Should Writers Submit TV Ideas to Amazon Studios?


Recently, I reviewed Amazon's online submission for writer's of movies and TV series, along with their contract and decided at this time not to submit.

While there are definite pros and advantages to submitting via the Amazon giant -- new writers trying to break into the business who might not otherwise get read, receive exposure, or be given a shot in the pitch room being a few of them -- the downside is selling your creative work for a song. But, hey, better a sad ballad than no song or career at all. It's a choice and possible compromise, but not if you have other projects in your Gatling gun and can utilize Amazon as a launch pad. How aged is the project, have you already papered the town, and are you a young writer fed up with eating baby food all come into play.

Advantages for the Amazon Company are obvious -- an instant discounted programming slate of original content during the incubator stage of their growth in a competitive Industry. Smart! Healthy business acumen, I say... and nothing short of what I would do if I was an Amazon executive. Unfortunately, their contract wasn't alluring enough for me, since it offers only a $10,000 budget (not nearly enough) for your pilot, and ghost backend points if your series is greenlit and made available on Amazon's site. I say "ghost points" because the 4-6 percent dividend Amazon promises is based on customer views of the writer's movies and TV episodes, which are oddly listed as "FREE" or "$00.00" on the site. I don't know about you, but 5% of zero is... well, you do the math. The points sound good, but they don't put anything in the writer's backend pocket, all while Amazon charges healthily "subscription" rates to members, which by the way, is their real business.

Do they truly care about their writers? Not really. Are they writer-friendly? Maybe. Depending on a writer's viewpoint and whether they are willing to sacrifice.... b'cuz getting on the Hollywood leader board is nearly impossible for aspiring writers and Amazon might just be the ticket for unknowns and unproduced scribes, albeit they'll be riding Coach at the back of the plane near to the sounds of your own project’s bathroom flushes.

It would be nice if Amazon didn't make writers go up on the cross, but showed them bona fide appreciation by matching the Writers Guild of America rates. Do they realize their short-sightedness and just what might accrue in their financial coffers if they set out to properly support creatives and original content by spending a little more on their writers, versus caving-in to a bottom line that may look good on paper at first, but will plummet over time because of the depreciation of brand loyalty? Can you imagine the buzz?

So, then, how does Amazon's actual online contract ( at https://studios.amazon.com/help/submission-agreement) fair for writers? Well, fasten your seat belts before you read Item 9.

9. Compensation. You will have no right to compensation in connection with the exploitation of rights you grant under this Agreement.

Now, this could be harmless if the "rights" a writer is granting them are only submission logline and overview and not the actual screenplay content.

That would be understandable. So one must look up Amazon's definition and associated clause for "Submission." And here it is:

The specific rights writers grant to Amazon are defined as follows:

:2.1. A "Submission" is content, like an original screenplay that is wholly new to Amazon when it is submitted. A Submission can be based on or contain elements of a public domain work, but that work must be public domain in all countries worldwide, and only your original contributions (like new dialogue you create) will be considered your Submission, not any element from the public domain work."

I'm no entertainment attorney, but it sure sounds like they can take your entire screenplay and not pay you a dime by law if they wanted to. I mean, not saying they're going to, but why the heck have it in their contract if they never expect to exercise it?

#television #writers

         

 

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                           Content Creator / Screenwriter

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