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Amazon Studios Adds TV Series to Development Slate for Instant Video Release

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood May 2, 2012 at 11:59AM

Phase Two of Amazon Studios' radical move to reinvent entertainment industry production models--turning to movie fans for direction and feedback on the process--is television.
Amazon Studios

Phase Two of Amazon Studios' radical move to reinvent entertainment industry production models--turning to movie fans for direction and feedback on the process--is television.

Amazon Studios director Roy Price, who has a background in animation production, is moving into original comedy and family series development with an eye to making the best end results available on Amazon Instant Videos. He's extending an invite to writers, animators and filmmakers around the world to submit their proposals here. "I hope that everyone with a terrific pilot script will upload it tomorrow," says Price.

The best comedy and children’s series will be distributed through Amazon Instant Video, Amazon’s digital video streaming service.  

Price says the new initiative is a response to filmmakers who expressed an interest in developing series."Amazon custoers love TV," he told me. "Who doesn't? It's a natural expansion."

The first Amazon Studios directive, developing movies for sale to the studios, is a long gestation, with a few options but no movies heading for a studio green light. "Developing movies is a process," says Price. "And so it takes time, whatever method you're using. I'm not sure it's more complicated than we expected."

Amazon Instant Video customers love episodic TV, reminds Price. "Hopefully we'll come up with some ideas and shows they respond well to as well."

Price likes the idea of creating animation animatics to post at Amazon Studios for feedback, using his audience as an equivalent to Pixar's writers' room. (There's no comparison.) He admits that production requires the participation of some experts and creators who know what they're doing, but he wants to avoid appointing the next Irving Thalberg or Brandon Tartikoff as the guru in charge. He stands by the power of Amazon customer feedback as the strength of his new model. "They can lead us in our development," he says.

While unlike the movie side of Amazon Studios, produced TV series will wind up on Amazon Instant Video, Price is open to partnerships.

Here's how it works:

Each month, Amazon Studios intends to option one promising new project and add it to the development slate where it will be tested for viability with an audience.  If Amazon Studios elects to produce a series, the creator will receive a $55,000 payment, up to 5 percent of Amazon’s revenues from toy and t-shirt licensing, and other royalties and bonuses. Amazon Studios’ production company, the People’s Production Company is signatory to the Writers Guild of America and to The Animation Guild, Local 839.

To submit, a project must have a five-page description, along with a 22-minute pilot script for comedies, or an 11-minute pilot script for children’s shows. Within 45 days of submission, Amazon Studios will either extend an option on the project for $10,000 or invite the creator to add the project to the Amazon Studios site.  If a project is not optioned, creators may remove their idea from the Amazon Studios site or leave it to get community feedback.

Amazon Studios new series development is led by Joe Lewis, previously with 20th Century Fox and Comedy Central and Tara Sorensen, formerly with National Geographic Kids.

Amazon Studios launched in November 2010. Since then, more than 700 test movies and 7,000 scripts have been submitted and 15 movie projects are currently under development.  Follow the Amazon Studios blog, Hollywonk for up to date news, tips on filmmaking and writing or insightful interviews with industry leaders.

This article is related to: Amazon, comedy, Animation, Television, TV

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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.