by Kathy Fuller
First things first–everyone writes differently. Everyone creates differently. Everyone finds certain storytelling tools useful, others about as valuable as used toilet paper. Taking that into consideration, here is my experience with Amazon Storyteller and why I won’t be using it again.
I decided to take a short story I recently self-pubbed, make it into a script, and upload it to Amazon Studios. Yeah, I know a “successful” script is a lot longer than sixteen pages (just like I know .99 is a lot to charge for 9 pages of story), but this is an experiment and I’m trying to figure out how this all works, including self-publishing. Better to mangle a few pages than a whole novel/script. Plus this story had been e-pubbed way back in 2000 before Amazon took over the world, so I didn’t have a problem using it as my guinea pig.
Still, I privately submitted the script, describing it as a short film based on a short story. Amazon will look at the premise and evaluate it, then contact me if they’re interested. Since I’m 100% sure they won’t be, I’m not worried about it.
Back to the Storyteller. This is where it pays to read directions, because the Storyteller doesn’t work with a PDF, only an RTF. And since you have to wait for your uploaded file to process, I wasted twenty minutes of my day waiting for processing, just to find out I couldn’t storyboard it. Ugh.
Basically the process goes like this:
Sign in/sign up for Amazon.
Sign up for Amazon Studios.
Upload your RTF script.
Wait twenty minutes.
Amazon will send you an email when your script is processed. Click on the link. You’ll go back to Amazon Studios where the Storyteller button appears. Click it. Now you’re in Storyteller.
Honestly, by this point I was thinking that this is way too much trouble for my freewriting self. I tend to be an unstructured writer so storyboarding doesn’t really appeal to me, but I know it’s important in the movie process. So I proceeded with the extremely short tutorial. Then I spent the next ten minutes clicking on chunks of my script and watching the storyboarding program do one of two things: 1) tell me that it doesn’t have a ready made scene to match that portion of the script or 2) choose very basic looking characters and plunking them in very basic, generic scenes. If I wanted to, I could upload my own scenes/characters. Again, too much trouble.
Maybe it’s because I don’t understand the storyboarding process or how to use it to create a story, but the fact that you have to upload a script to storyboard it kind of defeats the purpose for me. I think it would be better to storyboard as I write the script. There are opportunities for revisions and new drafts, but for me it’s a big waste of time. I can use Pinterest or good old pen and paper to visualize and describe scenes.
Final verdict: While this wasn’t the program for me, I encourage those of you who are interested to try it out. The option to privately submit your work is probably the best thing about it. You can be as vague as you want in writing your logline and synopsis, and your storyboard won’t be made public unless you want it to be. This could be a great tool in the right writer’s hands. I’m just not that writer.
EDITOR’S NOTE FROM LB: Thanks so much for this, Kathy. Actually, in the real world of showbiz, storyboarding has seldom if ever been intended as a writing aid. It’s a way of planning the shooting of an already written script and of communicating that plan to others.
In the process, good storyboards can also prove to be an effective storytelling tool in themselves. Animatics, for example, are videos made entirely of storyboard images, with sound – dialog, music, sfx – added and often are very entertaining.
There’s no question that the text on the Storyteller site is misleading since it says, pointblank: “Share your storyboard and learn how to make your script even better,” which implies that this is a script writing tool. A statement like that is detrimental to all concerned, especially writers seeking new tools, which doesn’t exactly do much for Amazon Studios already-sinking reputation.
EDITOR’S NOTE FROM MUNCHMAN: I’m with Kathy all the way. This thing definitely is useless in terms of scriptwriting, and to me it would be useless for practical storyboarding if it doesn’t let you get in there and lay out the design of each panel. munchy’s Final Verdict: Piece of shit.