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Experience with submitting stuff to Amazon Studios


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#1 Vital Butinar

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Posted 02 April 2018 - 02:27 PM

Hi guys!

 

Anyway as I have stated I'm a beginner filmmaker. I had always wanted to make movies but never had the chance to so one time two years ago when I was on a set it reminded me how much I had always wanted to make movies. So in staid of going to film school and working on productions I tried to read, watch, observe as much as I could myself as well as working as an extra on filming sets I got to observe ever how things worked. After that I tried putting my new skills to work and together with my girlfriend we decided to shoot our own dance video to lean how to put theory into practice and since we were both dancers we could do everything ourselves. Long story short after doing a couple of projects and along the way I realized that I really enjoyed doing production work, cinematography, directing, everything and even writing.

 

So after a long time of having an idea for a movie I sat down to write the story and then after a couple of months of outlining the story I started writing the screenplay and after just three weeks I had completed my first draft. Yes it was only a first draft and I do know I have a lot of work to do before the screenplay would be worthy of it being called a movie screenplay.

But never the less the idea is solid and original enough that people have advised me to keep working on it and try and make it into a movie.

 

Since I'm not from the industry and I have no idea how a movie gets made in the initial stages so I started learning about this part and came across the amazon studio's web page where they let you submit your work.

 

My question is if anybody has had any experience with this and is it in fact a good thing and if not I haven't actually found any other ways of trying to get my screen play "into the right hands".

 

Anyway any information about this subject will be much appreciated.

 

Thanks for the help and best regards.


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#2 Phil Connolly

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Posted 02 April 2018 - 05:11 PM

The numbers are very much against you with Amazon - they have only commissioned a few writers based on this open submission thing and they probably get thousands of spec scripts.

 

Still no harm in doing it - it could work and wouldn't harm you if it didn't - so you've got nothing to loose. 

 

Normally the powers that be, aren't that interested with screenwriters that don't have a track records - so most prod co's won't accept unsolicited scripts that haven't gone through and agent. This so you can't sue them, they might be working on a similar idea, so they won't look at your script incase they risk legal action. 

 

opportunities to get your script into peoples hands are difficult initially but the more you work the more chances you have. I met a filmmaker last week that met a movie director by chance on a train - she took advantage of the captive audience pitched the script and the Director offered her an assisting job. 4 years later this filmmaker is developing a proper TV series with the directors prod co - chances happen you have to be ready.

 

I would try and get a track record - make films, write shorts and collaborate with other filmmakers - get into festivals, meet people, try to get an entry level job in the industry, win awards, hunt down an agent, write plays... get your work produced and gradually build up until your body of work speaks for its self and the gate keepers start coming to you rather then you chasing them.

 

And you possibly could try the black list - but again its a bit (a lot) like winning the lottery


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#3 Michael LaVoie

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Posted 02 April 2018 - 05:52 PM

Amazon studios submissions avenue is likely a waste of time.  Also to cover their asses, they pretty much reserve the right to steal your I.P. by making you waive any rights to claims should they go into production on anything similar by "coincidence".

 

You will find most people unable and unwilling to help you as a "first time" filmmaker.  You have to get at least one title under your belt and have the film miraculously do well before anyone will entertain a quid pro quo on future projects.  Right now you have nothing to offer but risk.


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#4 Vital Butinar

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Posted 03 April 2018 - 10:39 AM

Thank you guys!

 

I completely agree with you guys. Currently I literally have noting to offer that's why I started on my own filming stuff to learn about anything I could.

 

I am a little worried about the rights. If you are really surrendering a lot of your rights. But in either case if it stays on my drive isn't doing anybody any good.

 

I know this business is tough but then again so is anything these days.

 

Thanks & best regards


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#5 Phil Connolly

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Posted 03 April 2018 - 12:53 PM

]I am a little worried about the rights. If you are really surrendering a lot of your rights. But in either case if it stays on my drive isn't doing anybody any good.

