Bob Tinsley: Amazon’s New Indie Film Distribution Platform – “Yay! or Nay!”?

(EDITOR’S NOTE: Yesterday, we ran an article by Noam Kroll about Prime Video Direct, the latest addition to Amazon’s boxfull of marketing madness platforms. Here are frequent TVWriter™ contributor Bob Tinsley’s thoughts on the subject. What are yours?)

by Bob Tinsley

Go with me here: say, “Amazon Studios.” Leaves a sour taste in your mouth, doesn’t it? But maybe, just maybe, Amazon might be about to redeem themselves.

I’m sure you remember the kerfuffle back when Amazon Studios started looking for original content. They, in effect, said, “Come one, come all! Pitch us your original ideas for film and episodic content. We’ll choose the best, handle production and distribution, and we’ll all make scads of money.”

Unfortunately it wasn’t long before they said, in effect, “Oh, by the way, when we said the best, we meant, has a Hollywood Name attached.”

That soured the attitudes toward Amazon of a lot of people in the indie sector. Personally I believe, in hindsight mind you, that the apparent reversal was inevitable. At the time Amazon had no experience in either film production or distribution, but, hey, they were the largest book distributor in the world. What could go wrong, right?

It didn’t take them long to discover that there are a lot of huge up-front costs to film. You’ve got rights acquisition, production (wages for directors, writers, cast members, carpenters, grips, sound techs, plumbers, production designers, set designers, editors, drivers, security personnel, craft services, and probably a lot more that I’m forgetting about or don’t know exist). Then you have the sunk costs (buying or renting a studio, cameras, lights, microphones, dollies, cranes, props, air conditioners, heaters, office furniture, bathrooms, and the myriad other things required by a physical location).

I can imagine the scene in the Amazon boardroom. “Umm, you know, this is an awful lot of money to risk on an unknown property by an untried creator. Maybe we need to rethink this ‘come one, come all’ thing. Ya think?”

By now I hope you’ve read Noam Kroll’s article about his adventures in the world of self-distribution of his indie films. He’s excited about Amazon’s new program, Prime Video Direct. And I think he should be.

What’s the difference between Prime Video Direct (PVD) and Amazon Studios? I’m glad you asked. The huge difference between Amazon Studios and Prime Video Direct is that PVD’s costs are small and fixed as opposed to Amazon Studios’ large and variable costs. Also Amazon Studios was built on the model of, wait for it, Hollywood studios. When you think about it, something built on the model of an existing organization will result in near identical operations and outcomes.

On the other hand, it appears to me that PVD is built on the wildly successful models of Amazon’s Kindle/Audible businesses. I can’t speak to PVD, but I can speak to Kindle and Audible. They are simple, easy to use, and, mostly, hassle and cost free.

The creator uploads his final product (note that phrase, “final product,” e.g., polished film) to PVD which puts it in their “catalog” of similar products. People find it. If they like it, they give PVD (Amazon) money, and PVD then gives the creator his cut.

The creator can choose “to earn royalties based on hours streamed by Prime members, a revenue share for rentals, purchases, monthly channels, or ad impressions–or any combination of those options.”

PVD makes your content available in the US “and other locations” on virtually any device you can think of (including video game consoles) anywhere you can get a wired, cell or wifi signal.

As an account holder you have access to an enormous amount of data telling you how your property is doing and what it’s projected to do. You can customize the data in ways that will have your accountant (you do have one, don’t you), swooning in relief.

Oh, did I forget to mention that all this wonderfullness costs you NOTHING but a little time?

All that being said, you won’t make money unless you promote. You are the only marketing department you have. PVD won’t do it. You have to pay for ads. Occasionally, if you start getting a lot of views the algorithms might promote you to a “viewers who watched X also watched” category.

The part of the Kroll article that most tripped my bullshit meter was the claim that without “promoting it with paid ads” he had “an incredibly high volume of streams” in a very short time.

I don’t know. Maybe he did, but that’s not been my experience. If I want my stuff to get seen I have to buy ads, twist arms, or dissolve into tears amongst a lot of people. Caveat emptor.

