Amazon's Latest Bid Digitize Hollywood: Free

Amazon Studios has launched a new screenplay-writing tool that lets scribes create and track projects in the “cloud,” hoping it’s a carrot to funnel more TV and movie projects into its open-source maw.

How many screenwriters actually find any use in the free Amazon Storybuilder remains to be seen. According to the e-retailer’s digital studio arm, the tool’s “virtual corkboard” extends the age-old paper notecard method to let scriptwriters access projects “whenever and wherever inspiration strikes” — on a computer, tablet or smartphone.

“Technology is already transforming how filmed entertainment is produced and distributed, and many of the tools writers use to craft stories could become more accessible with a technology update — paper notecards are a perfect example,” Amazon Studios chief Roy Price said.

SEE ALSO: Step Aside, Netflix: Amazon’s Entering the Original Series Race

Amazon has ballyhooed its open-door approach to development, promising anyone on the Internet the shot at selling and producing their movie or series idea. But its first two full original series — “Alpha House” and “Betas,” which debuted last month — are from established industry players, as are the pilots it has greenlighted to date (with the exception of kidvid “Gortimer Gibbon’s Life on Normal Street,” from newcomer David Anaxagoras).

Amazon Studios currently lists 8,548 film and 1,699 TV series projects on its site. Of those, 16 series and 30 movies are listed as “in development,” but there are no estimates on when they’ll be completed.

Amazon’s launch of Storybuilder follows the June intro of its first script-development tool, Storyteller, a free online tool that turns scripts into storyboards. Storybuilder lets writers add text and images to notecards and allows users to privately invite reviewers to critique their projects.

Storybuilder is currently in beta, which means Amazon is soliciting feedback (of course) on how to improve the tool. Amazon Studios said it acquires no ownership or option rights on projects created using the tool. Once scripts are submitted, Amazon Studios has exclusive rights to option them for 45 days, offering $200,000 for a movie script or video and $55,000 for episodic series that it picks up.

Earlier this week, Amazon Studios said it would shoot all originals and pilots starting in 2014 in Ultra HD format, a strategy intended to drive sales of 4K TV sets.

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