How Amazon Studios is Trying to Get Free Options to Privately Submitted Screenplays
Many aspiring screenwriters want Amazon Studios to be the key to being discovered -- a company with billions of dollars and an open door policy that wants to find content in new ways to make movies. Much has been written here and elsewhere about why the initial version of Amazon Studios was not a good deal for emerging screenwriters and independent filmmakers. So it was welcome news when Amazon Studios revised its terms, shortened its free option window to 45 days on public submissions, agreed to pay $10,000 for options beyond the 45 days for up to 18 months, agreed to get back to writers about their submissions within 45 days, and created private submissions for writers that did not want to share their screenplays with the community or provide Amazon Studios with a free 45-day option. Under these revised rules, however, screenwriter Chip Street has found a major catch.
Here's what Chip had to say in Part 1 of his two-part blog post when Amazon Studios offered to put his privately submitted screenplay Faeries on its 'Consider' list:
Out of all the screenplays submitted, precious few make it to the consider list. To make it happen, all we need to do is click a button, and make our script a public submission – starting that 45 day option clock ticking.
Now, we could choose to make the script public and displayed on the consider list, and set the collaboration feature to ‘closed’. So nobody can write new version for Amazon to own rights to. But remember, the ‘closed’ setting only applies to written versions. Filmmakers COULD still make video content based on our script. And Amazon would own the rights to those videos. FOREVER. And they can distribute those videos as they please – on YouTube, or on their subscription based VOD platform, and collect ad revenue from associated ad content. Forever. For free. Did we say free? Free. Did we say forever? Forever.
What this amounts to is that while they didn’t want to pay for an 18 month option, they did want us to give them a free option for 45 days. And all that that implies. Exactly what we were trying to avoid by going with a private submission in the first place.
After Chip's initial blog post, Amazon Studios emailed him an FAQ to clarify its position on how making the 'Consider' list impacts the option status of his screenplay. Yet, this FAQ seemed to do anything but clarify matters for Chip:
This is the one that really kills me:
Q: If my privately uploaded project is added to the Consider List, will that automatically make it public?
A: No. That’s up to you.
Yet in the original congratulations email I got from Amazon Studios, in which they invited me to post my screenplay to their consider list, they said: “We encourage you to make your project public so that it can be featured on the Consider list…” — and making it “public” is exactly what we’re trying to avoid...
There are no buttons on my project page other than “make project public”. How would I have my project on the consider list WITHOUT making it public?
Chip's two-part blog post on his initial reaction to Amazon Studios' 'Consider' List offer and their FAQ follow-up are must-reads for screenwriters considering submissions to Amazon. From Chip's experience, it still doesn't seem like Amazon Studios has created a fair and equitable path for undiscovered writers to get their material read yet.
Have you submitted a screenplay to Amazon Studios? Have you received a similar offer to get on the 'Consider' List? Tell us about your experiences with the current model of Amazon Studios.
[via John August]