I think this certainly is worth looking into. Amazon tripped up once and made a lot of people angry and suspicious.  Maybe this time they got it right?

(ANOTHER NOTE FROM THE EDITOR: The URL where Amazon gets this whole thing going is HERE It’s definitely worth a long look.)


Bob Tinsley is an artist, writer, boataholic and a new pro in the field of Audio Drama. In other words, he’s an expert in finding new marketplaces, as he’s showing us here.

PJ McIlvaine: The Best Laid Plans…

Ms McIlvaine relaxing in her domain

by PJ McIlvaine

As I sit here, coughing, hacking, and sneezing, with my nose a continual fountain of snot and mucus, I had started off January with such high hopes. I always do…until reality bites me in the butt.

2018 ended with a bang. In late November, my husband had major surgery. It was quite unexpected, and the surgeon was candid in what could go wrong. Maybe too candid, which only added to our fear, worry, and confusion. Thankfully, husband sailed through it, and is now pretty much back to normal.

What is not back to normal is my writing routine.

I’m the type who has always blustered through. I’ve written though anything: hurricane, stomach flu, sinus, moving, kids puking, and various other travails. I always prided myself on my strength and stamina. I wrote 365 days of the year, come hell or high water.

But I have to be honest….November was pretty much a washout…and having my sinus/cold flare up just as I picked up hubby from the hospital meant another week or so of feeling lousy. Yes, I was writing, but it was a real slog. I was from from the “zone”, where I write on auto-pilot.

Then, December, well, that was pretty much a wash, what with the holidays and hubby still recovering, and kiddies being sick here and there. I don’t think there was one week where one of the older grand kids wasn’t home with something (or one of the grand babies was running snot like lava).

But January, which also happens to be my birth month. I always start out with high hopes and good intentions. This was going to be the year!

Until the grand babies came down with an awful cold/grippe…then my husband…and then me, and of course, I had it worst of all. No appetite, no sense of smell or taste, and no energy. In one week I went through six tissue boxes.

The last couple of January’s have been like that. Awful flu, stomach virus, sinus, cold, grippe…the germs find me and don’t let go. I don’t know if it’s because of the change of season or that as I get older I’m more susceptible to disease and infection, but man, I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired.

And as sick and as miserable as I was, I still wrote. Sure, not as much as I’d like to ideally, but even when I wasn’t physically writing, mentally, I never stopped.

I got off queries.

I wrote down ideas.

I sent off requested material.

In my head, I continued to plot out the three novels I’m currently writing.

I gave notes.

And I still wrote, even if it didn’t seem I was making progress.

So yeah, even though there were days I felt like going to bed and pulling the blanket over my head, I still trudged on.

Which leads me to my next train of thought…

Rejection.

It sucks.

I mean, REALLY SUCKS.

It’s one thing to get generic, form, bland passes. I tell myself, just one more no until I get a yes. I don’t dwell on them.

But when you get a pass that is just so lovely, so complimentary, so very close to a yes but is still a no, no matter how many times you read it, you’re gutted like a filet of fish. No matter how long you’ve been doing this, it still hurts like hell, and no amount of cookies and cream ice cream is going to make you feel better.

I know many writers who obsess over passes…who try to read in-between the lines, the subtext, what did they really mean, or not mean.

In the end, it doesn’t matter.

A pass is a pass, no matter how nicely it was worded.

And as much as it hurts, you must remain professional. I repeat, YOU MUST REMAIN PROFESSIONAL.

You can’t write the agent back and say boo-hoo, they’re missing out on the next great fill in the blank.

You can’t threaten.

You can’t cajole.

You have to grin and bear it, and move on. I can’t stress that enough. Don’t be the nitwit who is castigated on social media for being a jerk.

It’s a business. Opinions differ.

Many writers who went on to become great writers were all rejected at one point.

JK Rowling.

Stephen King.

John Cleese. (Fawlty Towers was rejected. Fawlty Towers!)

What I’m trying to say is that rejection is normal. You can’t expect everyone to “like” what you do or to “get” it.

As I am fond of saying, it only takes one yes.

I don’t need ten.

Just one. (As I reach for another box of tissues with watery eyes).


