The Best Kind of Cold

Winnipeg Cold Read series heats up this summer

With summer on its way, the Manitoba Film Industry is preparing for a number of big and small productions headed to the province this summer. During the year, local filmmakers come together once a month at the Winnipeg Film Group’s Cold Read Series. In the film industry a cold read is when actors come to a script for the first time and give an off-the-cuff reading in order to help develop the script. Popular in film hubs like Toronto and Vancouver, cold read series are where writers and actors can join to read and discuss new script, without the pressure of an upcoming production.

“‏Having my work read aloud is incredibly valuable to me as an opportunity to hear the dialogue and my thoughts out in the open,” says screenwriter/producer Allan Turner. “Often once it's out and vocal I can understand what works and doesn't work about it. The cold read series gives me the chance to have actors actually create some substance to the characters that I often will not get from friends, family or other writers.”

The Winnipeg Cold Read Series is spearheaded by writer/producer Melva McLean, who was recently shortlisted for the NSI Drama Prize.  A former Vancouver resident, she moved back to Winnipeg and was looking for a place to have a script read. McLean partnered with the Winnipeg Film Group to found the Winnipeg Film Group’s Cold Read Series, which runs once a month out of their studio. Scripts are submitted a week in advance by local writers hoping to gain valuable insight from the reading process. Actors arrive an hour prior to the reading and are cast a half hour before it begins. Occasionally, the Vancouver Cold Read Series even attracts such A-List actors as Robin Williams. Here in Winnipeg, actors like Veronica Ternopolski get a chance to flex their acting muscles in characters outside of their usual range.

“I like that they don't traditionally cast the readers,” Ternopolski says. “Older actors read for younger characters and vice versa. So you get to perform something different then what you are used to.”

By casting the actors outside of their range, it creates new challenges for the actor, and new insights into character for the writer. This leads into “amazingly insightful” discussions according to Turner. Actors can have contrasting viewpoints from embodying a character a writer can miss. The discussion can sometimes be as long as the reading.  

But hey, it’s all part of the process.

Published in Volume 68, Number 28 of The Uniter (July 2, 2014)

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