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."



21 November, 2010

Amazon Studios - selling writers down the river?

I understand why the Amazon Studios contract might be tempting to professionals and pre-professionals, especially if we have a script that's been shopped around for a while without success and is just gathering dust in a drawer. But, in terms of writers' rights, they're taking the piss.

The more screenwriters who sign up to it, then the more Amazon Studios and other producers will think it's acceptable to take the piss.

One way to tell serious producers from time-wasting 'producers' is if they offer money to option your script or if they're happy to follow union-negotiated agreements. Rather than a fancy new way of doing things, Amazon Studios is just the old way of doing things in disguise. Don't be fooled because it's one of the biggest brands in the world and they dangle dollars in front of us.

The video pitch at Amazon Studios seems aimed at the outsider who is sick of being told they have to live in Hollywood or have an agent or have to use a particular email address to get ahead. At those who see the talentless thrive while the gatekeepers won't even open the gate to slam it in their face. They have a good story, dammit! One that will make a good movie. If only they could get their script read in the first place, they would have a chance.

And even if that script doesn't get chosen for production at Amazon Studios it could still win the writer a prize. They could even be paid for another 18 month option. It's a recession. Who would turn down free money?

I understand. It's being pro-active and positive about our careers but Amazon Studios are taking the piss. Writers in the past have fought hard and sacrificed for the rights we have now, we shouldn't discard them so easily.

Richard Stern says this on an Amazon Studios forum:

"Just playing devil's advocate here, but without the 18 month option, what happens to Amazon if your script gets read by 500 people on this site and optioned by a producer? They've basically funded a development board for other production companies, gratis. Or what happens if you're selected as a winner, but someone else swoops in and buys your screenplay before the award?

I suspect Amazon will have 3000 or so projects to review and judge at their own expense by the time January rolls around. All told, they'll probably have invested millions dollars in building this community and millions more in funding the prizes. How do they recoup the investment they're making in building up the commercial value of our scripts without the option?

Our scripts may be brilliant (I've been reading all day and been pleasantly surprised) but all of them have an actual cash value of $0 today (and please don't tell me you're sitting on the next Avatar, because if you had producers knocking down your door, you wouldn't be here). In fact, if you are making a living as a writer today, I'd say that this contest isn't for you. At their own expense, Amazon is offering to help undiscovered writers by exposing their work to a large audience and in return they want to share in the profit if your project has commercial merit. I'm not exactly sure why that's a "bad deal" for the undiscovered writer.

You know what is a bad deal, though? Screenwriting contests that take your money and six months later send you a rejection letter. You've spent $50 and had no real exposure and no networking - it's a complete waste. And even if you do win, now you have a certificate, a little money and some screenwriting software. So what? You know how many Nichols Fellowship quarter-finalists and finalist are still trying to breaking through? I've seen many of them on this very site. It's all such a scam and so demoralizing for many of the writers involved.

Honestly, if Amazon stole my screenplay, paid me next to nothing, made it into a huge movie and made a fortune - I'd be happy. Why? I'd write another script and likely sell in half the time for twice as much. These aren't lottery tickets. If only one of my scripts is going to be any good, then I've chosen the wrong profession.

My best advice is for everyone to embrace the community, work together and make the most of this wonderful opportunity. We're writers, we're sceptical - I get that. But when scepticism leads intelligent and talented people to talk themselves out of an opportunity to succeed, it's heartbreaking. I think that everyone should participate - even if that mean posting your second best script and keeping Avatar 2 stashed away for the time being. Rather than playing entertainment attorney, lets focus on collaborating, supporting and inspiring one another to help make this community everything it can be. If we do that, we all win!"

Richard makes some good points. I can live with some free option time, maybe, but 18 months is simply too long. And that's just one problem out of many in the contract.

Yes, we should have more than one script, more than one one-pager; the lottery ticket mentality is pretty prevalent. But what if that one script the writer has is actually really good? Uploading that screenplay and accepting the Amazon Studios contract would be a very bad idea indeed

'Collaborating, supporting and inspiring' is neat and been done by Trigger Street and Zoetrope for a few years now but, I'm pretty sure, they don't demand the rights to any uploaded work for ever.

