• What’s Up with Original Programming at Amazon? -

    First, there was Amazon Studios.

    Now, there’s Amazon Studios’ People’s Production Company.

    Amazon recently posted some new job listings as part of a search for what 

     Ryan Lawler (Gigaom.com) describes as,

    “…creative execs to develop programming through its Amazon Studios initiative. The jobs specifically are for the “People’s Production Company,” which is the name of the production studio producing original content, located in Sherman Oaks, Calif. Successful applicants would report to Amazon’s VP of Series Development and would be expected to:

    – Assess pilot proposals

    – Work with writers and artists to develop series ideas

    – Staff, cast and produce pilots in a cost-efficient way

    – Supervise series production when series are greenlit”


    What these job postings suggest is that Amazon Studios is planning to develop some original programming in-house, through its People’s Production Company, unlike Hulu, Netflix, YouTube and other online companies who have chosen to work with established Hollywood producers and other third parties to develop their programming.


    According to John Paczkowski (AllThingsD), the People’s Production Company is specifically,


    “seeking executives to quarterback its children’s and comedy efforts …

    ‘to help  develop half-hour comedies for online and traditional distribution.’

    … And traditional distribution. Interesting.”


    The People’s Production Company IS an interesting development, apparently building on Amazon’s announcement over a year ago of the creation of Amazon Studios, a foray into original programming using crowd feedback to crowd-sourced feature-length screenplays and test movies submitted online by writers and independent filmmakers.




    An Amazon press release in November 2010

    described Amazon Studios as,



    “… a new online business that invites filmmakers and screenwriters around the world to submit full-length movies and scripts to make money, get discovered and get their movies made. Through the monthly and annual Amazon Studios Awards, Amazon Studies will offer a total of $2.7 million to the top submissions received by Dec. 31, 2011, and will seek to develop the top Amazon Studio projects as commercial feature films under its first-look deal with Warner Bros. Pictures.”


    The new initiative met with considerable resistance when it was first announced. Scott Macaulay summed up the ambivalent reaction on a Filmmaker Magazine blog post made three days after Amazon’s press release, writing that,


    “the provocative new venture … has good elements (a new financing source for independent filmmakers and an open, user-generated submission system) and bad (free options and crowd-sourced development that will, I believe, obliterate all traces of the original creators’ voices).”


    Despite this initial response, Amazon Studios recently announced that over 7,000 scripts and 700 test movies have been submitted since the announcement of their initiative in 2010. Thirty-nine scripts, trailers and test movies have been awarded prizes to the tune of $1.9 million so far.


    The top winners for 2011 were:

    Annual Best Test Movie Award – $1 million

    “12 Princesses”

    Written and directed by Rob Gardner

    Judges were Alexander Payne (Descendants, Sideways) and Trevor Groth (Sundance Film Festival)

    Annual Best Script Award – $100,000

    “Origin of a Species”

    Written by Matthew Gossett

    Judges were Lawrence Bender (Pulp Fiction), Akiva Goldsman (A Beautiful Mind), and Courtenay Valenti (Warner Bros)


    One million dollars. One hundred thousand. Not bad!


    But, as John Paczkowski concludes,


    “Hiring a few executives, or even greenlighting a couple of original shows or series, isn’t much of a commitment for Netflix or Hulu. And it means even less for Amazon, which generated nearly $4 billion in operating profit last year.  But those same resources mean that if Amazon does get serious about the content business, it can get very, very serious.”


    Is it time to check out what’s going on at Amazon Studios?