Love & Money Dept – TV Writing Deals for 7/6/13

Latest News About Writers Who Are Doing Better Than We Are

  • Jeff Greenstein (WILL & GRACE) has a new agency: CAA. (So if you’re also a CAA client tell you point man you want to be part of the next package they put together for Jeff!)
  • NBC is putting together AD: BEYOND THE BIBLE, a drama mini-series about the days after Jesus’ death. (So if you’re a firnd of Mark Burnett or his lovely wife Roma Downey, time to hit one of ’em up for a writing gig.)
  • Speaking of getting your agents in motion, word is out that the search is on for a writer to adapt Declan Hill’s book The Fix for international TV. (Whoa, 2 potential UK gigs in a row. What can this portend?)
  • Jill Soloway (SIX FEET UNDER, THE UNITED STATES OF TARA) has optioned an untitled half-hour dramedy to Amazon Studios. (And what this portends is pretty clear: Amazon is continuing to make moves designed so that it will appear to be a viable playa…even though so far it’s anything but.)

Amazon Studios is Shafting the Little Guyz

Uh-oh, don't get your hopes up. Gulp.
Uh-oh, don’t get your hopes up. Gulp.

…At least, so point the signs.

The in-house Amazon.Com production company originally intended to give new writers/directors/producers/et al a shot by developing online series for Prime Instant Video announced yesterday that it was greenlighting a pilot for ZOMBIELAND, based on the 2009 Columbia Pictures film of the same name and staffed by the original creative team, including writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick.

ZOMBIELAND joins 12 other pilots produced by established Industry types which will be shown on Amazon Prime so viewers, referred to by Amazon Studios boss Roy Price as “customers,” (hey, that’s a much more honest way to talk about it) can choose which shows they want to become series.

The announcement by Price makes no mention of what’s going to happen with content created by newbies, which indicates to us that he and the rest of the Amazon brass aren’t thinking in that direction, at least right now. Interestingly, though, it may not be just the professional production teams that will be getting the short end of the Amazon, um, stick. Insider sources say that the budgets for ZOMBIELAND and its ilk are in and around $1 million an episode, which is far short of what broadcast and cable networks pay. Even Netflix pays more – $4 million an ep.

As far as TVWriter™ can see, the only people who would be able to create high quality content on such limited $$$ would be newer, leaner, hungrier folk. Which means that we probably should add a third category to those getting the shaft: Amazon’s “customers.” AKA the viewers. And so it goes.

munchman: Will Amazon Studios Greenlight a Concept Already Dropped by CBS?

Truth in Journalism Dept: Nope, this pic isn’t from BROWSERS, but we’re hoping it could be.

In case  you had any doubts about Amazon’s TV production arm being for reals, Variety.Com today says that Amazon Studios is thisclose “to greenlighting a musical comedy series dubbed “Browsers.”

According to Variety, BROWSERS, written by David Javerbaum (THE DAILY SHOW, Emmys, Grammys, even Peabody Awards up the yinyang), was originally developed at CBS but didn’t make it past the script stage. Possibly because the premise – the adventures of 4 interns at a site not unlike HuffingtonPost.Com – seems to have even less potential than, oh, a series based on yours truly’s own duller-than-the-cobwebs-around-my-social-calendar life.

Still, good  judgment has never been very important when it comes to television. And musicals can be fun if the music is listenable/dance-able. So we applaud Amazon for at least doing something and say, “Bring it on!”

(Won’t Get Fooled Again Dept: OTOH, if all the mumsers are doing is issuing press releases and shows like this one never happen, then screw ’em, they’re just like everyplace else.)

munchman

EDITED BY LB TO ASK THE MUSICAL QUESTION: Uh, wasn’t Amazon Studios supposed to be looking for new talent? Javerbaum is like a comedy god and all that, but he ain’t exactly a newby, now is he?

Update About Amazon Studios

From the amazingly wonderful blog written by John August, who knows this stuff better than anybody. Wow.

Articles like this are just the tip of the iceberg at johnaugust.com. (In other words, GO THERE!)

 

Alert: The following was not written by John but by Reader Mike (but it’s still informative as hell).

Amazon Studios at AFF

Amazon Studios has been a muchdiscussed topic on both the blog and the podcast. Last week at the Austin Film Festival, the company made a presentation explaining how they work with screenwriters.Reader Mike attended and took notes, which he generously offered to write up.


first personA little bit about my background: I started out working at a production company as an intern and as a reader, kept working at writing and eventually got representation from a manager and an agent. I’ve had scripts go out and I’ve done the studio water bottle tour a couple of times, but have yet to earn a single penny as a writer.

