Amazon — you know, the online shopping site that brought you that “21 Jump Street” Season 3 box set at such an irresistible price — has launched Amazon Studios, “a movie studio for today’s world” and a venture that seems to be half crowdsourced development company, half competition.
Users can upload screenplays or “test movies” (which Amazon describes as “an inexpensive, full-length movie that tells the whole story of the script in a compelling way, has very good acting and sound, but that doesn’t necessarily have polished production values”). Others vote on the projects, give feedback and offer revisions. Participants will have the chance to win (not inconsiderable) cash prizes, and, theoretically, a chance at a production deal. Per the site:
Amazon Studios has a first-look deal with Warner Bros. Pictures, which means we’ll be presenting our top projects to Hollywood’s biggest studio for consideration as theatrical feature films. And winners of the Amazon Studios Annual Awards won’t just get money–they’ll also get a meeting with Warner Bros. development executives.
Here’s the all-important fine print, which includes the $200,000 purchase price Amazon has set for any projects it ends up optioning, along with info on exclusivity rights and licensing periods. With development executives scanning YouTube for the next big thing and Paramount having announced its embrace of microbudget films, this move from Amazon isn’t crazy — and they have a huge community from which to draw. But as Andrew Pulver at the Guardian notes:
This isn’t the first time a major internet operation has involved itself in movie-making: in 2008, the film Faintheart was released after a development collaboration between MySpace and British film outfits Film4 and Vertigo, but it had minimal impact and the experiment was not repeated. Large-scale retailers have also dabbled in the area: Tesco recently initiated production on an adaptation of Jackie Collins novel, Paris Connections, designed for sale in its stores, but it has yet to see the light of day.
It’s all well and good to get idealistic and cheery about the “gate guard”-free internet-enable future of entertainment, but I’m saving the cheerleading for the first good movie that comes out of it.