 

Its better to get your work out there and risk being ripped off, then being too paranoid to share your work out of fear of getting ripped off.  I don't think Amazon are actively trying to rip people off - just covering there back. 

 

Personally I've never had much success entering big competitions and high profile funds. Because the chance of success is litterally several 1000 to one. Not great odds.

 

But more obscure funds exist - the last fund I applied to (and won) has roughly 7 applications per commission - much better odds. Opportunities exist in strange places. I only use the big competitions as deadlines to force me to complete a draft or a treatment. You can't pin your hopes on them to do any more then that. 


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#6 Michael LaVoie

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Posted 03 April 2018 - 06:26 PM

Its better to get your work out there and risk being ripped off, then being too paranoid to share your work out of fear of getting ripped off.  

Not sure I'd agree with that.  Best case scenario, you're sitting on an idea worth stealing.  In which case, you better protect yourself....See this article on Stranger Things  You can always follow that suit and see how it pans out.  

 

It's tough to pitch a concept and require an NDA every single time you mention it to anyone.  Also, if you're pitching a junior exec, they will have to repitch it to their boss so you can't handcuff them to an NDA.  It's tricky for sure.  You don't want to seem paranoid to people who may be interested, but I don't think I'd blindly send a script to just anyone these days.  


Edited by Michael LaVoie, 03 April 2018 - 06:31 PM.

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#7 Stuart Brereton

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Posted 03 April 2018 - 07:53 PM

In the US, you can register a script with the Writer's Guild for around $20 for 5 years. It doesn't give you a huge amount of protection, but you can at least prove that you had an original script or idea, should anyone copy it. I'm not sure if writers outside of the US can register scripts, but it's worth looking into.

 

https://www.wgawregistry.org/


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#8 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 03 April 2018 - 09:10 PM

Truth be told, it doesn't really matter if you register or copyright or anything if you haven't got the funds to defend those claims.

In my mind though, in the event you do get ripped of, the press alone you'd get from it might be more valuable than any financial gain. Not legal advice, your mileage may vary, certain restrictions apply, no purchase necessary and all that.


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#9 Landon D. Parks

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Posted 04 April 2018 - 07:25 AM

What questions did you have about working with Amazon Studios? I might be able to shed some light on it for you from my experience in working with them currently, but know that what information I can share is extremely limited due to NDA agreements regarding the internal practices and workflows. I might be able to help give you an idea of what you're in for, how to start the process, etc. Do be warned right now though: It's not an easy process. If you have no film-industry experience, you'll probably not get any further than selling your script to them (if you're lucky, of course); and it sounds to me like you want to be involved in producing the script as well; unless you have a producer behind you with experience, this will, with almost 100% certainty, not happen. They want producers who know what they are doing. They are not going to 'hold your hand' along the way. They will give you money, a deadline, and you'll be expected to deliver accordingly. If you have no experience even if indie film production, how would you be able to know how to make all this work?

It's one thing to produce your own film. It's basically up to you how it's done. A mistake here and there is usually fine, and there is not always rigid workflows to follow. Producing a studio project is the opposite of that. There are unions, rules, guidelines, deliverables with strict guidelines, budget standards you need to know, etc, etc, etc.

First, let me ask you what level of involvement you want for sure? If you just want to sell your script to them, it's a lot easier than trying to qualify as a producer as well. Have you looked over their submission guidelines and their website FAQ? That will provide you a lot of valuable information. https://studios.amaz...mit/film#script. Also, keep in mind that my experience comes from series and not a feature-length film, and my agreement with them is a little 'different' than what one might typically have following the standard Amazon Studios route, so my experience and yours might vary.

 

As for sending your script to people in general: What else are you suppose to do with it? Unless you intend to produce it with your own funding, you're going to have to start pitching the project to executives and investors. There is always the risk that someone might steal your idea - but that is a risk every producer takes when he has to go to others with an idea for funding. Some people here are warning against working with Amazon Studios and such because 'letting others see your script gives them the chance to steal it'; but then you'll run into that with any studio. I would personally trust the Amazon team as well as any other studio. All you can do is follow proper protocols in the industry, such as registering the script with both the copyright office and the writer's guide of America. If your idea is ripped off by them, you do have some legal recourse.