The Amazon Studios business model needs writers but doesn't want to be fair to writers. That's a fact and of course some writers will be able to live with that - just on the off chance something will happen for them.

Can creative crowdsourcing work? Can Amazon Studios really be successful without being forced to change this contract? I don't know. I just know that they're seriously taking the piss.

Further reading:

Amazon Studios: The New Way to Break Into The Industry? by Michael Ferris, Script
An Open Letter to Amazon Studios by Hal Croasmun
On Being Professional by Piers Beckley
Amazon Studios by James Moran
Amazon's Bad Deal by Craig Mazin
On the Amazon Film Thing by John August
Amazon, Films, Foolishness and Optimism by Filmutopia
Amazon Studios by Scott Myers
Why Amazon Studios is a very bad idea for writers - Drew McWeeny
Red-Lining the Amazon Studios Agreement (Part 1) - Scott Logie

20 November, 2010

Ben Ripley's Source Code trailer

Early last year, Carson at Scriptshadow championed a brilliant spec script floating around by Ben Ripley called Source Code. Several months later and it's still the most popular spec script on the site.

Now the trailer is available - the film opens 11/03/2011 in the UK.

Ben Ripley interview

19 November, 2010

Read That Amazon Studios Contract Carefully, Kids


"The best deal for creators, therefore, is to create your own original script or film and submit it — however, to do so gives Amazon Studios a free 18-month option on your content: “For 18 months after you create a project at Amazon Studios, you cannot display, sell or license your script elsewhere, or withdraw it for any reason,” the contract synopsis reads. They might buy the rights to your script or film for $200,000, but there’s no guarantee of that.

A commenter on the Amazon Studios forum points out that:

“Amazon wants to option scripts for free. The problem here is 18 months of exclusivity… for free. Normally options are paid. Writers do not give anyone exclusive rights to anything for free. TOS needs to change ASAP. I was really exited about amazon studio [sic] and this is a ridiculous term is in the fine print. No serious writer would should consider giving away exclusive rights for free.”

Read article in full

17 November, 2010

Amazon Studios want screenplays/movies

Amazon.com, Inc. today launched Amazon Studios (http://studios.amazon.com), a new online business that invites filmmakers and screenwriters around the world to submit full-length movies and scripts to make money, get discovered and get their movie made. Through the monthly and annual Amazon Studios Awards, Amazon Studios will offer a total of $2.7 million to the top submissions received by Dec. 31, 2011, and will seek to develop the top Amazon Studio projects as commercial feature films under its first-look deal with Warner Bros. Pictures.

Writers are invited to add scripts to Amazon Studios. Filmmakers are invited to add full-length test movies to Amazon Studios. Test movies may be made from your own original script or from any script submitted to Amazon Studios. Test movies must be full length (more than 70 minutes), but they don't have to be "full budget." While test movies must include imaginative stories with great acting and sound they don't need to have theatrical-quality production values. Film fans can review Amazon Studios scripts and test movies, or even upload alternate, revised versions. Full-length test movies will introduce public test screenings to the earliest, formative stages of the movie development process; the Amazon Studios test movie process is intended to guide a film's development and assess its potential. Amazon Studios has produced five test movie samples, in different styles and genres, which can be found on its Getting Started page (http://studios.amazon.com/getting-started).

"We are excited to introduce writers, filmmakers and movie lovers to Amazon Studios," said Roy Price, Director of Digital Product Development. "Full-length test movies will show stories up on their feet and attract helpful feedback at an early stage. We hope that Amazon Studios will help filmmakers experiment and collaborate and we look forward to developing hit movies."

It is the goal of Amazon Studios to produce new, full-budget theatrical films based on the best projects and it will give Warner Bros. Pictures first access to the projects Amazon Studios wishes to produce in cooperation with an outside studio. Under the Amazon Studios development agreement, if a filmmaker or screenwriter creates a project with an original script and it is released by Amazon Studios as a theatrical feature film, the submitter will receive a rights payment of $200,000; if the movie makes over $60 million at the U.S. box office, the original filmmaker or screenwriter will receive a $400,000 bonus. If Warner Bros. Pictures is not inclined to develop a particular project, Amazon Studios can then produce the project in cooperation with another studio.

