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7 Steps To Organise A Script Reading


Many thanks to Nidhi Gupta, who tells us of her experience and tips in organising a reading of your script today. I’m particularly interested in hearing from Bang2writers who can offer practical tips for writing craft and/or career advancement at the moment.

1) Why do you want a script reading?

This is an important question. There are no exact answers, but if you know why you want to, then you can get more from the experience. My reading was done when I could no longer see what did and did not work in the script. In addition, no matter how much we try to have different voices in our head, it still is our voice and so a reading allows the writer to hear the words in different voices and through different interpretations.

2) How many actors do you need?

Work out how many speaking parts there are, from your protagonist to ‘girl in coffee shop’ and from there, work out how many actors you will need. You will not need a separate actor for each speaking role.

Work out which characters are in each scene and any characters which are never in the same scene, can be spoken by the same actor. This way you reduce the number of people. In addition, trying to get an actor to read the one line of the role of ‘girl in coffee shop’ is going to be impossible.

Also write a 1-2 line summary of each character and an age range, e.g. 30’s female stubborn, spiky actress with a heart of gold. If the ethnicity is important then also add it in.

However, do not be overly-precious with the ages of the actors for the role. If you can only get an actress in her mid-40’s for someone in their 30’s then try it out. The look is not as important as the voice, and you might find some interesting insights into the character that were hitherto unseen. Also, if you a character’s gender is unimportant e.g. ‘girl in coffee shop’ then be pragmatic.

Finally, an actor is needed for the narration. The slug lines have to be read out and an actor will be needed for that. Do not do it yourself (see number 3).

3) Get a director

Unless you are able to tap your head, rub your tummy, hop on one leg and do it all in time to the tango, get a director. Even if you are a writer/director, this is for the writing part of the process and you want to be able to just listen and learn and not worry about directing the actors.

Also, a director will give you another perspective on your script. Actors give another. And the more perspectives you get, the better. Finally, the director can help determine in what format a reading should take. Should the actors stand for their lines and face each other, or do it as a table reading? These are all important.

To find a director you can use the same links as for actors (see below)

4) Finding actors

This may sound like a tall order, but here is something to remember: all actors know other actors. Ask your friends and contacts and people will know actors. Post on Shooting People, Talent Circle, and Bang2writers. Ask your friends and family and you will be surprised how many they know. And ask them to ask other actors. If you give them the character descriptions, then they can work out whom to contact.

Actors may drop out at the last minute – a job comes up, or one the thousands of other events that stall us in life like burst water pipes. Talk to people and keep asking around – these are just obstacles to overcome.

5) Location

The type of reading determines the location and vice versa. Normally whether somewhere is free/costs is likely to be your main factor. But also important is whether it is accessible easily by public transport, good lighting and acoustics, is it noisy (do not have it in a coffee place with a loud espresso machine)? Will you have the place exclusively, or will people be moving through? If you have it in your own home, then it will not be public (unless you want to advertise your address on the Internet). Make sure you have enough space in your home and comfortable seating. Ring around pubs and cafes with rooms for hire/book or for reservations.

6) Feedback and recording

Thank the actors and director and take feedback as offered. A writer’s output is an extension of their imagination. However, do not take it personally if someone takes issue with your work. You are doing this to become a better writer and you cannot please everyone all of the time. So take all feedback with a smile and write it down. Afterwards, if you do not like what someone has said, rant about it in the pub, to your friends or the pillow. But these are professionals who have given their time for free and are doing this to help you. So, appreciate their effort.

You will not remember everything. Record the entire event so you can listen back (and likely cringe) at stuff you thought was great. Have a back-up recording device too – remember whatever can go wrong, will.

7) Costs

This will cost you some money. It will not come free. The least you can provide is some food and drink (and I am of the belief that a couple of packets of cheese & onion and a bottle of fizzy sugar is not enough). Also, all involved might ask for travelling expenses. Therefore plan in advance how much you are willing to spend.

Finally, enjoy! This is a great opportunity to become a better writer and produce a better script. It is not easy and it will be nerve-wracking. But, it is something to enjoy, hearing your words out loud.

Good Luck!

BIO: Nidhi Gupta was born and brought up in East London. She started her career as doctor and has become an award-winning writer. Having produced several short films, including the award-winning DRIVER, showcased at the 53rd London Film Festival. She was also shortlisted for the prestigious Euroscript 2013 Competition and Runner-Up January 2013 for ScriptVamp’s Attention Grabber competition. She is currently in discussions with Monster66 Films, Los Angeles, regarding the horror-feature original, THE DEATH TUNNELS.

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5 thoughts on “7 Steps To Organise A Script Reading”

  1. I’ve done a lot of table readings for my screenplays. Here are some more quick tips:

    1. Screenwriting programmes cast and character report functions are invaluable when figuring how out many speaking roles there are in a script. Every speaking role – no matter if their have 1 or 1,000 lines – will need an actor. Create a report to ensure that no part is missed.

    2. If your reading will be in front of an audience, ask the director to arrange a rehearsal reading. Attend the reading. The rehearsal will stop the cast having any surprises, and you see how much of your script needs to be cut or rewritten before being publicly aired. Between the rehearsal and reading, edit and rewrite as needed. Having another read-through in private immediately before the public reading wouldn’t hurt either – especially if there have been lots of changes.

    3. Before the rehearsal, go through your script and remove ALL action description where you are micromanaging actors (“John wipes his brow”, significant looks, “Carol smiles gently” et al.). They slow down the reading, annoy the audience and annoy the actors. Ditto for camera directions: expunge all “We see…” or “The camera pans…”.

    4. If you have a series of scenes in the same location, at the same time, shorten the following sluglines which are in the same location. For instance:


    CAROL (30) flushes the goldfish down the toilet.


    Can become:


    CAROL (30) flushes the goldfish down the toilet.


    5. Make sure the actors have jugs of water to hand. This may not sound like much, but try speaking for up to 2 hours, without a break, and without a drink.

    6. Ask actors and the director whether they want hard copies of the scripts. In my experience some actors will print their own or will read from tablets, but most will want scripts. Ensure you have enough scripts for every actor on the day, and print off a couple of spares (in case of lost copies, spilled drinks, or dead tablet batteries).

    7. Bring highlighters so actors can mark their lines.

    8. During feedback, shut up and listen. Bite your tongue and glue your lips shut if needed, but don’t argue and don’t make excuses. “What I was doing there…” or “My intention there was…” really means “I screwed up there, but this is how I’m going to explain it away…”

    9. Avoid alcohol and caffeine before the public reading. You will be nervous and you will have adrenaline pumping through you: stimulants and alcohol will amplify both, making it harder for you to sit back and listen.

    10. If you have a director for the reading, ask them if they’d like to cast the script BEFORE you cast it.

    OK – so I lied. Those weren’t quick tips at all…

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  3. An initial way of listening to your script is to record it yourself and listen to it back – I’ve been doing this for the last 7 years, am adept at it accents and all and very entertained as I write comedy.

  4. Thank you Nidhi, Lucy and Richard, all fantastic tips!

    Since I didn’t see this one: If the person reading the action speaks much too fast–or too slow–it can be disastrous to the read.

    If possible, get that person to read a page for you alone, before the table read, so if necessary you can ask them to please adjust their speed a little, without potentially embarrassing them in front of everyone else.

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