The read-through, table-read, or table work
Table work
Table work is a theatrical term describing the rehearsal time, usually in the first week of a production's preliminary work. Table work is spent around a table discussing the play, its themes, social relevance and other topics...

 is a stage of film and theatre production when an organized reading around a table of the screenplay
A screenplay or script is a written work that is made especially for a film or television program. Screenplays can be original works or adaptations from existing pieces of writing. In them, the movement, actions, expression, and dialogues of the characters are also narrated...

 or script by the actor
An actor is a person who acts in a dramatic production and who works in film, television, theatre, or radio in that capacity...

s with speaking parts is conducted.

In addition to the cast members with speaking parts, the read-through is usually attended by the principal financier
Financier is a term for a person who handles typically large sums of money, usually involving money lending, financing projects, large-scale investing, or large-scale money management. The term is French, and derives from finance or payment...

s or studio
A studio is an artist's or worker's workroom, or the catchall term for an artist and his or her employees who work within that studio. This can be for the purpose of architecture, painting, pottery , sculpture, scrapbooking, photography, graphic design, filmmaking, animation, radio or television...

 executives, producers
Film producer
A film producer oversees and delivers a film project to all relevant parties while preserving the integrity, voice and vision of the film. They will also often take on some financial risk by using their own money, especially during the pre-production period, before a film is fully financed.The...

, heads of department, writers, and of course directors
Film director
A film director is a person who directs the actors and film crew in filmmaking. They control a film's artistic and dramatic nathan roach, while guiding the technical crew and actors.-Responsibilities:...

. It is extremely rare for anyone not involved in the production to be permitted to attend. It is usually the first time everyone involved in the production will have gathered together and it is traditional to go around the table (usually a ring of tables, in fact) and allow everyone to introduce themselves by both name and job. The director may then open proceedings by making a short speech outlining his or her aspirations for the project.

An additional professional actor not otherwise involved in the production may be hired to read the non-dialogue parts of the script such as scene headings and action. These parts of the script are usually edited down severely for the purposes of the read-through to keep the pace of the reading up.

In film

The read-through is an important milestone in the production of most film
A film, also called a movie or motion picture, is a series of still or moving images. It is produced by recording photographic images with cameras, or by creating images using animation techniques or visual effects...

s. It is a clear signal that all of the key elements, including cast, finance
"Finance" is often defined simply as the management of money or “funds” management Modern finance, however, is a family of business activity that includes the origination, marketing, and management of cash and money surrogates through a variety of capital accounts, instruments, and markets created...

 and heads of department, are in place and that pre-production is almost complete. It is often the first time that the script has had a life beyond the written word, and it is also an opportunity for everyone involved in production to get at least a partial insight into the way the actors may approach their roles. In addition, a read-through is often a surprisingly powerful tool for identifying problem areas in the script. Wooden dialogue, unbelievable situations or boring sections of the film which have not been addressed during the script development process are often writ large in the read-through, and may now come under intense scrutiny.

It is traditional to treat the read-through as a cold reading. Because the actors have had no rehearsal time, and may not even have discussed the project much with the director, they are not expected to give a performance
A performance, in performing arts, generally comprises an event in which a performer or group of performers behave in a particular way for another group of people, the audience. Choral music and ballet are examples. Usually the performers participate in rehearsals beforehand. Afterwards audience...

 but simply to read the words on the page. Some actors including major Hollywood stars will indeed read their entire role in a flat monotone
Monotone refers to a sound, for example speech or music, that has a single unvaried tone.Monotone or monotonicity may also refer to:*Monotone , an open source revision control system*Monotone class theorem, in measure theory...

, whereas others (often actors from the theatre
Theatre is a collaborative form of fine art that uses live performers to present the experience of a real or imagined event before a live audience in a specific place. The performers may communicate this experience to the audience through combinations of gesture, speech, song, music or dance...

, or character actor
Character actor
A character actor is one who predominantly plays unusual or eccentric characters. The Oxford English Dictionary defines a character actor as "an actor who specializes in character parts", defining character part in turn as "an acting role displaying pronounced or unusual characteristics or...

s with relatively minor parts) will 'go for it' and are often the most entertaining part of the process.

The read-through can be very nerve-wracking for the producers, director, writer and executives. Despite the fact it is supposed to be a cold reading, everyone is on the alert for possible cast
Casting (performing arts)
In the performing arts, casting is a pre-production process for selecting a cast of actors, dancers, singers, models and other talent for a live or recorded performance.-Casting process:...

ing or script problems—a lack of chemistry between the principals, a key player who lacks charisma
The term charisma has two senses: 1) compelling attractiveness or charm that can inspire devotion in others, 2) a divinely conferred power or talent. For some theological usages the term is rendered charism, with a meaning the same as sense 2...

, a script which has logic problems or is obviously extremely boring. Even in their very short introduction, it may become clear that the director is unsure of himself or herself, or finds it difficult to communicate ideas. On the other hand, it can be extremely exciting to finally see a project which may have been in development for many years finally begin to take on a life of its own.

In his book Adventures in the Screen Trade
Adventures in the Screen Trade
Adventures in the Screen Trade is a book about Hollywood written in 1983 by American novelist and screenwriter William Goldman. The title is a parody of Dylan Thomas's Adventures in the Skin Trade.-Overview:The book is divided into three parts....

, screenwriter
Screenwriters or scriptwriters or scenario writers are people who write/create the short or feature-length screenplays from which mass media such as films, television programs, Comics or video games are based.-Profession:...

 William Goldman
William Goldman
William Goldman is an American novelist, playwright, and Academy Award-winning screenwriter.-Early life and education:...

 describes the read-through as the most important part of film production, because if the script is right and the cast is right there's not much else that can go wrong.

In an unusual example, the Space Ghost Coast to Coast
Space Ghost Coast to Coast
Space Ghost Coast to Coast is an American animated parody talk show hosted by the 60s Hanna-Barbera cartoon character Space Ghost. The show premiered on April 15, 1994 on Cartoon Network...

episode "Table Read" consists entirely of recorded footage of a read-through for an early version of the episode "Fire Ant". offers instant script read-throughs for free.

Further reading

  • So You Want to be a Theatre Director? (2004) by Stephen Unwin, ISBN 1-85459-779-5
  • Persistence of Vision: An Impractical Guide to Producing a Feature Film for Under $30,000 (1995), by John Gaspard, Dale Newton, Gaspard Newton, ISBN 0-941188-23-X
  • Friendly Enemies: Maximizing the Director-actor Relationship (2003), by Delia Salvi, ISBN 0-8230-7944-9
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