For the holidays, I received an Amazon Fire Stick. It’s a great little device that’s similar to the Chromecast or Roku. With the Fire Stick, you can watch free Amazon Prime Videos if you have a Prime account. Similar to Roku, they have built-in apps like PBS or Netflix, where you can browse and watch content. All-in-all it’s a nifty tool, but I discovered something more interesting about Amazon.
This is only a test
As I was looking through different viewing options, I came across Amazon test movies. These are films or shows that Amazon is considering green-lighting. The films are scattered through the selection of films, but you’ll know that it’s a test film if the cover image of the film has the Amazon logo with the word “test” written across it.
These are films that are in rough form, so you’re most likely going to be watching an animatic that’s accompanied with audio. Amazon let’s you know that what you are about to watch is test material and that they would love audience feedback.
So far I’ve watched two of the test films. They were Spellbound and The Detourist. The animatics were pretty tight and I didn’t get bored watching the films which says something. Spellbound had great music but fell a little short with the visuals. The characters and environments had that typical and boring middle-ages princess vibe. The story was cute though. It was neat to be a part of Amazon’s process for green-lighting a production by giving feedback.
The Detourist is intended as a live-action film. It’s about a family that goes on an island adventure. The pacing wasn’t strong, but it was fun to watch a caper and reminded me of films from the sixties.
The test movies are kind of hidden. You really have to go out of your way to look for it. And once you’ve found it, try to add the films to your watchlist.
Share your story
As I started poking around more, I discovered that Amazon has multiple sites dedicated to storytellers where they can upload their ideas and projects in order to get feedback and possible backing. It’s a really cool idea. When you create an account and upload your work, you give Amazon 45 days to option the material. In that time, if your idea doesn’t get picked up, you can remove your pitch from their site to shop it elsewhere.
With different types of content, Amazon has specific guidelines for submissions. For example, if you are interested in upload a sitcom, you will have to include pilot script. The specifics are pretty detailed.
There are also two ways to submit your work, publicly and privately. Both have their own sets of rules and stipulations. There’s a page dedicated to what your rights are as the creator based on how you plan to submit your work. As with entering any agreement, I would recommend that you have a professional read over all the fine details. Even though most of the FAQs and guidelines are written in plain english, it would be best to have someone familiar with contract “gotchas” give it a once over.
If this is a positive outlet for storytellers to get their ideas out to potential backers, it would be great if Amazon would promote the service within our industry more and get the word out. If Amazon Studios is legitimate, it would be ideal for them to champion this endeavor and make it more known to the general public.
It seems early in development but I’d love to find out how positive the experience has been for creatives to submit work via Amazon Studios. How was their work received? Did they feel compromised in any way? Where there any issues with ownership?
Tools for story
With storyboarding tools, Amazon has gone out of their way to help people with helping people flesh out their visions. They have different tools to organize beats, create storyboards, and edit video.
Storybuilder is a virtual corkboard where you can lay out your ideas on cue cards and post-its. It’s a lot like the visual mode for Springpad (R.I.P.). You can organize your thoughts and outline your scenes quickly.
With Storyteller, people can upload their script and either create a video or storyboard/animatic using Amazon’s online tools. One nice thing is that writers don’t need to enlist artists to create the boards. You can add generic characters and scenes that are provided in the software. It helps people to visually convey their narrative and help bring their script to life.
Last week Amazon announced Amazon’s Pilot Season, making their new show pilots available on Amazon devices and their site. Like the test movies, you can watch and comment on their potential new shows. It would be nice to have an actual section on the Fire Stick labeled ‘Testing’, where people could easily watch test films like the pilot season.
It will be interesting to see how including creators and the audience in a conversation in order to create content. It will also be neat to see who else is going to sign on. Amazon let it known that Woody Allen has been slated to create an original series.