What is your take on the Amazon Studio project?
This is pretty much old news by this point, as seemingly every other blogger has had a chance to tackle this question. However, I recognize that some readers might not have seen those other bloggers or were just curious about my take on it.
And my take is: Skeptical. And suspicious. John August had a blog last week that nailed the factor that on its own would be a deal-breaker for me. Amazon's announcement said:
Amazon Studios invites filmmakers and screenwriters from all over the world to submit full-length movies and scripts, which will then get feedback from Amazon readers, who will be free to rewrite and amend. Based on reaction (“rate and review”) to stories, scripts and rough “test” films, a panel of judges will award monthly prizes.
And John asked this very, very significant question:
Do you really want random people rewriting your script?
Seriously, is anyone so desperate to "make it" as a writer that they'd bend over and take this affront? We're not talking about users giving the writer feedback which they are free to use or ignore as they see fit; we're talking about someone going in there and changing your words without consulting you.
Honestly, it would be like Project Wilson Phillips, but with a script that the original writer presumably put a lot of time and care into. Think about your most precious spec script. Think of the hours they spent laboring over every decision...
Now picture some jackass who reads it and decides that what this heartfelt tale of romance needs is more gore. Or a graphic anal sex scene. Or hell, what if the couple met at a neo-Nazi rally instead of a Starbucks? I'm sure that within a week, there'll be at least one script where the dialogue consists entirely of "Baba Booey!"
Do you really want your script treated with all the respect of the Wikipedia entry on "Joey Buttafuoco?"
Crowd-sourcing for creative ideas is an intensely dumb thing to initiate and it's even more useless to participate in. I've read scripts by the sorts of aspirings likely to participate in this. They suck. They have no original ideas, their dialogue is often hackneyed and atrocious and their plots make no sense.
I'm not attacking all aspirings, mind you. I'm just assuming that the better ones will have enough common sense to stay away from this.
I don't want to parse the legalese too much because I am not a lawyer. But it does give me pause to hand over a free option to a project for 18 months., and that can be pushed to a full three years for a mere $10,000. But look at how they word that:
Amazon Studios gets... with respect to your work:
•The exclusive right to buy it (and its associated rights) during the 18 month term of the option, for $200,000 plus other possible bonuses. We can extend this option another 18 months by paying you $10,000.
If you read that too fast, it looks like they're saying the option is $200,000. I'd like to think that wording isn't deliberately designed to confuse, but it does make one wonder.
If that's not enough of a deal breaker, their FAQ has another detail that might make some writers think twice:
So for 18 months after you create a project at Amazon Studios, you cannot display, sell or license your script or test movie elsewhere, or withdraw it for any reason. However, when the option term ends, if we haven't exercised our option and purchased your work, you will get back non-exclusive rights to your original material.
I also find this question and answer notable:
If I direct a winning test movie, and Amazon Studios makes a full budget theatrical film based on that project, do I get to direct that full-budget theatrical film?
Not necessarily. We hope to hire talent from Amazon Studios for any professional movies we make when we can but we want to be upfront that we can't guarantee this. Our priority will be to release the biggest and best movies possible with the cast and crew that promise the most commercial success.
So don't think this is the solution to all your Hollywood hopes and dreams.
And if that's not enough for you, check out Craig Mazan's take on the whole situation here.
Thanks for the question. Everyone else, feel free to keep 'em coming!