wants to buy your screenplay! But…

A thunderclap rocked the online screenwriter community yesterday when word came out that Amazon Studios hath been born:’s new “crowd-sourcing” filmmakers community site with a mandate to fund theatrical feature films by emerging, as-yet-undiscovered talent.

It looks like it’s basically but with a ton of money behind it and more of a mandate to produce films, rather than just touting the potential that a diamond in the rough might be shown to a bonafide Hollywood star as he masticates his sushi lunch.

At least that’s how it sounds as of now, on Day One of this experiment. It’s definitely going to be interesting to follow this project. Methinks Amazon may have got in a bit over their head on this one, but they’re a billion dollar corporation so they must have a spreadsheet somewhere that calculates a sure-fire upside.

Essentially, Amazon has created the biggest screenplay contest of all time, considering the grand prize purse is $200,000 with the potential of a $400,000 production bonus.

Before we get into the details of the Development Agreement that every participant must agree to, which some are calling “insulting” and others are calling Mom to tell her about their impending script sale, I have to ask Why?

Let’s look at the numbers, considering there’s prize money each month for the “Script of the Month” and then the big bucks prize for the “Script of the Year.” In the ideal scenario, by the end of 2011, the Script of the Year gets bought and put into production by Amazon. They’ve paid out $20,000 per month for the Script of the Month, which is $240,000, and the option on the big winner is another $200k with a production bonus of $400k.

$840,000 for an amateur script?

Hell, forget amateur. $840,000 for ANY script without an A-lister attached?!

I thought the idea was to find the next low-budget phenomenon? The next Paranormal Activity, right? So Amazon must be getting some other benefit out of this. They must have a business plan that makes them money, regardless of the track record of this “new” development scheme.

Maybe it’s all related to Amazon’s plans for a video-on-demand service a la iTunes and Hulu? We shall see.

As for the contract, there’s some tough love:

  • Your script is optioned to Amazon for 18 months, no exceptions! You cannot option or sell it to any other party during that time period.
  • If they purchase your screenplay, you are not entitled to any residuals, just the purchase price and production bonus (but hey, $600k ain’t bad; you’d be lucky to make that with one produced title).
  • Other users can rewrite your work!  And if the rewritten draft is what wins a prize, then the prize money can be distributed in any fashion as Amazon Studios sees fit.

No one really understands yet how the rewriting aspect works, but still… Yikes. Those are some serious restrictions.

Bottom line: don’t upload anything that you’re currently shopping on the real spec market or plan to in the next year, if you really feel it has the potential to get an option or sale.

If you have a favorite script that’s just gathering dust on your hard drive and you know you won’t do anything with it in the next year and a half, then hey, give it a try and see what your fellow Amazon Studio-ans think about it.

But even if your script is the next Paranormal Activity, be prepared for comments like this:

"Why didn't they just RUN OUT OF THE HOUSE?!
This is the most illogical pile of CRAP I've
ever read. And I should know, because I've
read like TWENTY scripts over on Zoetrope!
In closing, the writer should be drawn and

Having to wade through all the inane comments and inane content is just one of the reasons why Amazon is going to find it VERY difficult to find that diamond in the rough. And it may feel nice to think that this particular forum competition system will be more supportive than others, but if you’ve had any experience with these types of sites you know that ugly politics and unfair play are unavoidable.

After all, you know what SgtKabukimansRevenge-998642 will do right after he trashes your script, right? He’s going to give his friend’s script, an unreadable mess, a five-star rating in exchange for five stars on his own script (which is also an unreadable mess, btw).

But enough negativity. Alas, I am going to check it out — in fact, I’ve already logged in and even started a few forum discussions. Who knows? I may even upload a script or an animatic.

If I do, can you rate me five stars? I’ll TOTALLY return the favor.


2 replies
  1. Sean P McCraclem
    Sean P McCraclem says:

    Ok, it’s been a few days now…has your opinion on the Amazon Studios scheme changed, either for the better or the worse?


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