I consider myself in that grey, ugly pool of zombie writers: Part alive, but mostly dead inside.

I’m guessing the crowd ranged from people like me to those who are thinking about writing their first screenplays. I had heard a lot things about Amazon (including on the podcast), so I went in with an ass-load of skepticism along with a tiny bit of hope. Unfortunately, very little during the panel moved the skeptic needle, and it pretty much pissed all over the hope.

Again, I can only speak for myself.

First, it wasn’t really a panel. There was one Dude at a podium, so it was more like a new-hire presentation at Dundler Mifflin rather than a Q&A with a studio exec. The Dude, head of development at Amazon Studios I think, seemed nice enough and intelligent enough, but he used the phrase “I’d rather not get into the details of that” way too often for my tastes.

Bullet points:

  • Writers can upload their scripts to the Amazon Studios site as a non-WGA writer, or if they are WGA they can have their rep upload.

  • Once a writer uploads his script, he cannot sell his script to anyone for 45 days. Essentially a free 45-day option.

  • If Amazon is interested, they will option the script for a period of 18 months for $10k.

  • If that script goes into production, the writer will be paid $200k, with some other pay-outs if the film reaches certain financial milestones.

  • They also have open writing assignments from time to time, and these are handled much the same way, with writers submitting their work on the website for consideration for the gig.

All of this is well and good on the surface. I am not a million-dollar-screenwriter by any stretch of the imagination, but I do have some access to the lords of Hollywood. If I didn’t have anywhere to go with my scripts, I would probably be interested in what the Dude had to say. However, once he said they have somewhere around 10,000 submissions with 22 projects in development, it doesn’t take a Harvard grad to do the math and realize your odds are just as good in the traditional studio system.

The things that I found puzzling were mainly around their development process and their overall plan.

The Dude explained their development process by talking about information studios gather from test screening and how it is used. Basically saying that once you shoot a film, you have a test screening and get feedback from the general public on what they liked and didn’t like about the story, the characters or whatever. Meaning that the problem is that the film is already shot, so there is only so much you can do to alter it.

At Amazon (wait for it) they want to get public feedback (through their website) on the script as it is being developed so they can make changes before they begin shooting. They plan on doing this through several methods. They already have comic books made from a script in development that they are asking for feedback on. They are also thinking of making short videos and other things to get parts of the script out there and gather opinions from Amazon’s customers. The writer will get this info and incorporate it as notes for rewrites. Now, the Dude did say it is up to the writer to do what he wants with these notes. You be the judge on that. On one hand, I’d like to congratulate them on thinking outside the box on development. But I see problems with this, as I’m sure you do as well.

The other problem I had was with their overall plan: There doesn’t seem to be one.

They have a first-look deal with Warner Bros., but when he was asked questions about the deal he defaulted to the “I’d rather not get into the details of that.” He was asked what type of genres or budget ranges they were looking at, and he didn’t really have an answer. I would have been more impressed if they picked a direction, like saying, “We want to provide funding for small, independent minded stories that might not get a shot in the Hollywood system,” or saying, “We are looking for big, tent-pole, event movies.”

I had other concerns, but that was pretty much the thing in a nutshell. I think it great that someone with money is jumping in, and I hope for the best, but it looks like there are problems with hair on them, and I think there are some very rough growing pains in the making.

 

Will This be the Home of Amazon Studios?

Amazon to open a new centre in London to spearhead a global push into film and television delivery services.
by Katherine Rushton

The US firm is headquartered in Seattle but said London was “the obvious choice” for the “digital media development” centre, because Britain has led the way in pioneering on-demand services which allow users to rent films and television over the internet. Amazon’s existing on-demand services, LoveFilm and Pushbutton, were both founded in the capital.

The retail giant has taken an eight-storey, 47,000 square foot office near Barbican tube station, and close to the technology hub around Old Street, dubbed “TechCity” or “Silicon Roundabout”.

Paula Byrne, the centre’s managing director, said: “I wouldn’t underplay the value that the UK has brought to this sector. When you look at the specialist skills that are available here, it is the obvious place to come.

The move is part of Amazon “ramping up its focus and effort and energy” on its television and film offerings, she added, helping it to battle against mounting competition from other on-demand services such as America’s Netflix and BSkyB’s newly launched NowTV.

Read it all

Over the past couple of weeks, Whatie has been reporting on Amazon Studios, a production company that may hold a great deal of promise for newbie writers/creators. (You can read what she’s had to say here, here, and here.) We can’t tell from this report if Amazon is referring to Amazon Studios or not. (Runaway production? Oh noooo!) But, like our friends at Gizmodo, we’ll be keeping a close watch.