Sean Robins, Creative Executive & Producer from Broken Road Productions took some time out to chat to Creative Screenwriting Magazine about his career.
Describe a good and bad day in the life of a creative executive.
As a film and TV producer, you come to find that every day has a mix of both good and bad. Good days are whenever you set up a new project, get a green light, start a movie, wrap a movie or have a movie opening. Bad days are every other day of the year. But when you love what you do (and you can wear shorts doing it) life isn’t so bad.
How many film and TV projects do you currently have in active and inactive development? What determines how many projects you have in each category? What determines when something in active development?
Generally, I work on around 75 active film projects and 10-15 TV projects. Some are in the idea stage, others are being written, some we are packaging with talent. If we love a project it never truly becomes inactive. We just sold Players to Paramount Pictures. It’s a project we’d been working on for years that hopefully, will be in production later this year.
How long is the screenplay development process typically?
I like to think of script development as a pyramid. The first draft of a screenplay is the base. The second draft you’re narrowing in on the movie and by the third draft, you’re toward the top. If we don’t see the movie by that draft either it’s the wrong idea, we’ve chosen, the wrong writer or I’m the wrong person to help develop the material. From there we never stop developing as the movie script will continue to change even during production. It can last anywhere from months to years.
What attracts you more to a project? Story or marketability? What’s more important- the writer’s vision or profitability?
Story first. A great story can always be marketed. You always start with the screenwriter. If they don’t have a vision for the story, they aren’t a writer.
Do you have any passion projects dying to get made?
I’d like to think every project of mine is a passion project dying to get made. It’s such a hard process to get a movie made that you have to believe in all your projects to find success. Are there some I gravitate toward a little more? For sure.
What films made during the last decade do you wish you produced?
There have been a ton of movies I’ve loved but never any I wished I produced. I’m always happy for my fellow movie producers and execs when they get their material made.
How has the film industry changed in the past five years and how do you see it evolving in the next five?
With the advent of Netflix, Hulu, Amazon and new players entering, the content world like Facebook, Snapchat etc. there is more room today than ever for new content. The content on TV is fantastic and the lines between features and TV are being blurred. That being said, we live in a world where we are competing for viewers’ attention and aggregators like Rottentomatoes have made it an almost all or nothing for films on their opening weekend. Probably the biggest change to come is the potential narrowing of the release window which seems more and more likely to happen.
Is the multitude of film distribution platforms a blessing or a curse?
Blessing. The more ways in which we have to get our film and TV content out into the world the better. This also presents more screenwriting opportunities.
How/ where do you find story ideas to adapt into movies?
Everywhere. I found a project on Facebook. I found a project in a used bookstore. I troll the internet looking for inspiration. I read as much as possible. I try to learn about new things every week because you never know where inspiration will strike.
How do you balance being a creative executive/ producer with other parts of your life?
Unfortunately, the balance isn’t always healthy. I make sure I am home every morning when my daughter wakes up and home every evening to play with her before bed. I take an hour to myself every day to go to the gym. The rest of the time I’m in the office or I have a film or TV script in my lap or I’m teaching. It is exhausting and rewarding, but it never stops.
What are the current screenwriting trends?
As much as I read in a week (parts or all of 40-50 scripts), I’m not sure I really see trends in scriptwriting.
Apart from typos, spelling etc, what irks you the most about certain screenplays submitted to you?
Bad ideas and flawed execution. And unfortunately, you see this way too often. Writing is terribly hard. Writing well, even harder.
What would you be doing if you weren’t in the film business?
Teaching. Traveling. Eating. Playing with my daughter. And if it weren’t for math, maybe be an architect.