A while back, I was invited to participate in a panel discussion on the filmmaking process. One of the questions that came up during the panel was the importance of the table read for a short film. Someone on the panel didn’t feel it was necessary, and explained they maintained a more guerrilla-style approach when shooting. I can appreciate that, but for me good rapport between cast and crew begins with the table read – regardless of how short a film is.
During a table read (and for a short film, only one is necessary) community and trust is built. An open line of communication is established. This is the time when directors can speak about their intentions with the actors. What does the story mean to you? What is this character really about? What do you feel is the essential story that must be communicated?
As a director, you can begin to see the character take shape. The words begin to come to life, and come to life with your actors. During the table read for A MAN OF LIMITED EMOTIONAL MEANS, I went into the characters’ backstories with each actor. Information that wasn’t in the script was shared and provided everyone with an extra nugget they could in turn use to shape their own performances.
At a table read, questions can be posited, answered, and explored. The focus at this time is on the words on the page, not the actions of each individual – there will be time for that during principal photography. For me, the table read becomes the start to a strong relationship between you, your talent, your crew, the characters, and eventually the story. So is a table read necessary for a short film? In short, yes.