Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Amazon will steal your soul...I mean, your movie


Everyone is talking about this new Amazon studios thing on the web right now.  I must admit, when I heard about it, I checked out the site and watched the little video about what and why they are doing what they are doing, read a little of the “rules” and “regulations”…

And then vomited in my coffee cup.

Okay, not really.  Well, I threw up a little in the back of my mouth.

Because it’s disgusting, for several reasons.

Mostly, you can get the working and professional writer’s opinions from John August on his blog, or Craig Mazin, who lays it out perfectly why this idea is doomed to fail, and who they are really targeting (weak, inexperienced and hopeful writers who probably have more chance of winning the lottery than getting their script made).

The big problem I have are the assumptions that 

1) Hollywood is a just a bunch of old fools that make schlock 

and 

2) Writing by committee (like writing source code) is a better way to do things.

Okay, everyone knows Hollywood makes some bad movies and errs on the conservative side.  Yet, look at the grosses for Harry Potter.  Look at Star Wars.  Look at Batman and Raiders of the Lost Ark and the Spiderman movies.  People like those kinds of movies (I like those kinds of movies).  Hollywood also brings us Academy award-winning fare and independent movies, like Little Miss Sunshine and Juno and  In Bruges and the Wrestler, etc.

So it’s a little insulting (and pretentious) that Amazon proclaims “we don’t know jack about movies but we have a lot of money and we write code, so darn it all, we can do better…”  What they are actually saying is, we can have a whole bunch of people write it for us and we’ll steal it. 

And second, I’ve seen too many talkbacks at play readings to know that Ibsen is pretty dead on about how the “majority is never right”.  The more writers you have working on things does not necessarily make it better.  In fact, the reason Hollywood churns out such schlock is usually because they fire so many writers and a script gets rewritten and rewritten until it’s a tepid, clich√©-filled cardboard cut-out of a real movie.

And yet, that’s exactly the model Amazon is proposing.  If you write a script, any moron with time on his hands, from Ohio to Mongolia, can rewrite it and rewrite it, and guess who owns the final project?  Not you.  Not the guy or gal in Mongolia.  Amazon.  Hmmn, that sounds fair…yeah, not really.

I do believe that there is going to be an alternative to the old Hollywood system.  There will be a revolution of sorts that will happen, mostly due to the way media is being streamed now on computers and iPads.  It’s getting easier for the average guy or gal to make a movie and distribute it all from the comfort of their own home.  All you need is a great script, a DV camera, and a Mac, really. 

(I mean, you could do it on a Windows computer, too, I guess, just factor in another few weeks of editing and production time...)

I’m going to bet that this new model and new way of thinking about making and selling movies isn’t going to come from a large corporation like Google or Amazon.  It’s going to be coming from someone new and upcoming, like some young upstart who’s probably bored in class at Stanford or Harvard right now.  

And that’s what scares Amazon and why their new deal stinks of desperation.   They’re desperate and appealing to other desperate people.

Just stick to shipping my books and dvds, Amazon.  Christmas is coming and I don't want you getting distracted.

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