Edited by Landon D. Parks, 04 April 2018 - 07:28 AM.

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#10 Landon D. Parks

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Posted 04 April 2018 - 07:32 AM

As for the 'Stranger Things' fiasco, you'll always have this problem. The reality is, you cannot copyright an 'idea', only a specific expression of that idea. I can make a movie about a boy wizard who goes to boarding school, makes 3 friends, and then proceeds to fight an evil bad guy, and do so perfectly legally. Sounds like the person suing the stranger things filmmakers never got the memo that ideas are not copyrightable. Lawsuits in the film industry are inevitable, and you'll certainly be faced with one sooner or later, more-so if your project becomes well known. It's also important to remember that you can sue anyone for anything - winning in the crux. More than likely, lawsuits like this a flung in hopes of an out-of-court settlement and a quick payday. Often times, its less expensive to just pay the guy a few grand to shut him up than have to pay a lawyer thousands of dollars. People know this, and lawsuits are cheap to file (usually, under $100 in most courts). 

Now mind you, the Duffers probably did rip this guy off - at least as it sounds from the article, but that should not scare you away from pitching your idea in the proper venue. Pitching your idea informally at the Tribeca Film Festival to a couple of 'producers' is not the correct venue to pitch in. 


Edited by Landon D. Parks, 04 April 2018 - 07:37 AM.

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#11 Vital Butinar

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Posted 04 April 2018 - 09:39 AM

Hi guys!
 

First of all thank you for your responses. I am really grateful whenever I get more input to the question I give myself and in turn input from other people helps me be more informed and then I can decide and be confident that I at least understood multiple aspects of whatever I was deciding on.

 

I agree complacently that if I keep my work to myself it's not doing anybody any good. So I had already decided that I want to share my work with people regardless of the threat that somebody might steal it because of two reasons. First I am hoping that somebody that has the ability to assess if my work has any value might also be able to judge whether I or my skills have any value also. The second is even if my work gets stolen that is also an indicator to myself that it was actually good and again that somebody else failed to realize that good work doesn't just happen by itself but in fact good people are the ones making good work and if my skills are good enough to produce something good and since I've done good things before I'll be able to do good things again.

 

As far as about Amazon Studios I was just inquiring about how things go if it actually is what they claim to be. Mainly because it's literally the only thing that I had found that would accept openly material from third parties. I mean I live in Slovenia and as far as making movies here it's pretty much impossible unless you start by yourself or get extremely lucky in getting a break mainly by knowing people something that I have never had in my life. So I can imagine that entering a community like the ones in Hollywood or similar might be even tougher.

But regardless of all the obsolesces and all the things that I've done in my life the only thing that has enabled me to put all my knowledge and experience in different areas to use has been filmmaking and regardless of how tough things are I intend to keep doing this until it stops making me happy in life.

 

And I agree I have limited experience but as it has been my whole life even my limited level of experience has been much higher than a lot of other people it might not work out or it might but I would never know unless I tried.

 

I would of course love to be able to make my movie myself but as I have always done I will compromise I only hope that I will compromise to the extent that I'll still be content with it.

 

As far as production goes I've been lucky because I had been able to be in contact with people from real productions and observe the workings of productions to the extent that even though there is now way to compare big productions to our little productions that we had done the workflow has been the same as on bigger projects that I have observed. Yes there are more procedures to follow and more units but anytime I'm working on something I organize everything to maximize time utilization and minimize any kind of mistakes. Recently I had a producer on set that usually works on big productions and he was really amazed and impressed of what he saw and what we were able to do with very little actually no budget. But as I have said I haven't had the chance to prove my abilities at any bigger jobs. But it's always a paradox people can't have a chance to prove themselves unless somebody gives them a chance. The problem is that those who can give someone a chance must have the experience to be able to judge who has potencial and what doesn't and be willing to take a calculated risk.

