Last week, the wires were all abuzz post press-release announcement of the new whizbang screenplay/film competition opp – the formation of Amazon Studios.
Sounds good…. or does it? I’m not so certain that I would encourage anyone to jump on the bandwagon. Think on this:
- By winning, you permit a profit-based (highly profitable) organization to purchase screenplays for a well-below market price. Two per month; $20k prize per script. You do the math. When you think of the amount of time one puts into the construction of a script, this “prize” totals out at less than a minimum wage job at McDonalds. And, that’s only if you win. Would you like fries with that screenplay, ma’am?
- It is a beauty contest. Ask your friends to vote for you! You, too can win! What this means is that the merit of your script is a secondary consideration. It is all about guilting family and friends into voting for you. Just in time for the holidays. Where is the honor in that? See Miss Teen South Carolina.
- By entering, you provide a studio (Amazon and WB) with unrestricted access to and ownership of your script/project(if you happen to win); and/or, limited ownership (option) of same if you simply enter, via a mandatory 18 month long exclusive option. You are unable to enter your script into any other contest.* What if you win one of the monthly pop-draws? Think on this: a studio is developing a political thriller about a group of elderly Canadians who are attempting to overthrow the U.S. government, using hockey teams as terrorist cells, while poisoning the U.S. Coors supply. You’ve written the same. They purchase your script via cash prize for 1/5 to 1/10th of its market value…. and sit on it, while continuing to pump money into their original project. Your script will never become a film. Since you’ve sold for under Guild standards, you’re not going to make it into the Guild. No residuals. No health/pension. No merchandise $$. You will not receive credit. You will be unknown in this town. You will have to continue your job at Home Depot. (The same applies to the filmmaking division. You have a completed film? Self-distribute it.)
- You lose all autonomy in regard to your script. You will have no creative input, no voice, no control. Suppose that Amazon Studios will produce your award-winning script – a doubtful event. You will not be along for the ride. Every word will be rewritten, and your thoughtful, Horton Foote-esque coming of age tale will end up a bikini-clad ghosts beach-house comedy in the vein of Beach Nuts. Sadly, you will not have Neil Sussman to defend you:
Are there any pros to entering?
Hmmm. Well, you can Tweet and Facebook your friends and family. That’s a good, non-productive form of procrastination. You can obsess over your entry, day after day, checking your metrics, seeing your name in Amazonian web “lights.” You can lose sleep, suffer the highs and lows of competition-induced manic depression. You can have a pretty fucking lousy New Year.
Or, you could not enter, and work to make your story sing. You can strive for excellence. True success is measured by the amount of time that you are willing to put in, in order to master your craft. You can go the route of Christoper Nolan and work hard, very hard…. or you could pull a Bristol Palin and get momma grizzly to throw the full power of the Teabaggers behind your entry. As momma grizzly knows, there is, sadly, no such thing as bad publicity these days.
There is fast food and then there is great food. Which flavor is your script going to be?
Now, go write.
HRH – Princess Scribe
* HRH is not a fan of the contest circuit. She’d much rather see the lords and ladies of the court use their hard earned cash to upgrade their computers, purchase writing supplies… and write.
What I am watching: Waiting for The American to arrive. All hail Clooney.
What I am reading: Jaron Lanier’s manifesto on the pros and cons of technology – You Are Not a Gadget.
A Royal Shout Out: To two of my favorite filmmakers and people. Nicole Greevy and Todd Faulker (producers, directors, writers) have completed Season 1 of their new web series, Exorcists Local 667. Streaming soon to a computer near you.
You realize I’m Canadian and that the synopsis above is, ahem, WAS my pitch for Strange Brew 2
… and there it is. 🙂
The biggest problem I see with it is that, by “entering”, you’re giving them a FREE option for two years. And you can’t shop it to anyone else during that period.
Too bad. With a different business model, it could be a great idea. After all, for an indie producer, Amazon has the wherewithal to make a big difference. For a low-budget, straight-to-DVD release? Amazon is a bigger distributor than any of the major studios!
But you don’t have to enter an Amazon contest to distribute through them. You can open up your own Amazon store. DVDs are going the way of the dinosaur anyway. It’s all about digital downloads. All you need is your own website… or can use a host fulfillment company for low costs. iTunes. You’re done. A little marketing elbow grease – and the profits are yours to keep.
True. And a correction: The “option” period is 18 months, not 2 years.
Hal has some good suggestions for Amazon here: http://www.screenwritingu.com/blog/2010/selling-your-screenplay/an-open-letter-to-amazon-studios
Hal’s the best! Even so, I doubt that Amazon will listen. Alba ignored John August…. 🙂
I thought I was the only one that saw The Big Picture. Great reference….
It was on yesterday. Made me very happy.
I like how Neil says “Yuge.”
And I missed it!!! Oh, well….