L.A. Table Reading for ‘Dark Place’ and ‘Summer’
HOW A TABLE READING CONTRIBUTES TO THE SUCCESS OF A FILM PROJECT
By CARLOS PEDRAZA
LOS ANGELES — Blue Seraph Productions stages a table reading Saturday, May 19, for its two features in development, Something Like Summer and The Dark Place. The event represents an important milestone in the films’ development process.
WE ARE MORE fortunate than most independent filmmakers, in that investors put their faith in us early in the process, fully funding development for these two independent films. Development for our first feature, Judas Kiss, took place over the course of more than three years. That effort was aided by funders who knew our work in Star Trek, and wanted to support us as we moved into producing our own original work.
With The Dark Place and Something Like Summer, we’re applying what we’ve learned about development, financing and pre-production to move more quickly, more efficiently, through the process, to get to principal photography much faster than we did with our first feature.
With Judas Kiss, we walked into its table reading in spring 2008 (!!) with a 120-page script (by comparison, the shooting script was 104 pages; the final cut of the film was the equivalent of 94 pages). Though the actors were seated, we recorded the reading with a three-camera setup, edited in real time like a live television show.
The readings for the two new screenplays will be staged similarly, using the resources of our production partner, Butterknife Network.
We have gathered an ensemble of 14 actors, including Sean Paul Lockhart, who has won raves for his co-starring role in Judas Kiss, and who is attached to star in The Dark Place.
Why are table readings so important?
- It’s the first time the story comes to life. Try as one might, a writer can only guess how a script might actually look and feel to an audience. Hearing the words spoken by actual people, feeling the pace of how the story unfolds — these are valuable insights that help refine a screenplay into a final shooting script.
- You can’t estimate how much a movie will cost without a final screenplay. Everything is based on the shooting script. When you consider that it costs thousands of dollars to shoot each page of a script, every line of dialog, every piece of narrative should be there because it must be there to move the story forward. You can’t afford to waste the dollars you raise on scenes or dialog you shouldn’t have shot.
- When you begin the casting process, the images of live actors who voice the script help producers and the director imagine what actors eventually may play these roles.
At this point, it’s important to move these stories out of our heads, off of the paper, and a step closer to reality.
As we prepare to pitch these projects to investors, the recorded table readings give us something tangible to show them. Each film becomes more concrete — more real, if you will — to the people whose support we need to bring the stories to full-fledged life.
With Judas Kiss, this process took two years, from reading to principal photography. This time, we aim to reduce that timeframe to months.
THERE WAS NO Facebook, and little in the way of effective social media, when we started Judas Kiss. Today, we can leverage that technology, and new federal legislation that facilitates crowd funding, to help us make the case for financing our next projects.
We’re chronicling this journey on the Blue Seraph website, and on the Facebook pages for The Dark Place and Something Like Summer, and shortly on new websites for each of the films.
If we learned anything from our experience with Judas Kiss, it’s that a lot of people want to be a part of the stories we want to tell, and we plan to give them every opportunity to do so.