I am one of those people. I never gamble but I do take calculated risks that always have back ups and fallback situations and this has literally never let me down even when situations went bad.

 

So if by some good will and lots of luck I'll be able to participate in my movie if it does get made that's awesome and if not well I guess somebody didn't take a good enough risk to make it even better. :)

 

Anyway jokes aside thank you guys again for making the situation a little bit clearer helping me decide what I'm going to do.

 

Best regards


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#12 Phil Connolly

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Posted 04 April 2018 - 11:31 AM

Amazon are signatories to the WGA - it has very specific rules about plagiarism and procedures in place to deal with credit arbitration in the event of disputes.

 

Your always at risk potentially, but as long as your can prove the date your wrote your script then in the event of WGA arbitration your going to get a fair hearing. In terms of people stealing you idea maybe they will, but they can't steal your expression of the idea without the WGA having an issue. 

 

So you could have an idea about Aliens invading earth and a school basketball team fighting them off. That big concept could be ripped off - but the detail the personal voice is yours. If your script is good why would amazon steal it? They would buy it, it would be good publicity for their scheme. If the script is not good, but the concept is interesting - they'd probably buy it off you and get it rewritten. It wouldn't be worth their while trying to steal it the WGA would come down on them like a ton of bricks if they did. I'm not saying stuff doesn't get ripped off - bit a WGA signatory isn'y going to do it on purpose. If the stranger things story is true - I doubt Netflix would knowingly have be complicit in any wrong doing...


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#13 Vital Butinar

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Posted 06 April 2018 - 08:26 AM

Amazon are signatories to the WGA - it has very specific rules about plagiarism and procedures in place to deal with credit arbitration in the event of disputes.

 

Your always at risk potentially, but as long as your can prove the date your wrote your script then in the event of WGA arbitration your going to get a fair hearing. In terms of people stealing you idea maybe they will, but they can't steal your expression of the idea without the WGA having an issue. 

 

So you could have an idea about Aliens invading earth and a school basketball team fighting them off. That big concept could be ripped off - but the detail the personal voice is yours. If your script is good why would amazon steal it? They would buy it, it would be good publicity for their scheme. If the script is not good, but the concept is interesting - they'd probably buy it off you and get it rewritten. It wouldn't be worth their while trying to steal it the WGA would come down on them like a ton of bricks if they did. I'm not saying stuff doesn't get ripped off - bit a WGA signatory isn'y going to do it on purpose. If the stranger things story is true - I doubt Netflix would knowingly have be complicit in any wrong doing...

Thank you and you are right. I complacently agree that's why first thing I'm going to polish the script a little more and when it's ready I'll pay the $22 on WGA and then submit it to Amazon and then see how it goes.

 

Thanks guys for a big help.

 

Best regards.


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#14 Michael LaVoie

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Posted 15 April 2018 - 02:06 PM

You have untill June apparently.  After that Amazon Studios will stop taking unsolicited submissions altogether.  


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#15 Vital Butinar

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Posted 15 April 2018 - 04:58 PM

You have untill June apparently.  After that Amazon Studios will stop taking unsolicited submissions altogether.  

 

Yeah I noticed. Just my luck whenever I figure out something everything changes haha. :)

 

Thank you.

 

I wonder does anybody else know of anything else like the Amazone Studios had. I mean as far as I had researched this was a pretty rear thing. I mean yes there are the classic ways that let's be hones don't look exactly promising for most people. Yes festival submit a scrip or make a short or find an agent. But for most people that this is a pretty good deterrent and yes I understand it's kind of a filter but on the other hand as far as I can see this means that a lot is lost. Just maybe somebody or nobody from nowhere could write a really great original script for a movie but because they have little to no way of sharing it or a very complicated way that they will never do. So we only have to look forward to new remakes of movies already done, movies about super heroes from comic books and let's be hones CGI filled movies without a good story.

