Today was the first Offworld “Round Table Read” – that moment when all the actors have had the script for a little while but are now in the same place at the same time for the first time and start reading out their lines.
To all intents and purposes, this was the first time that either I or my co-writer (and the film’s director) Terry Cooper, have ever “seen” the film. This was the film in real life, at long last. The words being read aloud, with emotion, acted out for real. The characters suddenly having voices and, at some point, the actors stopping being “the actors” and starting to be their characters. Dan Ronson, Jan Lepree, Russ Price… they were all real.
Co-writing means I didn’t come up with the characters myself. My role was to take Terry’s treatment and draft script and re-work it. The characters came to me with their own baggage, but also some bits missing. Not quite Frankenstein’s monsters, more like incomplete IKEA kits that you can’t download the instructions for anymore. Now those same creatures, better formed and with all their screws tightened, have moved on to become the property of other people. Exactly who Jan, Dan, Ellen, Alexa, and all the others will be isn’t just down to me anymore. It’s down to the actors, who have to find the people who live between the lines in the script.
Watching them work wasn’t weird – to say it was would be a huge disservice to the actors who did an amazing job today. It was… strange though. Unexpected. You get used to people living in your head, and so when they turn up and start talking to you properly, its a bit of a shock.
Watching and listening to your script also makes you re-evaluate things – the dialogue that’s too long and wordy, the moments that don’t quite seem right. It shows you the gold as well – the funny bits, the sad bits, the bits that you wrote with the intention of hitting the audience square in the gut and, thank God, they land.
It was a great day today for our film today. I can’t wait to work with these guys some more.