The script for each episode was presented. Jolie provided a summary of each episode; how the characters interact, and the level of emotion desired). Each actor read aloud the dialog of their character (stand-ins read for actors not present). The non-dialog parts of the script (e.g., action descriptions/stage directions and master scene headings) were skipped.
Check out these photographs from the meeting. All are from the author’s collection. In addition, actor Laria Jacobs Johnson attended the meeting via video conference.
The table read is a very important activity as it allows the attendees to see the flow of the plotlines and helps everyone understand Jolie’s intent for the series. The actors learned about the level of emotion required in a particular scene. We all learned about the most critical plotlines, episodes, and scenes. I definitely got much more out of this meeting than I ever could have gotten by just reading the scripts myself.
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Originally published August 25, 2017. Updated October 15, 2020 to adjust category assignments.