All You Need to Know about Korean Drama Script Reading Sessions
A script reading session is a common yet important practice for movies, sitcoms and dramas (yes, including K-dramas) before production actually commences. It is also known as a table read — a reference to the act of having everyone read script around a large table.
Let's run through some of the most frequently asked questions about K-drama script reading sessions:
The first K-drama script reading session is the first occasion where all the key stakeholders of the project — director, screenwriters, producers and cast members — will be in attendance together in one place and hearing the script aloud together for the first time.
It is important in different ways for each role.
For a director, it is an opportunity to evaluate how everyone works together and assess the chemistry between the actors during dialogue. As script reading is usually conducted near the tail end of the pre-production process, it is the last chance for the director to make some cast and crew changes before shooting commences.
For screenwriters or scriptwriters, hearing the screenplay read aloud will enable them to finetune the tone of the dialogue and adjust story direction, intensity and pace based on the actual cast's first read and chemistry.
For actors, reading the script aloud will enable them to better discover their character as well as other characters and consider how they can actually portray the character during shooting. It is said that a table read may just be like a second audition. A director may change the cast or weaken or reinforce the role of a character, based on the chemistry and first read of the character.
Executive producers and film financers< will also be present sometimes to meet with the cast and understand for themselves the viability and direction of the project they have invested in.
Thus, the first K-drama script reading session is a critical part of a pre-production plan as it is much less costly and more time-saving to resolve screenplay and chemistry issues at this stage than during production. A fruitful script reading session will certainly boost the confidence of the entire team going into production.
Who needs to attend?
Most K-drama script reading sessions have 20-50 people in attendance — director, creators, screenwriters, production team and actors/actresses, particularly those with significant dialogue. The first script reading is usually publicized for K-drama projects and may involve invited members of the media.
When is it organized?
Usually at near the end of pre-production, when the script for the early episodes is largely ready and the lead and key supporting cast are confirmed.
Where is it held?
The location is usually a large meeting room (called the script reading room) that can accommodate the attendees at the building of the broadcaster, such as MBC, KBS, JTBC, SBS and others.
What is the dress code?
The dress code is pretty flexible and can be casual, even for actors and actresses, who may put on light or no make-up, as you can see in the script reading reading session for Itaewon class below. For the Happiness script reading, the actors wore the clothes that their characters would be wearing during the shoot.
How long will it take?
Depending on the number of pages in the script and the discussion and feedback process, the script reading session can easily take several hours or even a full day to complete. So yes, enough snacks and drinks are provided to keep the participants replenished.
All participants will be equipped with a copy of the ready script and seated around a table or in a layout that facilitates discussion and feedback.
The script reading session will start with everyone in the room introducing themselves by name and job, followed by a kick-off speech (usually a short one) by the director who will share his views and aspirations for the project. Then the script reading begins.
For each scene, a designated script reader may read out the non-dialogue portions of the script such as scene headings, actions and descriptions and the actors will read aloud their dialogue portions based on how they interpret their character. After each scene, the participants can discuss and offer their feedback and experience when vocally enacting the script. For example, some conversations that read well on script may not work well when read out aloud.
Usually, the script reading session is recorded either in audio or audio-visually, so that the director and producer can re-watch and review the script reading to make adjustments to the dialogue or story, or recall issues that were brought up in the session.
Publicizing the first Korean drama script reading helps to drum up publicity for the upcoming production as the early episodes may be released in as fast as two to three months. Fans are able to catch an early glimpse of the cast involved and media publishers and influencers can push out early articles or videos that "talk" about the show, its cast and potential plot.
Thus, this publicity is usually part of an early marketing campaign to build up anticipation and aim for better ratings when the show is finally released.
Most K-drama productions follow the "live shoot" approach. In other words, while screenwriters may have the entire story planned out from beginning to end, they will need to tweak and adjust the storyline and characters, according to the favorable or disapproving response from the audience.
Usually, the first three or four episodes are scripted out, filmed and edited before release. The ensuing episodes are literally produced on-the-fly within days, juggling storyline adjustments with filming and editing sometimes completed right to the last hour before broadcast.
Thus, during the first public script reading, the actors usually read only the initial episodes. The script readings for the remaining episodes are usually closed-door and organized expediently as needed and in a less formalized manner, as the production pace will quickly pick up and the schedule becomes more hectic for everyone involved.