Pj McIlvaine is a prolific writer/author/screenwriter/writer/journalist. She has been published in The New York Times, Newsday, and a host of other places. Her Showtime movie, My Horrible Year (with Mimi Rogers, Karen Allen and Eric Stoltz) was nominated for a Daytime Emmy. Find out more about Ms. McIlvaine HERE. This article first in her most magical blog.

Herbie J Pilato Presents the Man Wonder – Burt Ward

Everything you need to know about the “Legendary Pop-Icon and Humanitarian,” by our legendary Contributing Editor Emeritus.” (That title means that Herbie, erm, outgrew us…and his professional growth spurt makes us proud.) Anyway:

by Herbie J Pilato

Burt Ward, pop-culture icon and world-renown humanitarian, was about three seconds late for our phone interview, and he apologized.

But the apology, of course, was not necessary, certainly because his delay was only a minuscule of a moment, and secondly because he was detained due to his non-stop efforts to rescues dogs.

In the realm of classic television, Ward is best known as Robin, the Boy Wonder a.k.a., Dick Grayson, ward (“Holy irony!”) to Bruce Wayne, a.k.a. Batman, played by Adam West (who passed away in 2017) on the Batman TV series which originally aired on ABC, twice a week, from 1966 to 1968.

Today, more than 50 years after the show’s debut, the heroic-based Batman is more popular than ever, as is the heroically-human Ward.

Down-to-earth, bright, energetic, and unassuming, Ward continues to utilize his public persona to make a positive impact in the real world, just as did Robin on Batman.

In addition to keeping his Robin persona active in the public eye, Ward, and his wife Tracy, own and operate Gentle Giants Dogfood and Products, a company dedicated to the healthy meals and living for man?—?and woman’s?—?best friends, and saving the lives of those said canines, and as many beloved animals of every species as possible.

“When you’re involved with saving lives,” Ward said, “…sometimes, it’s a life and death situation,” and time is of the essence. “We’re known for rescuing dogs, but we’ve also rescued cats, horses, pigs, goat, sheep. And when you do that (save lives), and you give more of yourself. We actually get more pleasure of doing things for others, than doing for ourselves….”

Read it all at MEDIUM.COM


Herbie J Pilato is the Founder and Executive Director of The Classic TV Preservation Society and author of several classic TV companion books.  He has been part of TVWriter™ for 20 years and is Contributing Editor Emeritus. Learn more about Herbie J HERE.

How to Become the Most Productive Screenwriter You Know

It’s Valentine’s Day, which means that instead of working your butt off writing your heart out (now there’s a mixed metaphor to be reckoned with!) you’ll probably be making sweet love all day…or being upset because you aren’t.

But tomorrow will come, and with it the siren call of your chosen profession – writing for TV, or films, or even publication. Here’s a Valentine’s Day gift to get your going at en even higher level than you’ve been at so far:

by Script Reader Pro

On the one hand, you’d like to write more to finish that screenplay, TV pilot or treatment (or start one, for that matter) and begin making headway toward your writing goals.

On the other hand…

Most days pass in a blur. You’re dead tired after getting home from work. Then it’s family time. Or you feel like crashing in front of the TV. Or you promised to go see a work colleague’s band play across town. And on and on.

There always seems to be something in the way of just sitting down and writing. Well, that’s about to change.

In this post, we’ve collected together our absolute favorite forty-eight resources that will teach you how to find time to write and create the ultimate writer’s lifestyle—enabling you to truly kick-start your screenwriting career.

We’ll cover hacks on how to find time to write, how to write more efficiently, tips to improve productivity for writers, health, fitness and much more.

In other words, everything you need to develop the optimal conditions in your life so you can give your screenwriting goals the best possible chance of succeeding. So let’s get to it.

Get Inspired to Write All Over Again

Sometimes the reason why we don’t write as much as we’d like is simply because the enthusiasm has dried up a little. After several rejection letters or lukewarm feedback on your scripts, it’s easy to get disheartened.

With that in mind, here are six resources you can use to rediscover your writing mojo….