Winning screenplays and full-length test movies will be selected on the basis of commercial viability, which will include consideration of premise, story, character, dialogue, emotion and other elements of great movies. The first Amazon Studios industry panelists will include: screenwriter and chair, Writing Division of the USC School of Cinematic Arts, Jack Epps, Jr. ("Top Gun," "Dick Tracy"), producer Mark Gill (former president of Miramax and Warner Independent Pictures), screenwriter Mike Werb ("Lara Croft: Tomb Raider," "Curious George," "Face/Off," "The Mask") and producer and chair, Production Division of the USC School of Cinematic Arts, Michael Taylor ("Bottle Rocket," "The Pursuit of D.B. Cooper").

"Amazon Studios is a great idea. Getting feedback is essential for creative artists to improve their work," said Jack Epps, writing chair for USC School of Cinematic Arts. "By letting anyone submit a movie or screenplay to be considered for a major motion picture, Amazon Studios is really opening the doors to Hollywood."

In the 2011 Annual Awards, Amazon Studios will award $100,000 to the best script and $1 million to the best movie submitted by December 31, 2011. To be eligible for the first monthly awards, test movies and scripts must be uploaded by January 31, 2011. Winners for the first monthly awards will be announced near the end of February 2011-- $100,000 for the best full-length test movie and $20,000 each for the two best scripts. The rights payments associated with releasing a full-budget commercial film (the $200,000 referred to above) are separate from and come on top of any money awarded to top submissions through the monthly and annual Amazon Studios Awards.

To learn more about Amazon Studios, check out our video at http://studios.amazon.com.

Amazon Studios web site is operated by Amazon Services LLC.

16 November, 2010

BAFTA screenwriting series

"Welcome to the new ‘Screenwriters on Screenwriting’ channel on BAFTA, an area dedicated to raising the profile of screenwriting.

For our launch, we asked six leading screenwriters with credits including Atonement, The Devil wears Prada, Frost/Nixon and Slumdog Millionaire, to give their opinion on the craft, the films they have written and their career so far.

The result is a series of exclusive videos, clips and profiles providing a fascinating insight into the discipline and culture of screenwriting.

> Watch the Lectures
> Screenwriter Profiles
> Writers' Top Scripts
> Screenwriting Advice Wall

11 November, 2010

The Brit List 2010 Scripts

"The Brit List" is a UK/Eire version of the Hollywood Black List - a collection of the best unproduced screenplays in the UK marketplace.


SEX EDUCATION by Jonathan Stern and Jamie Minoprio (Casarotto)
Producers: Ruby Films/BBC Films

CHEERLEADERS by Ben Schiffer (ITG)
Producers: Cloud Eight Films

HONOUR by Shan Khan (The Agency)
Producers: Dan Films/Parti Productions

SHADOW DANCER by Tom Bradby (Lucas Alexander Whitley (law) Agency)
Producers: Unanimous Pictures/Element Pictures/Wildbunch Production

SONG FOR MARION by Paul Andrew Williams (United Agents)
Producers: Steel Mill Productions

Producers: Between the Eyes

BREATHE (aka BACK 2 JACK) by Claire Wilson (Casarotto)
Producers: Element Pictures

ENGAGED by James Condon (unrepresented)
Producers: Silvertown Films

THE ANIMATORS by Clive Dawson (ITG)
Producers: Qwerty Films

A LONG WAY DOWN BY Jack Thorne (Casarotto)
Producers: Finola Dwyer Productions/Wildgaze Films

GRANNY MADE ME AN ANARCHIST by Ronan Bennett (Tavistock Wood) and Duncan Campbell (United Agents)
Producers: Origin Pictures/Easter Partisan/Film 4

30 EGGS by Eoin O’Connor (Berlin Associates)
Producers: Treasure Entertainment

BLACKROCK (aka BAD DAY IN BLACKROCK) by Malcolm Campbell (Curtis Brown)
Producers: Element Pictures

Producers: Origin Pictures

LAST WILL by Geoff Thompson (Debi Allen Associates)
Producers: Steel Mill Productions

LETTERS FROM AMERICA by Gaia and Hania Elkington (United Agents)

