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Amazon Studios Shuts Down Open Script-Submission Program

Since its inception in 2010, Amazon Studios has touted a technocratic approach to entertainment development — with an open submission process for scripts and projects promising to let anyone break into showbiz, and potentially have their idea turned into a movie or TV show if it was up-voted to the top of the pile.

Now, Amazon Studios’ crowdsourced-script program is dead, a tacit acknowledgement by the ecommerce giant’s entertainment division that it will only produce stuff greenlit the traditional, Hollywood way.

As of April 13, 2018, Amazon Studios is no longer accepting unsolicited submissions. It will continue to review and evaluate submissions it’s already received through June 30, according to a notice on its website.

Here’s how Amazon Studios explained the move: “As we have grown and evolved over the last several years, we are making changes to our website and closing our open call for script and concept submissions… Thank you all for your contributions.” The division’s FAQ now includes info about the shutdown, telling visitors, “At Amazon we are always reinventing ourselves and looking for ways to become even more efficient.” The shutdown of the program was reported previously by Engadget.

The open-submission program had been championed by Amazon Studios founder Roy Price, who last fall was ousted after sexual-harassment allegations surfaced against him. In February, Amazon named Jennifer Salke, formerly president of NBC Entertainment, the head of Amazon Studios.

Even before Price’s exit, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos was pushing the studio division to strive for higher-profile, buzzy dramas with global appeal (a la “Game of Thrones”). That directive led to Amazon Studios’ most ambitious — and by all accounts most expensive — project ever: It won the rights to a multi-season adaption of “Lord of the Rings,” a deal that also covers potential spinoffs.

For all the hype about its over-the-transom submission program, Amazon Studios appears to have greenlit only one screenplay to a full series: children’s series “Gortimer Gibbon’s Life on Normal Street,” from first-time writer and preschool teacher David Anaxagoras. The studio produced two seasons.

Currently, Amazon Studios lists 20,694 movie and 6,973 TV series projects on its website.

Initially under the program, Amazon Studios automatically took a free option on every submission, promising payment if the project was ultimately produced as a film or series. In late 2015, it ended that practice in a bid to attract members of the WGA and Animation Guild but it isn’t clear whether the change yielded many offerings from Hollywood pros.

In its FAQ, the division points creators to other options for pitching and distributing their work. The suggestions include: submitting videos and scripts to film festivals via Amazon’s Withoutabox.com; signing up for IMDb Pro (also owned by Amazon) to “connect and share your work with other professionals”; and publishing videos via Amazon’s Prime Video Direct program, which offers royalties based on user viewing.

Amazon said its Storybuilder “virtual corkboard” tool for screenwriters is still available, while the Storywriter script-writing tool is still available via web browser but will no longer accept script submissions.

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