The TBC crew and I spent Monday night in awe as the majority of our official cast all gathered at probably the biggest table I've ever seen in order to do our first formal script read-through!
It was honestly the most intimidated I've been in a while. These were people who were not only interested in what we've spent years creating but enthusiastic about it! While we were waiting for the late-comers I had time to listen in on the bits of overheard conversations, osmosis-ing their energies, growing more and more excited by the minute. Funny how a room full of performers can radiate all that energy, huh?
Most notable right off the bat was how our two lead actresses, Gena Shaw (Marla) and Marissa Skell (Carla) took to each other with an instant familial bond - as soon as they entered the room, they WERE sisters. It translated to their performance, which translated to my goosebumps. All this before formal introductions!
What's more, I met Doug Jones for the first time! And he's THE NICEST COOLEST MOST TALENTED GUY I'VE EVER MET SERIOUSLY 100%. If you think that's an exaggeration you've never met him.
TBC Films (Matt, Andy, and I) said some quick words to open the event and shut up quick, eager to go right into the reading. Our crazy-literate and handsome-voiced casting director, Doug Clayton, handled the stage direction while the cast got to take on their characters for the first time ever in context.
I never looked at the script except to make notes. I watched faces. I read reactions to see what worked and what didn't. This is the first and best test audience, and they told me a lot over the course of the night. They laughed at the lunacy, sighed at the sentimentality, and grimaced at the gore.
More importantly, they stammered at the dialogue that was poorly structured. They cocked their eyebrows at jokes that fell flat, frowned at the overuse of cussing. This feedback is infinitely valuable to me - if they're confused or overhwhelmed at any point in the story, so will the audience be. These wonky parts need to be fixed, which is the next thing on my plate.
I knew that, as the writer, I'd obviously have to write a lot. However - I've done that already, am still doing it, and am probably going to do it for a while longer! Not complaining here, just realizing the full extent of the responsibility. How much do you want to bet I'll have to come up with some more dialogue gems during editing?
Another interesting concern as a writer is how I'm perceived by the cast. After the reading, most of them told me they really loved the story - which of course is great to hear - but I couldn't help the feeling that some of them were holding back their true feelings. In retrospect I feel that I should have let them know that my ego is secondary to the quality of this project and if they had issues with anything then to let me know directly and honestly. I love that the script is being received so well, but if it's going to get any better I need to know what's wrong instead of what's right.
Finally, after everyone said their goodbyes and shared new-friend hugs, the production team and I headed over to a nearby bar for food, drinks, and discussion. The spirit of the evening took us and we mused about how taking this cast up north is going to make for one hell of a fun production! Working on a tight, extensive schedule up at The Patrick Creek Lodge is going to be a significant trial for all of us, but being surrounded by the talent I witnessed on Monday night I consider it more of a working vacation.