A week ago, we had our table read for the first six episodes of THE NEVERMORE CHRONICLES. The production team was joined by actors Julie Tolivar, Taylor Catlin and Jason Smith. Mike McClenahan and I each wrote three episodes for the event, and the the always capable Mike Colucci kept us on point. I’m happy to report that the read was a success, and there was helpful discussion after each episode.
It’s funny that no matter how often you read something you’ve written, it takes on a whole new life when professional actors get a hold of it. Suddenly, things that make perfect sense to you, don’t make sense to anyone else. Conversely, there are occasional subtleties revealed that you take credit for, but have no real knowledge of how they got into the script in the first place.
Every time I’m part of a table read, I think about the process of receiving and implementing notes.
A big challenge is filtering the feedback and knowing what to change. It is possible to re-write the soul out of your piece by implementing every note, but you don’t want to miss an opportunity to strengthen the writing by ignoring notes either. There’s no easy solution. My touchstone is: Does the note enhance the story or just make it different? Everyone brings their perspective to analysis, and some will attempt to re-write you in their notes based on how they would write it. Those types of notes can be helpful if you’re looking to make sweeping changes, but if not, be very careful with them.
An interesting phenomenon that happens with feedback is when there’s input simply because you asked for feedback in the first place, notes for notes sake. People want to help, and if you ask for an opinion, if they initially didn’t have one, they may dig deep to give you something. Those notes are polarizing, either super helpful or super damaging, and must be reviewed carefully.
At some point, you need to put your pencil down, but make sure you do after a well moderated table read. Remember: Notes are a gift – even the ones you don’t implement.