Top Five Screenwriting Tips to get Produced with producer Robyn Slovo, LondonSWF

At the last festival, Shooting people sent their top reporter Adem Ay, to send daily… no hourly reports on his experience. We will post these over the next few days as it gives a great insight into on delegates experience… Over to Adem…

Hello Shooters.

My second report from the London Screenwriters’ Festival is on a Q&A session with ROBYN SLOVO, a veteran TV and film producer whose recent hits include the BBC TV series ‘McMafia’, and the feature film ‘Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy’.

Robyn had an almost regal quality, and was so sharp you wouldn’t even notice you were cut. Here are my top five gold nuggets from her interview.

1) Robyn’s root into the film industry was via script reading, and she has read a lot of scripts. The quality of her reports eventually got her a seat at script development meetings, followed by the offer of a proper creative producing role. Robyn has grown to see her relationship with writers and directors as like arranged marriages, though for her first feature it was she who did the proposing – at a film school graduation screening day she approached the director of her favorite short film and from there the relationship blossomed. She who dares, wins.

2) Robyn thinks it’s too early to say what the streaming subscription models of Netflix, Amazon et al mean for writers. While the major players all have UK offices, and the commissioners tastes seem more varied, and so opportunities seem more wide and plentiful, pay conditions for writers can be very punitive, even exploitative. There were no gasps of disbelief in the audience at that news.

3) Robyn was happy to discuss her failures as well as her successes, joshing how any failure wasn’t her fault anyway, it was everyone else’s. She had actually been asked by the festival to speak at a panel discussion on failure, but she was the only person approached who accepted the invite, so the session was cancelled. She brought up the troubled production of ‘The Snowman’ – an almost inexplicably awful film considering the talent that made it and the success of the thriller novel it was based on. Robyn explained how the hubris of herself and director Tomas Alfredson, fresh off the success of ‘Tinker Tailor Solider Spy’, combined with a studio pushing a very different vision for the film, resulted in narrative problems being overlooked, time being wasted, and a final product that just didn’t make sense.

4) Robyn has struggled to find female writers to work with. The ratio of male to female script submissions that reach her desk is 5:1, and that one female writer is almost always busy on another project thanks to the sudden surge in demand for female writers after the #metoo movement. If you are female screenwriter with a great script, now is the time to knock on agents doors and generally make a lot of noise. The demand is there.

5) For Robyn, when assessing a spec script (an original piece that is not commissioned), it’s all about the actual writing – the author’s voice on the page – not so much the idea or the plot structure. Even major flaws can be forgiven if the voice grabs her. And within that, nothing telegraphs great writing to Robyn quicker than great dialogue. Their is a specific art to dialogue writing, and getting across characterisation in a sparse and minimal way, that she is attuned to. When she reads it, she knows it instantly. So get practising on the dialogue people!

That’s it from Robyn!

You can get £30 off your pass with the code SHOOTERS.

Adem Ay
Shooting People