File this one under 'What's Next? Their Own Web Browser?" Amazon.com announced this week the opening of Amazon Studios, a development house where filmmakers and writers can submit scripts and test films to get awards, feedback and consideration for Hollywood development deals. The little film project is working with a fund of $2.7 million that can be awarded to submissions made through 2011. The studio has a first-look deal with Warner Bros. Pictures for the projects deemed worthy of advancement.
Amazon is not only providing an online submissions front end to this. The Studio also promises to crowd source the process with test screenings or having visitors iterate or revise scripts and submit their changes. At the Amazon Studios Web page the company has provided five sample videos for example. The test movie includes the story arc of a full-length film idea but without the full production values or length. The samples use photo or cartoon montages to provide a sense of the storyline and characters. More than 60 film projects have already been uploaded for general viewing. Visitor reviews will help guide the projects and give a sense of future viability, Amazon says.
Amazon is planning to award $140,000 a month for the best scripts and movies submitted and $1.1 million in annual awards. The best movie submitted in 2011 will get $1 million and best script $100,000. If a project does get picked up by Hollywood and released as a theatrical film, Amazon will pay the maker a rights payment of $200,000 and then $400,000 if the film makes more than $60 million at the box office. In the age of Paranormal Activity and $200 HD pocket cams, no level of success really seems out of reach of anyone anymore.
This being Jeff Bezos and Amazon, you know that the company has to position this as another "revolution" of one kind or another. The Amazon Studios pitch video show crusty old Hollywood moguls sitting behind opulent power desks making decisions that determine what all of us poor slobs get to see in Decateur, Illinois this weekend. Oh, the oligarchy of it all. Luckily, there is a multi-billion dollar multi-national new media company who has your best interests in mind. What if we started "fresh" to create a movie studio for the digital age that leveraged the great democratization of filmmaking, the intro video asks. "The movie studio of the future could be more open and collaborative."
h Sounds sweet. Let's hope the winners aren't contractually obligated to rely solely on Amazon Video for digital distribution. The project underscores how much Amazon sees Apple as a rival and is trying to carve out its own identity in the digital entertainment economy. After all, in this narrative of the warring brands, Steve Jobs is the establishment, a made member of the Disney Board of Directors. Bezos? He is just a humble old bookstore owners from the Northwest with a movie camera and a dream.