Come Ups Cold Reading Pt. 1: Pre-Reading Vlog
Come Ups Cold Reading Pt. 2: Post-Reading/Feedback Vlog
Over the past several weeks I have done extensive rewriting on my screenplay Come Ups by applying the Save the Cat Paradigm to a completed draft of the script. I have given a rather lengthy analysis of that process here on the Daily Blog and how it has changed the script. Well, tonight the rubber met the road in a mostly successful test of the first 10 pages at a cold reading held hosted by Tuesdays@9: Los Angeles, a writer's workshop sponsored by the Naked Angels theatre group.
The cast is chosen by the co-artistic directors from a pool of professional actors who show up each week. While the writers have no say in who is cast, the co-artistic directors will ask for character types and what you think the role should look/sound like. Ten pages from five different writers are presented, and once all the roles have been cast the reading begins.
Some pretty talented actors well versed in the art of cold readings represented my major characters, while the smaller roles showcased some of the newer actors to the workshop. Sometimes the newer actors, especially in the smaller roles, push a little too hard trying to make an impression in hopes of getting a bigger role next time. This was true tonight with a couple of actors and I had to look past that to see if what was on the page was being communicated properly. Specifically, had I written the characters in such a way that the actors would pick up on my intent and play it accordingly, overwrought though it may be. In that respect, the actors pulled it off admirably. The actors playing Reydel and Almandeto really hit the nail on the head. They definitely played the actions and emotions as intended with a really nice ebb and flow of banter between the characters. Given no advance direction, their pacing and focus was quite nice and established a good dynamic that seemed to really engage the audience. Everything I wanted an actor, director and ultimately an audience to glean from the script seemed to be working as I wanted.
The one issue I had was in the scenes between Shep, Tyler and Grady. The actors, all very talented, played the scenes a little darker than I intended. They got all the right laughs in the right places, but the actor playing Grady seemed to really latch on to the hidden demons Grady harbors from his war experience. This definitely colored his performance and it was clear that he didn't like Tyler. This is true to the character, but I thought this would play as more jocular camaraderie between the three men with the true distaste for Tyler coming later. Tyler should be more of just an annoyance at this point. I don't think the problem was with the actor's choices, he obviously picked up on the clues I had provided, but in the structure of the scene. What became apparent was Grady dominates the scene, while Shep, who is our ultimate hero, comes across as almost non-existent. He needs to be a stronger moderating force between Tyler and Grady, a keeper of the peace. A director may be able to temper the performances and draw more out of Shep, but I think the role is underwritten as it currently exists. I will have to re-examine those moments to see if I can make a correction so a director doesn't have to.
I spoke with the actor playing Grady afterwards and was amazed at all the little nuances he picked up on from the writing. And he played them accordingly. This only reinforced the notion that Shep was underwritten. The actor also appreciated the sparse dialogue and opportunity to allow the scene to breathe, creating moments of action in between the lines of dialogue. The audience also responded very well to the characters of Grady and Tyler. In fact, I could have removed Shep from the scene entirely and I don't think the audience would have noticed. Not a good beginning for the character that is supposed to be the hero. Shep is a bit of a reluctant protagonist, but he needs to be in the movie if he is going to carry it. I see some rewrites for Shep in the near future.