24 November, 2010

Amazon Studios replies

About the Amazon Studios "Fine Print"

"Amazon Studios is serious about making movies. To do that, we need to have a contract with you, and that contract has to give us the option to buy the rights to make a movie. An option is the right to buy a script or movie. It is what producers typically offer writers whose scripts they want to produce. (If you have a long career as a screenwriter, you will become quite familiar with options.)

By uploading your original script or movie, you give Amazon Studios an exclusive option to buy it for $200,000. This lasts for 18 months (or 36 if we pay you $10,000 to extend it). During the option period, you keep your copyrights to your original script or movie. It is true that by giving us an exclusive option you cannot sell it to another producer in that 18 (or 36) months. However, if we don’t buy it in that period, then we lose our right to buy it from you and you can shop it around to other producers.

If we do buy your original script or movie, that money is on top of any awards that you may win for Amazon Studios contests (http://studios.amazon.com/contests). That award money is completely separate from rights payments.

*** We don’t own your original scripts or movies unless we buy them from you.***

If we release your original script or movie as a full budget theatrical film, you (and your writing partner, if any) will get the $200,000 option payment. As mentioned above, this is totally separate from any contest award money you may have received. If we pay you the $200,000 option payment, then we have purchased your original script or movie from you. If a movie based on your original script or movie earns $60 million at the US box office in its initial release, you get a further bonus of $400,000. The normal approach in option agreements is to give the writer a small “net profit” participation in the movie, which guarantees nothing. The bonus in our agreement is large and clear. If you pick up Variety one day and it says that the movie we released based on your original script or movie made $60 million at the US box office, then you will get $400,000.

*** There is no scenario where someone can claim any of your rights money by revising your original script or movie.***

If someone creates a revised version of an original script or movie, they may be eligible for up to 50% of any contest winnings. But rights payments are not shared. If a theatrical movie is released from an original script or movie on Amazon Studios, the creator of the original script or movie gets 100% of the rights payments. People who are revising material or making test movies are going for award money (which can be substantial) and are helping someone else get their movie made. But they are not sharing in the rights money. There’s a lot of award money for people who revise scripts or make test movies.

We’ve had some questions about the length of the option and whether it could be less than 18 months. The bottom line is that Amazon Studios is a process and it can take time. Getting feedback, having test movies made, seeing how the story plays on video, maybe revising if appropriate, will probably need more than a few months to play out. If you have someone who wants to produce your script as it is right now, and you think the script is ready for that, then you should probably see how that pans out before uploading to Amazon Studios.

This post is intended to be a helpful summary of some major points in the Development Agreement (http://studios.amazon.com/help/development-agreement) and Contest Rules (http://studios.amazon.com/help/contest-terms-and-procedures) but is not intended to replace reading them and is not a part of them. Please read them before submitting your scripts or movies."

I'm still not convinced. If "a small 'net profit' participation" is so bad, why not make it 'gross profit' then? Because it isn't about giving writers the best deal but the worst deal. Some of the comments demolish this statement but you also get others in support like this:

"Writers complain about no opportunities to break in, nobody is buying specs, there's no entry path for filmmakers into the business. Amazon shows up with 2.7 million to hand out to ... writers and filmmakers. With a path for some to production. With Warner Brothers on board for a first look.

Everyone complains it's not perfect. Well, don't enter.

I've spoken to writers in this contest with a long list of IMDB credits... Nicholl semifinalists. I've had two scripts optioned personally, won several contests, and have a feature headed into production. Judges will go through and sort out the material and see what has potential.

A shot at $20,000 plus $200,000 more if the film is made PLUS more if it's successful. That's a real opportunity to me.

I have no intention on moving to Los Angeles and working as a flunkie for ten years hoping to catch a break. How about I catch it here instead?

You don't like it, don't enter and good luck to you. But since you're one of those talented writers with a non-lame script, you don't need the luck part."