After launching in 2010, Amazon Studios has made its way to producing original content, albeit after a bit of trial and error. The 2012 changes, thousands of scripts, and your feedback have brought 14 of Amazon's pilot episodes from script to screen, including 8 comedies (1 of which was submitted via Amazon Studios). Now that these shows are available on Amazon Instant Video, viewers are once again being asked to share their input by rating and reviewing them; a strategy that Amazon has embraced since the beginning.
If you've never heard of Amazon Studios before, here's a brief rundown: it's a division of Amazon that develops shows and movies from online submissions that are reviewed and rated by readers. They aggregate these crowdsourced opinions and make choices on which submissions will be produced. There is a submission option that allows scripts to be modified by others or not (a change made to the original rules after some backlash from WGA writers). Amazon then has 45 days after the submission date to select the script. If it does, the writer receives $10,000, and if it's selected for distribution as a full-budget series, the creator gets $55,000 as well as other perks. Creators may also submit video content to be considered. Finally, once these scripts and/or videos are produced by Amazon Studios, they are available to view online on Amazon Instant Video. Check out this video to learn more:
8 comedies and 6 kids' shows make up the 14 pilots Amazon is considering producing for its original programming. Writers such as comedienne Kristen Schaal, former Daily Show head writer David Javerbaum, and Doonesbury creator Garry Trudeau were commissioned for pilots, and the folks from The Onion and 2 Big Bang Theory co-stars also dipped their pens in Amazon's original series ink. Check out this previous post for a more in-depth look at each show.
Now that the pilots are up and ready to view, Amazon wants you to give feedback. The homepage for Amazon's Pilot Season asks you to take a survey on your opinions regarding the show you viewed. There is also an option to write a customer review. Not only that, but they want to know what you think about their "test movies": For Sale By Superhero and Burma Rising (both are animatics). Here are the trailers for both of these movies:
According to Roy Price, director of Amazon Studios, all of the feedback they receive will be used to choose which pilots will be made into series and ordered. Price shed some light on their strategy in an interview with Co.Create. After describing feedback sessions where viewers will indicate whether or not they're enjoying the story at specific times during the story, Price was asked if feedback will inform him where he's going to "tighten things up in the story":
Definitely. It’s very helpful. I mean we can read it and do our own nudge but it’s very, very helpful and it’s what is distinctive about our process--to be able to have actual movie-goer feedback at the stage where you’re still in script. Usually, you’d be getting that feedback as you were standing in the lobby of the Mandarin theater at your test screening, having already invested $80 million. So I’m very happy to be getting that feedback now instead.
This open-sourced strategy has proven to get people involved. Viewers are able to make their voices heard and become a part of the process, rather than remaining solely bystanders. However, for the creators of these shows and movies, is this ideal? Will a show that has been written by a seasoned professional be at the mercy of its viewers -- not even in the honorable-death-at-the-box-office way, but in the change-stuff-about-your-project way? It's also completely possible that viewers won't want to participate (as some comments on Amazon have indicated).
Of course, there are always advantages and disadvantages to any strategy. For a viewer who wants to see more of what they like, maybe this is a great move on Amazon's part. For a writer who wants more creative freedom, maybe you're hoping that viewer suggestions don't drastically alter something you created.
Amazon isn't promising that viewer voting alone will make or break a show, but it will be "very influential." From what Price says, it seems like Amazon is simply looking for viewer interest information, not necessarily viewer creative opinion. It's almost like getting box office information before it ever goes to the box office, or getting instant Nielsen ratings. When asked what kind of feedback he's looking for, Price replied:
Are people interested in the concept? Are people interested in the character and in watching subsequent episodes? Does the pilot episode sustain interest? I think all of those expressions of interest and enthusiasm will be important in making the decision whether to send something through a longer order.
It remains to be seen how this strategy will affect the filmmaking community. Some will say (and have said) it is a great opportunity for filmmakers and screenwriters that haven't been able to get their work out there, and allows viewers to get more involved. Some will say (and have said) that the compensation isn't enough for what the writers and creators have submitted online to Amazon Studio, and that viewers shouldn't have such a large influence on their original work.
What do you think about Amazon Studios, its original programming, and its way of obtaining it? Is this a good opportunity for writers to get their projects out there? What do you make of Amazon's method of crowdsourcing opinions?
[via All Things D]