What The Black List is doing with their table reads podcast is pretty interesting, and I thought I’d give a little glimpse into what that experience was like for me and CHROME NOIR.
It came together quickly, as I suspect it has for the three table reads beforehand. At the end of June, I got an email from Franklin Leonard asking if I wanted to put CHROME NOIR’s hat into the ring for the Black List Table Reads’ first listener-voted screenplay to be given the podcast treatment, and I said sure. A couple of weeks later and the voting was over and CHROME NOIR had been chosen. I was able to arrange to swing by LA at the right time, and so about a month after that first email I was fortunate enough to get to sit and watch — and hear — the script brought to life by Colin Hanks, Zachary Levi, Rob Morrow, Katie Lowes, Billy Burke, Stephanie Drake, Matt Bohrer, Ben Schrader, Andrea Anders, and Cooper Thornton.
First of all: man, they’re good. I mean, obviously they’re good and that’s their job to be that good and so probably no one should be surprised that they’re that good, but I still think I get to be impressed with just how well they nailed it, coming in and reading it for the first time together over the course of a couple of hours. It really was an honor to get to be the writer listening to them bring the characters and story to life, and a pleasure to get to be the audience for it. Because I’m a pretty demanding audience and they hadn’t had nearly as much time with it as I had.
I mentioned in the interview with Franklin — which follows after the end of Episode 4, where Franklin asks insightful questions and I mumble my way through various approximations of answers — that my notes on it went back, well, I told him I didn’t want to say ten years. I went back through my notebooks after I got back and I have scribblings (at the time imaginatively titled “Sci-Fi Film Noir”) going back to at least the fall of 2006, during breaks from editing my independent feature BULL. I worked on and off on it for years, making notes, coming at it from different angles, trying to crack it and never quite being able to, always picking it up again when it came “time to write something”. Finally I just had to finish it to get it out of my head and banged out the draft that I put up on The Black List.
And even thought it was on and off, I’d still had years with it to seep in so at that point I was pretty familiar with at least the idea of this world, of this setting and these characters and how they all behave and act within it. We only had a few minutes of introduction to get to know each other and talk a bit about the screenplay before going into the room, and sitting there when “Record” was hit I was suddenly nervous about just how much of what I intended had come across to everyone else. You know, would the dialogue work, would the jokes land, would the twists actually twist. Now, I don’t want to take any credit at all for how well it came off: that was entirely due to the talent of the cast and the production team and Cody Skully, the guy in charge of recording, editing, and mixing the entire podcast. If you’ve listened, you know what I’m talking about.
So anyway, back to what I said at the start: what The Black List is doing with these table reads is pretty nifty, and I would encourage you to listen to all of them. For listening they’re just plain enjoyable, and from a writing point of view it’s a reminder of just how important it is to be aware of how things play on the stage.
Plus you can see — or rather hear — what a killer job they’re doing over there.