LOVEFEST by Michael Cowen (United Agents)
Producers: Cloud Eight Films/Pathé

Producers: Forward Films

VALERIO by Kelly Marcel (Casarotto)
Producers: 4DH Films

3 MINUTE HEROES by Paven Virk (Alan Brodie Representation)
Producers: Mike Elliot

A LITTLE CHAOS by Alison Deegan (The Agency)
Producers: Potboiler

BROKEN by Mark O’Rowe (Curtis Brown)
Producers: Cuba Pictures

DEVOTCHKA by Gary Young (Sara Putt Associates) and Geoff Bussetil (ITG)
Producers: Peapie Films

ELFIE HOPKINS AND THE GAMMONS by Riyad Barmania (Alan Brodie Representation) and Ryan Andrews (ITG)
Producers: Size 9

FUMBLING by Stephen Prentice (The Rod Hall Agency)
Producers: DJ Films

GIRL’S NIGHT OUT by Trevor De Silva (The Rod Hall Agency)
Producers: Ecosse Films

JAMAICA INN by Patrick Harbinson (ITG) and Michael Thomas (Casarotto)
Producers: Hilary Heath/BBC Films

KARENFAN by Geoff Bussetil (ITG)
Producers: Peapie Films

MODERN LIFE IS RUBBISH by Philip Gawthorne (Curtis Brown)

ON CHESIL BEACH by Ian McEwan (The Agency)
Producers: Neal Street

PASSPORTS by Paloma Baeza (The Agency)
Producers: Focus Films

SUITE FRANCAISE by Saul Dibb (Casarotto)
Producers: Qwerty Films/TF1

THE LOVERS by Bridget O’Connor (Michelle Kass Associates)
Producers: Thomas Thomas Films

THIS LITTLE PIGGY by Corinna Faith (Curtis Brown)
Producers: Warp Films

WILLIAM AND HAROLD by John Hodge (United Agents)


The Playlist:
A Look Inside The Brit List, The Best Unproduced Screenplays From The U.K.


Download the Scripts

08 November, 2010

"Why write drama that doesn't matter?"

Jimmy McGovern gave an interview for the Observer on Sunday which includes this section:

"Why write drama that doesn't matter?" he asked this weekend. Commenting on the high viewing figures for costume dramas such as ITV's Downton Abbey and the popularity of arch adventure shows such as Dr Who, McGovern said he believed the best writing took itself seriously, as well as taking its audience seriously.

"The only way to tell stories on TV is to convince people that what they are seeing is actually happening now and is real. I just can't handle the tongue-in-cheek approach, the kind of thing you see on Dr Who. Though there are millions who can, I know."

The writer said that while he had enjoyed the original series of Upstairs Downstairs that ran in the early 1970s, he felt the BBC's decision to bring it back this year could only be justified if the story is played straight, avoiding the clichés of costume sagas. "I am not watching Downton Abbey, but it is true you can tell any story and make it relevant. You just have to avoid pastiche. If I were in charge of Upstairs Downstairs I would do it for real," he said."

Matthew Graham, via his prodco's twitter account , responded:

"Jimmy McGovern in The Observer. Says there is no point writing drama that isn't deadly serious, contemporary and relevant.

He goes on to attack Dr Who and Downton Abbey - it would seem on the basis that neither show reflects real life in any actual sense.

Once again a grumpy writer uses a publicity platform for his own show to piss on his brothers and sisters in the business.

Jimmy accusing Dr Who of irrelevance. Perhaps the Doctor should rape all his companions and turn the TARDIS into a crack den.

Jimmy - some dramas are about northern people raping their sisters because of the legacy of Thatcher's government.

Some dramas are about eccentric time travellers whisking their accomplices off on magical adventures.

Some dramas gently and delightfully explore the social morés of the classes in early 20th century England.

Some dramas brilliantly and compellingly examine the inter-connecting lives of residents in a single street.

Jimmy - you are a compelling, humane, acerbic and brilliantly relevant writer. One of our very very best.

But when you grumble about good shows that entertain millions and appear to ask for the spectrum to be reduced you sound like the enemy of creativity. Worry about your own work and keep your nose out of other people's.

Escapism sits beside social commentary on my bookshelf. George Orwell happily rests next to Stephen King.

