By Oliver Lyttelton | www.oliverlyttelton.com November 17, 2010 at 2:46AM
One of the few outright large-scale success stories of the internet age, along with Facebook, Google and YouPorn, are retail giants Amazon, who've gone from a bookstore to selling... well, just about everything, with a still-intimidating marketshare for literature, both real and e-books. So the next step on the route to world domination? Movie production.
As the New York Times reports, the company yesterday unveiled Amazon Studios, a partnership with Warner Bros, which they promise will form a new way of developing and releasing films. The new venture's site is currently accepting submissions for both screenplays and full-length completed films, with monthly prizes of $100,000 for the best film, and $20,000 for the best scripts, with annual awards of $1,000,000 for films and $100,0000 for screenplays also in the works.
The idea is to work towards theatrically releasing full-budget films from talent nurtured through the scheme, which Warners will have right of first refusal on. An original script released through the scheme will net a filmmaker or writer £200,000, with a $400,000 bonus if the film makes over $60 million at the box office.
On the one hand, it's going to be a boon for struggling writers and directors, who'll be able to expose their work to much wider audiences, and there's the possibility that it might launch exciting new talent to the heights. But at the same time, the studio system's been in place for a reason -- we don't envy Amazon's script-readers wading through the mountains of crap that they're about to be sent.
Furthermore, this doesn't sound like it's going to be entirely creatively-led: the new company's director Frank Price says that it'll be more efficient, by "introducing the test-screening process from the very beginning," a phrase that we imagine is sending veteran filmmakers into shudders of terror. While test-screening is an important tool, by pushing it to the forefront of the process, it risks shutting out anything without mass audience appeal.
Either way, it's an interesting experiment, but one that we're highly skeptical of, particularly considering that other sites have attempted similar moves in the past. But with the Times suggesting that Netflix may be unveiling a similar scheme soon, anyone with an unfinished screenplay might want to dust it off and start clicking.