Friday, December 03, 2010

Amazon Studio's gets mixed reviews

A couple of weeks ago, Amazon rolled out Amazon Studios, which they describe as "21st-century technology creating ways to make and share movies and scripts more easily than ever." Amazon Studios is notable because Amazon said that they would be giving away money to prize winning scripts and movie ideas. It must have hit something of a nerve as they say that "more than a thousand scripts" have already been uploaded.

But not everyone thinks it's such a good idea. Jesse Harris, Filmmaker and Executive Director of NFFTY, National Film Festival for Talented Youth, describes it as a PR stunt and an insult to writers and directors:
Here’s the fine print, and what makes this so shady. First, Amazon Studios isn’t funding great ideas, they are asking for them for free. If you submit a script or “test movie” as they are calling it, you give Amazon an exclusive 18-month option for your project without any pay. Meaning you can’t pitch or sell your idea to anyone else during that 18-month period. If Amazon decides to option it, you could get up to $200,000, but most likely not.
Oh and if they like your test movie and want to re-make it into a fully funded film, they can take your project to Hollywood and kick you out as the director. They say this on their site.
Screenwriter John August doesn't like that others can rewrite your script:
The idea that an undiscovered screenwriter in Wichita will rewrite someone else’s screenplay on his own time seems far-fetched, and to me smacks of spec labor.
Scott Macaulay at Filmmaker Magazine's initial reaction:
... is one of disappointment that the potential radicalism of a large-scale crowdsourced development system is being used to simply generate ideas for exploitation by a studio and one of the richest companies on the planet.
Scott then had a discussion with director Jim McKay, and Jim's take on it is interesting, because he doesn't really think this is aimed at the filmmaker community, but at non-filmmakers who "have nothing to compare the scale of the contractual agreements to, and they will just be happy to get chosen." Jim goes on to talk about movies he was involved with that he has lost control of - and yet he went through the traditional film route. He concludes:
So I don’t really disagree with what you’re saying here — I just think, like the Paramount Justin Beiber division, it’s probably not going to amount to anything significant for real indie filmmakers anyway, so it’s better to focus our energies elsewhere….
I stand by my original comment "if you've been unable to get notice anywhere else, this might be an opportunity to get your name out there." If you have an idea you're heavily invested in, you probably don't want to offer it up to Amazon Studios, but if you're trying to get noticed, putting something together on spec may make sense.

NFFTY: Amazon the Movie Studio? Yeah Right.
JohnAugust: On the Amazon film thing
FilmMakerMagazine: Thoughts on Amazon Studios
FilmMakerMagazine: Is Amazon Studios A Threat? Jim McKay And I Discuss

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