In part 1, I talked about the concept behind Amazon Studios and what I liked about the new approach. Here’s what I don’t like.
Of course, Amazon Studios has taken the new “crowd power” mentality all the way home, as well. Originally, when a writer posted a project on Amazon Studios, that writer automatically agreed to allow anyone at all to revise the script and upload a new version of it. Of course, that revision did not replace the original; both versions would sit on Amazon Studios to collect comments, and people could read them both and decide which one they liked better. Now, the revised Amazon Studios TOS says that writers may opt either to allow anyone to create revisions or to “control” who can make revisions by making the upload of that project’s revisions an invite-only process.
Frankly, I hate this. Comments and critique are one thing, but letting some random stranger take my stuff and rework it pushes every control-issue button I have. Sure, as anyone savvy in the television industry will point out, once a sale is made, there’s always a chance – no, make that a likelihood – that somebody will make changes to my work that I cannot control or stop. The difference there is that this happens AFTER the sale has been made. I have given up my rights to creative control when I signed it over.
At Amazon Studios, you agree to give up your control before you’ve made a sale, and there’s no guarantee a sale will ever take place. (In fact, if you look at percentage odds of how many projects go on Amazon Studios compared to how many Amazon Studios actually buys, well, the odds are not in your project’s favor.) Not only that, but the doors are way too wide: literally anyone can mangle your script to taste and post it for all to see, anyone at all. Someone could take your poignant love story and throw in aliens invading the wedding to do anal probing.
You might simply suggest that a writer like me could opt to make a project’s revisions invite-only and avoid that problem entirely. Well, technically, that is true; however, in practice, it is not. I have come to the conclusion that writers who make use of this option get lower ratings than their piece otherwise deserves, accompanied with sharper public comments. If you believe that the Amazon gods in charge actually give weight to the ratings and comments, then that means said writer has damaged the project’s chances by making this choice.
Such writers may also get private harassment (through the IM system) from people I dub “crowdheads” who fervently believe that such behavior is both selfish and outdated, and therefore makes you both a bad person and a loser who cannot get anywhere in this modern information-sharing world. Mind you, none of these crowdheads are professional writers, but they certainly know more than you do about what it takes to succeed in the professional world. (Well, okay, sarcasm aside, they probably do have a better handle on what it takes to succeed on Amazon Studios, since they embody the philosophy behind the new approach.)
On the plus side, I have to say that, out of all the television projects I have looked at on Amazon Studios so far, none of them have actually been revised by someone other than the original writer. That’s right: not a single one. None. Zero. Many people have left some very helpful comments and critiques, sometimes including some explicit suggestions for how that person would fix this or that issue or line, but not a single one has gone so far as to upload a revision.
So, you know, maybe the boogey man isn’t so scary, after all.
TO BE CONTINUED…