Wednesday, 24 November 2010

The Amazon Studios Experiment: Submission...

So I uploaded the script written by 18-year-old me. It's called Identity Crisis. I had to download it from Trigger Street in the end, and whilst searching for it came across around a dozen more with the same title. Someone once tried to tell me it was a bad title, but that was in the days when I didn't listen. Anyway, it's on there, look:

As you can see from the bar at the top there have been 1069 projects uploaded, making mine lucky number 1068.

I think this experiment may be rather short-lived.

I had a brief flick through the other pages of projects until I got bored. None of the scripts uploaded over the last few days have been downloaded yet. And why would they be? Why would anyone want to download mine? Obviously I don't intend to review any other scripts because I have better things to do and better scripts to read from actual people I know in real life. So this is where it falls down. Where's the incentive for anyone to read my script?

Trigger Street worked because in order to get people to read your scripts you had to read other peoples' scripts. That made sense. If you weren't going to make the effort, why should anyone else? I never really did make the effort and only got a handful of reviews in the end, but I knew that in order to get more reviews I'd have to read more scripts. Here the only things that could possibly entice potential readers are my logline and the lazy cover art.

The cover art is meaningless. I could work up a superb photo-shopped dream poster for my film but it wouldn't mean anything. All it can really do is help set a mood and a tone, but generally you would never see an image on the cover of a real-life screenplay so I don't see why you need them here.

The logline is pretty useful and maybe this is a good test of loglines - perhaps it would be worth checking out the loglines that got more downloads. In fact, let's do that - here's a screen print of the three most popular scripts at this present time:

I'm not going to pick on any of them. They all sound fine. None of them sound particularly interesting or exciting. I'm not compelled to read any of them. So why do they have so many hits? My first guess was because they were uploaded first, but that turned out to not be true. They were all uploaded on the 17th, a few days after the site went live on the 13th. I don't see anything particularly special about the writers' profiles - I don't mean that in a cruel way, it just scraps my theory that maybe they already have some kind of fan base.

So I wonder if people have started to get organised. There is a test movie (I haven't even gone into the test movie idea, but seriously - who's got that much time on their hands?) on there called Little White Lies that was uploaded on the 17th and has already been played 98 times. From those 98 plays it has garnered a number of 5-star reviews. 112 to be exact. 98 plays, 112 reviews. Something's wrong there.

This throws up a problem. If the development team is the whole of the internet, then surely there's nothing stopping me gathering a proportion of that team, say all my Facebook friends for example, and getting them to write 5-star reviews. All they have to do is download the script and write 'Awesome, 5 stars' or something to that effect. Don't worry, I'm not going to actually do this. But the implications are clear - this is a popularity contest. The person with the most friends could get the prize money, and could even get their movie made.

What I'm also getting from this is a stark picture of the depressing reality of the wannabe film business. There are too many of us and there are too many scripts! Some of us need to stop! You first.

But let's look at this objectively for a moment. Amazon Studios just optioned my script! Awesome! Yes, they didn't pay me anything, but it's an option from an actual studio/production company/development company. The problem is they optioned over a thousand other scripts at the same time and show no sign of slowing down. Okay, fine, I'll make the best out of this. I'll go and work for them as part of their development team (which also has over a thousand people working for it). I'll read some of these scripts they've optioned and maybe do some rewriting. Then maybe one of the thousands of scripts will get made and however many of us worked on that draft will get some money/recognition!

This scenario is actually not at all dissimilar to the way I got involved with the production company I'm currently working with. They optioned my script and they have a handful of others in development, some of which I'm now working on. I'm doing a lot of work for free on the basis that one of these projects will get off the ground and I'll a) get paid and b) get a credit. It's not an ideal situation, but the odds are certainly a lot better than they are with my Amazon Studios script.

Obviously the money is there so at some point I'm guessing one of these scripts will be produced. I'm guessing it will be the person who had the best online campaign to get as many people to vote for his script as possible. I also predict that the final script will have thousands of rewrites. I mean, say my script gets some buzz around it, I get 112 5-star reviews from my Facebook campaign or whatever. Anyone could pick up that script, tweak a few lines and say 'Look, I totally made it better. It's now 17% more awesome.' If they were convincing enough, that draft will be the newest version, and then someone else could come along and rewrite that. By the time the super-popular script that was already going to get produced actually gets produced there could be a hundred writers working on it. Maybe more. This cannot be a good thing.

So we'll see. I've planted the seed, the script is on there, it's going to be there for 18 months. I'll check in every now and again to see what happens and post updates here. I don't think they will be very regular updates. I can see it staying at zero downloads for a very long time.

Then again, maybe I'm being too cynical. Maybe there are 112 genuine and very positive reviewers working their way through every script on the site and one day they'll get to mine...


Matt Nefarious said...

Excellent post Chris, it's really interesting to see past the initial exclamation and outrage at this project and see its flaws from the inside. Some very good points you've highlighted there - I'll be interested to see what happens actually.

hels said...

I'd be interested to see if eventually they would have to use some sort of independant script authorship analysis group to analyse which writers' contributed work original enough to say they made the script markedly better, vs who just added something neither better or not better that brought nothing original to the concept and that writer could only get some sort of assistance credit, like with normal script tweekage...

Not that it matters too much to me, I'd never even consider entering something like this, because I really am that awesome, my script's gonna be picked up by Lionsgate just like *that (snaps fingers)*


or am I?

No, I am kidding.



hels said...

Just taken another look at that site, specifically Little White Lies, and it seems serendipitous that you mentioned it, given that I'm Welsh, kind of know some of the places they might have shot it in and Helen Griffin is one of the few Welsh actresses I know that I like. It actually looks quite good. Given what you said about the optioning I hope they don't get screwed on this...

Chris Regan said...

M - You never know with these things until you try them sometimes, but as much as I still think it's a bad idea I'm not quite sure why so many people are so angry about it. They're not forcing anyone to upload their scripts.

H - I don't know the background behind Little White Lies, but I actually think the people the site could benefit the most are those with features that haven't been sold yet. At least it's a platform that enables them to be seen by an audience and it may be a good way to get some attention. Also, I haven't checked but I doubt there are anywhere near as many films uploaded as there are scripts.