Amazon Studios: Two Months In

The biggest news is probably that the 50 semifinalists for the first round of competition were announced on Wednesday. (Big congrats to any semifinalist who might be reading this!) Six finalists will be announced this upcoming week.

Those who know me will want to know if Children of Others was on the list of 50. It was not. I was disappointed. The script had performed well enough in a few competitions to make hoping for top fifty seem not unrealistic. Combined with an 11 hour school day and another rejection letter in the mailbox (for an essay) upon my return home, it was one of those days that makes going to bed at the end of it a blessing. However, I’ve never had any illusions that I wouldn’t end up rewriting, so life continues.

Also of interest is Amazon’s announcement of a new competition for those who produce table reads of those semifinalist scripts, with a $10,000 prize for the best one.

In the “ongoing news” arena, the number of contestants has not increased some but not a lot since the end of the first round. It’s currently at 2339.
I think today I’m going to discuss the FORUMS.
There are six forums provided on the website: Making Movies, Writing Scripts, Collaboration, Gear, Amazon Studios Issues and Help, and Commissary. These forums are maintained by maybe 100 of the 2000 participants, although there may be a number of spectators like myself. I prefer “spectator” to “lurker,” as I doubt many of us are lurkers by intention. I have left a couple of posts over the course of the contest, and stay alert for the occasional opportunity to add something to a conversation, just to be friendly, but mostly, I don’t see many instances where I have a lot to add. While I agree that Save The Cat is a helpful and easy read, that most rules have exceptions, that the use of profanity should be intentional, conscious, and motivated by the characters or their environment, generally, by the time I check the boards, someone will have said what there is to say on the topic at hand. If it is craft-oriented, there will be a spectrum of responses from easy sound-bites to online master-class. In terms of more “controversial” topics, there tend also to be enough responses to articulate the argument, and it just seems frustrating to get too invested. I’ve yet to see anyone swayed by someone else’s opinion. It’s like having discussions about religion or politics. I’d be really surprised if someone jumped up on the fence about God because I pointed out that there’s really not any way be sure. “Oh, geez, you’re right! No one has ever said that before. I’m an agnostic now!”
None of this is to say anything negative about forums–they seem like a necessary tool to provide for a site like this–only to give a sense of the perspective from which I am “reporting.” I can tell that some people have used the forums successfully to form real relationships, but I’m not one of those. While I consider myself a friendly and social person in many situations, I don’t know how to translate it well to this medium (or if I feel a real desire to do so). I am always happy to read the forums and build a sense of the real people who are represented there, but at the same time, doing so makes me feel a little like a ghost, floating around, looking in.
So, from my ghostlike perspective: Writing Scripts and Amazon Studios Issues and Help are most frequently updated, followed by Commissary. I check in once or twice a day (a la Facebook), and usually find that some thread in the first two has been updated within the last thirty minutes. These forums have fewer threads, but many replies. The Collaboration forum has over 400 threads, but many of these have 0 replies. People talk, and no one talks back. I see a certain logic to these numbers. Writers like to write, and a forum is conducted via writing, so Writing Scripts functions pretty well. Also, lots of people have had questions about the whole Amazon thing, and while “help” from Amazon Studios is extremely intermittent, many people seem willing to discuss and speculate, thus Issues and Help finds readers.
But Collaboration… That’s kind of the theme of the whole enterprise, isn’t it? That’s the big experiment. If you throw 2000 people in a virtual pot and stir it up a little, will it make something, and will it be something good? But it’s the most difficult part of the endeavor. Even when “teams” are custom made, like when everyone works for the same company, and is earning a salary, and knows there is a certain market or audience for the product being requested, it’s hard. That’s why companies have retreats, and meetings and team-building weekends. Because motivating people to create social bonds and trust in a purely virtual world when they have any other options is really tough.
My forum pick for the week, in the wake of the recent contest results is this one, about rewriting. Some people entered the contest for a lark, and are done now. Most say they will rewrite. Many say that rewriting is an important part of writing.
I’ll be rewriting, of course, because that’s what I do anyway, and because most people in “the industry” who have shown interest in my script think I’ve made a bad decision in doing this contest, so I feel like I have little choice but to work to make it a valuable experience. Also, if I didn’t rewrite, what would I report on for the next 16 months?

One thought on “Amazon Studios: Two Months In

  1. Interesting, only 7-8 women out of 50 finalists. (I suppose Terry could be male or female.) Not sure how this breaks down with the male-female ratio of entrants, but I'm guessing women are more than 15%.

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