 

That's why I though that the Amazon Studios open submit policy was a good thing and canceling it a really dumb move. That's why I'm wondering if anything else like this exists. 

 

Best regards.


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#16 Landon D. Parks

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Posted 15 April 2018 - 10:52 PM

The reality is: even with an open submit policy, the acceptance rate was about 1/10 of 1% of submitted projects. If you want to get the a project produced through them, or anyone, you need to go to them directly.


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#17 Michael LaVoie

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Posted 16 April 2018 - 10:47 AM

 

Yeah I noticed. Just my luck whenever I figure out something everything changes haha. :)

 

Thank you.

 

I wonder does anybody else know of anything else like the Amazone Studios had. 

IFP.org has submissions for various labs throughout the year.  It's open to everyone and worth checking out.  This one may be of interest to you

 

 You will find at IFP it's way more of a "what you make of it" situation.  I joined a few years ago and it's awesome if you're in NYC because you have access to screenings and events and can meet filmmakers, producers and financiers.   So if you're good at networking, you'll find it worth the membership.   But for those who are remote, you can still submit to certain labs.

 

There are some labs that are meant for those who are already "in development" and others for those just getting started.  Anyway, check it out.  Good luck.


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#18 Vital Butinar

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Posted 16 April 2018 - 02:18 PM

The reality is: even with an open submit policy, the acceptance rate was about 1/10 of 1% of submitted projects. If you want to get the a project produced through them, or anyone, you need to go to them directly.

True I complacently agree that even the odds of them excepting any submitted script is small but still the odds are not zero and there is a chance witch is considerably higher than none.

For somebody like me who came from a complacently different field with no knowledge of how anything in the film industry works and doesn't know anybody in the industry it's a pretty good thing.

 

Besides how do you get in touch with somebody like that. The only things I keep reading is getting an agent I have no idea what an agent even looks like because the only thing around here resembling an agent is the insurance agent that does my car insurance. :)

 

IFP.org has submissions for various labs throughout the year.  It's open to everyone and worth checking out.  This one may be of interest to you

 

 You will find at IFP it's way more of a "what you make of it" situation.  I joined a few years ago and it's awesome if you're in NYC because you have access to screenings and events and can meet filmmakers, producers and financiers.   So if you're good at networking, you'll find it worth the membership.   But for those who are remote, you can still submit to certain labs.

 

There are some labs that are meant for those who are already "in development" and others for those just getting started.  Anyway, check it out.  Good luck.

Oh thank you I'll definitely check it out. Unfortunately I am really a long way away from NYC and we do have a film industry here it's just not a place you can start since again if you don't know anybody you are a nobody and I am a nobody. But as I've said I'm not going to let that stop me because I've always done things that way no matter what I had done and I'm going to keep doing what I love and try whatever I can.

 

Anyway thank you. :)


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#19 Landon D. Parks

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Posted 16 April 2018 - 05:20 PM

Besides how do you get in touch with somebody like that.

 

You need to get an agent or a producer representative, depending on what stage you are at and what involvement you want. If you have a script that you want to pitch to them for them to produce, you need an agent. If you have a packaged product to submit to them as a producer, you need a producer representative - although if you already have an agent they might be able to negotiate a pitch meeting as well.

The reality is, just like in the book publishing industry - you need an 'agent' of some type to get accepted into the big leagues. It's just the way it is; like the book publishing industry, this is starting to change with the advent of self-publishing, and smaller publishers - which have parallels in the world of film distribution. For example, Amazon Direct Video allows you to reach the same channels their original programming reaches without going through them to produce it. 

However, if you need money to make the project, you'll need to either follow the traditional route - or find funding on your own through private placement, crowd-sourcing, or the a public offering under the JOBS act if you're from the United States.

If I can manage to work with Amazon, anyone can... I'm not special and don't even live on the west coast. You just need the follow the proper channels, have a project WORTH producing, and have the gumption to not say no until you find the help you need.


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