Read it all at SCRIPTREADERPRO.COM

 

John Ostrander: And the Award Goes To…

by John Ostrander

So, the nominations for this year’s Academy Awards have been announced and there were a few surprises. A super-hero film, Black Panther, became the first of its kind to be nominated and Netflix landed its first nomination for Best Picture as well and Meryl Streep got nominated as Best Actress. No, wait – Streep wasn’t nominated. That was the surprise. I thought there was some sort of rule she had to be nominated.

I have different levels of interest in the Academy Awards depending on the category but a particular favorite of mine is soundtrack, a.k.a. Original Score. And the nominees this year are:

Black Panther — Ludwig Goransson

BlacKkKlansman — Terence Blanchard

If Beale Street Could Talk — Nicholas Britell

Isle of Dogs — Alexandre Desplat

Mary Poppins Returns — Marc Shaiman

I haven’t seen as many movies this past year as I usually do and only saw one film that was nominated for best score (Black Panther, natch) but I was very impressed at the time with the music. I don’t know Goransson’s work very well, aside from Creed (which was also first rate) but his score for Black Panther both stood out and, at the same time, fully supported the film. 

The other composers I don’t know as well aside from Alexandre Desplat who did both parts of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Argo, and the King’s Speech and also Marc Shaiman who wrote, among other things, Hairspray.

I rely on music a great deal when I’m writing; it gives me emotion, character insight, even story. For the most part, it can’t be music with lyrics because the lyrics can interfere with how I use my words. I like soundtrack music especially because it’s always part of telling a story; if I find the right piece of movie music, it will become part of my story and I’ve been known to play it over and over again until I drive others mad. (This, of course, is why they created headphones.) I can even find story ideas in the music. Something rises emotionally within me and I “see” things, first like shadows or ghostly images that, as I replay the music, comes into focus.

I have my favorites, of course. Jerry Goldsmith was one of the greats, not only in quantity but quality and variety of style. Patton, City Hall, The Ghost and the Darkness, Capricorn One, and – of course – Chinatown among so many others. The latter is one to which I return again and again especially when working on moody, noir-ish things. Beautiful and sad. Exquisite.

Another selection on my best list sections is the soundtrack to WAKING NED DEVINE composed by Shaun Davey. The film in itself is also one of my faves and the music fits and compliments and amplifies it so well. It’s a wonderful black comedy that can literally make me laugh out loud. Correction: one moment puddles me in hysterics. The music is a joy and when I’m looking for a lighter scene, it’s my go-to soundtrack.

Perhaps my favorite soundtrack corresponds, of course, with one of my favorite movies – Field of Dreams. Composer James Horner died much too young but not before creating an incredible body of work that included the music to Apollo 13, The Rocketeer, The Mask of Zorro, Deep Impact, and – of course – Titanic. He was accused of sometimes “borrowing” from other composers; I know he sometimes “borrowed” from himself.

For me, Field of Dreams is his masterpiece. It is lyrical, transcendent, mystical and it’s waltz rhythms perfectly evoke a sense of memory. Yes, I am one of those men who eyes tear up at the end; I freely admit it and the music contributes greatly to that. I heard the score before I ever saw the movie; it drew me to seeing the film.

It’s not only soundtracks that can and do influence my work; classical works can, of course, also do that. APPALACHIAN SPRING by Aaron Copland, especially in the suite, moves me as no other piece of music. The work was originally for a ballet (and there is a longer ballet version of it available) and, as such, it has its own story to tell so, in that way, it’s not unlike a movie score. Copland did compose soundtrack music as well such as Our Town and The Red Pony but it is really Appalachian Spring that resonates most with me. You can hear its influence on so many other pieces of music, including Field of Dreams. It echoes through the years.

So there you have it – my own list of nominees. And the winner is – well, how about that? It’s a tie – all of ‘em.

No, wait. The winner is me.

Excuse me. I need to put on some music.


John Ostrander is one of LB’s favorite writers in any medium. It’s been awhile since he’s been here, but now John’s back with a new column at a new blog, PopCultureSquad, where this piece first appeared (before Christmas even, but we’ve been on a break so you get to relive the holiday now). You can learn more about John and his many masterworks HERE