Monday, July 4, 2011

Amazon's in the original content biz

Sorry for the old news, but maybe you missed it too.

Let's go back to November 2010, when I didn't notice at all that Amazon created "Amazon Studios." I'm surprised I didn't catch it, nor hear about articles in Wired, The Hollywood Reporter, and Tech Radar; well, not too surprised - I don't read any of those regularly.

Although I found its existence surprising, it shouldn't have been unexpected; digital cameras are so plentiful that receiving submissions would be guaranteed with even a minimal prize. Also, youtube has truly demonstrated how desperate for attention many people out there need little motivation to execute their ideas, inventively and cheaply.

Amazon was fairly smart for making this into an ongoing contest. By the end of this year, one submitted film will get a $1M prize, and one submitted screenplay will get $100K. Various smaller awards, including monthly awards, will also be distributed; $2.7 Mil in total.

The nature of the contest is smart, too - the Amazon Studios site is divided into 3 sub-categories: one for aspiring directors, one for aspiring screenwriters, and one for film reviews. The last category pulls at the huge list of Amazon users, especially the ones that already review things for free, and asks them to participate with the first two groups.

As such, the first time you load the Amazon Studios home page, you'll see near the bottom two side-by-side boxes with separate plot descriptions (and genre-describing keywords).You're asked to select which one you prefer, and it's as easy as a mouse click. After your choice is made, you'll see which film won that particular match-up more often; you'll also see a percentage indicating the plots' overall success in what they call "Premise War."

I was tempted to check this out. For one thing, reviewers are also able to read whole scripts and provide both specific and general advice. They can also watch films online and provide critique for those. It's really clever to create this much interaction.

But I wasn't tempted for long. I have enough writing on my plate as it is, and all I'd get - aside from watching amateur movies, and brushing up on my technique - is the "Top Reviewers" page, a big-ass list of the people who are going over all this work and giving all this feedback. See, it lost me quickly when Amazon wrote, at the top of the page:
The top reviewers at Amazon Studios help moviemakers revise their work and make great story choices by giving helpful, high-quality reviews of test movies and scripts. The Top Reviewers list is our way of honoring the best of them. We update the assessment of reviewer helpfulness daily. [emphasis mine]
Wow, so there's no hope of compensation for a reviewer's time - there no part of the contest promising "be voted the best reviewer and win a job writing stuff for Amazon for X months." In fact, appearing on some list for a while is the only/best way a successful American corporation can thank you for doing free work for them. If all you'll do is "honor me" Amazon, I'll ask you to at least grovel or kneel or something...

Still, Amazon did this up right - Warner Bros. has first option on the winning works, but Amazon can shop them around if WB doesn't bite. The Internet giant also opened up its music library a bit, giving film-makers a chance to add a "proper" score to their films.

It's been successful, as well. As of Late June, they offered 475 "Test Movies," 4940 "Scripts," and their "Contests" page not only tracks the current and prior monthly competitions, it tells you when they'll choose the winners from last month! There really is a lot of clever, effective thinking on display in this great project.

In any case, I figured some of you would be very interested in this news - and possibly intrigued enough to give it a shot. For my part, this is a different kind of "Site Oddity" - I didn't mean to post this months ago and never got a chance, I missed this one altogether. I'd feel worse if November hadn't been a horrificly-depressing month.

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