Jimmy is a genius but that article was like George Orwell telling Roald Dahl to grow up and write something meaningful.

I just keep wondering why Jimmy always needs to manufacture a crusade when his work speaks so well for him?

I have met him several times - he's a sweet, funny, quite humble chap. But he can't promote his work it seems without getting angry."

06 November, 2010

New Moviescope out now

Sample the current issue here

05 November, 2010

Linda Seifert Management - UK Writers wanted

"Linda Seifert Management are looking for completed feature-length or teleplay scripts from unrepresented UK-citizen writers in a variety of genres.

Budget is irrelevant. WG and Non-WG writers may submit.

We are a management company in London that reps several award-winning writers, some of whose credits include "Four Lions" and "Octane."

To submit to this lead, please go to:


Enter your email address.

Copy/Paste this code: 430ttugcde

NOTE: Please only submit your work if it fits what the lead is looking for exactly. If you aren’t sure if your script fits, please ask InkTip first.

(via Bang2writers on Facebook)

Mid Morning Matters with Alan Partridge

The full show goes live here today: http://www.fostersfunny.co.uk/alanpartridge/

NB: Other lagers are available and they probably taste much better.

02 November, 2010

Channel 4 Screenwriting Course 2011

From: http://4talent.channel4.com/extra/channel-4-screenwriting-course-2011

We are running a new screenwriting course for Channel 4 drama, running from January to June 2011.

We are looking for 12 talented, original and diverse writers who currently have no broadcast credit but wish to write for television drama.

The course will give you a chance to find out how TV drama, particularly Channel 4 TV drama, works, and to write, over a 5 month period, you own 1 hour pilot script for an original series or serial, working with an experienced script editor.

You will also attend two weekends of talks and script meetings at Channel 4’s Horseferry Rd building.

The course is designed so that writers should be able to take part even if in full-time employment (the only attendance is on two weekends, in January and June 2011, and you will have five months to write the required two drafts of a one hour drama script).

Writers will be paid a small fee for attending the course.

Here are all the details on how you can apply:

DATES: 22nd and 23rd January 2011
11th and 12th June 2011

Writers must ensure before entering that they are available to attend both weekends, and to write two drafts of a one hour television drama between 24th January and 27th May 2011.

Applicants should submit by email a CV and one writing sample. This can be a screenplay, a stage play or radio play, minimum length 30 minutes (novels, treatments, short stories, unfinished screenplays and "shorts" are not acceptable).

The scripts should be original, not episodes of existing drama series.

Email scripts and CV’s to:- screenwriting@channel4.co.uk

Only writers who do not have a broadcast credit as a television or film writer may apply (although produced short films – 20 minutes or less – are exempt).

CLOSING DATE FOR SUBMISSIONS: Friday November 12th 2010.

Writers will be paid a fee for participating in the course and for completing two drafts of a one hour script. Writers will grant Channel 4 an option on their script and will be told within six months of the end of the course if Channel 4 wishes to exercise this option.

The purpose of the course is to offer 12 writers new to television drama an insight into the industry and to provide a "dry-run" of what it can be like to write under a television drama commission, for one hour series and serial drama, and for script editors to work with them as they write an original drama script.

Writers will be expected to write an original, pilot one-hour drama series or serial episode, and 4-5 page outline \ pitch for the series \ serial as a whole. Each writer will be assigned a script editor, who is currently working in the industry, to guide them through this process. The writers will meet with their script editors between the course weekends to discuss how to approach each draft. Second draft scripts will be sent to the script editor and two other writers on the course, for workshop discussions at the second weekend.

Writers, directors, producers and script editors in the industry will give talks to the participants on a variety of subjects relating to television drama. There will also be time set aside for writers to discuss their proposals and ideas for their one hour scripts with their assigned script editor.

This will be split between a reading of the opening section of each script by actors on the first day, and discussion and analysis of each of the twelve finished scripts in small groups on the second day, finishing with a screening \ workshop and an overview of the course and of the specific requirements of series and serial television drama.

It is essential to the success of the second weekend that writers submit their scripts on time and make time to read the (2) other writers' scripts (i.e. there is a time commitment involved beyond the time put aside to write a one-hour drama for television).