Amazon Studios’ New (Old) Screenplay Option Model Part 2

If you’ve been following my previous post on Amazon Studios’ option model and consider list, you know I’ve chosen not to accept their offer to post my screenplay to their shortlist. The post was featured on John August’s website, and mentioned on Bleeding Cool.

But I still hold out hope that Amazon can straighten out all the confusion among screenwriters, and find some way for the writers to take advantage of the offer without compromising rights to their own screenplays.

I did get a follow up email from Amazon Studios that promised to clarify things. It didn’t.

FROM AMAZON STUDIOS:

Our team has put together a FAQ with the hopes of answering some of your, and other writers’ questions regarding the Consider List and whether it impacts your control over your project. Feel free to share with your writing partner on this project.

Q: If my privately uploaded project is added to the Consider List, will that automatically make it public?
A: No. That’s up to you.

Q: If my project is added to the Consider List, does that extend the option period for another 45 days?
A: No. The Consider List designation does not affect the length of the option in any way.

Q: If a writer takes their project public, can they remove it at any time?
A: Yes – after the initial 45-day option and evaluation period has passed (unless Amazon Studios pays to extend the option, buys your work, or a revised work is uploaded).

Q: What happens when a writer takes a Consider List project public?
A: By taking a project public, the writer hasn’t sold their work to Amazon Studios or changed the project’s option status.

Q: Can a writer with a script on the Consider List enter it in contests and shop it around?
A: Yes, though you need to make sure you don’t give up any rights that you’ve granted to us (such as our exclusive right to acquire your property during the option period). If your script is no longer under option at Amazon Studios, you can sell it to someone else, whether it’s on the Consider List or not.

Q: Does making a project public or changing the project collaboration status (Open, By Permission or Closed) restart the option period for another 45 days?
A: No. However, if you upload a new draft, for example, or someone adds a trailer to your project, that will restart the clock on a 45-day option and evaluation period.

Q: Will Amazon Studios be providing notes on what would help move the project from the Consider List to the Development Slate?
A: At this time, Amazon Studios is not able to provide notes on all projects submitted. But we encourage writers with public projects to seek feedback from the community. And the Consider List designation provides additional ways for a project to get noticed (including callouts on the Amazon Studios homepage).

Why this doesn’t clear things up:

This is the one that really kills me:

Q: If my privately uploaded project is added to the Consider List, will that automatically make it public?
A: No. That’s up to you.

Yet in the original congratulations email I got from Amazon Studios, in which they invited me to post my screenplay to their consider list, they said: “We encourage you to make your project public so that it can be featured on the Consider list…” — and making it “public” is exactly what we’re trying to avoid for the reasons stated in my last post.

There are no buttons on my project page other than “make project public”. How would I have my project on the consider list WITHOUT making it public?

So although Amazon says I DON’T have to be public, it seems I DO in fact have to make my project public to be on the consider list. (unless Amazon can explain how to be on the list and not be public)

And if my screenplay is public, no matter what the collaboration privacy settings I choose, any other member can make videos based on it (which AS will own distribution and monetization rights to forever).

And if some other bozo member on Amazon makes a crappy video teaser based on my screenplay, that starts the 45 day option clock ticking again and I can’t sell or option to anyone else.

Come on Amazon… it doesn’t have to be this complicated.

I think somewhere in here there might be a good deal for writers. But Amazon is having a hard time communicating with their members clearly… and it’s important to remember that the amateur screenwriters that are banking on Amazon Studios almost universally do not have representation or legal counsel, and have no idea how to look out for their own best interests.

It’s incumbent on Amazon to make their offer clear, easy to understand, and remove all the convoluted ifs ands or buts that make it impossible to understand what rights you’re giving up and how they impact your own ownership in your own work. It’s forcing amateurs to make bad uninformed decisions, and keeping professionals (or more prudent amateurs) away altogether.

I reiterate my position… If I MUST be public to be displayed on the consider list, I’ll pass. If I CAN be on the consider list WITHOUT being public (and thus control my project and all its rights) I WILL (pending my partner’s approval) let it go to the consider list.

I’ve followed up with Amazon Studios with exactly that question… no answer yet.

3 thoughts on “Amazon Studios’ New (Old) Screenplay Option Model Part 2

  1. Hello,

    I think your script is on the consider list, just privately. Amazon is simply acting in its own best interest in attempting to induce you to make it public. They say they will “feature” it on the list, essentially by putting it on their website.

    There’s no question their program is complex, but that’s what you would expect from a technology company.

    Congrats on getting to that level with them, you certainly got some bragging rights out of it.

  2. Hi, quick question…

    If Amazon decided they wanted (after a private submission) to option the screenplay, is that a choice for the writer? As in, do you get an email saying: ‘hi, we’d like to option your screenplay, yes/no?’ or do you have no choice in the matter? I’m curious because, in submitting, it seems writers have to sign away the rights to what is tantamount to a 45-day option, thus if amazon decides to extend that option within the 45 days, does the writer have no choice in the matter?

    Best
    Sophie

    1. Hi Sophie —

      Nope, by submitting the screenplay privately you’re committing to the option. If they decide to go for the full option, you have no choice but to take it.

Leave a Reply to Sophie Cancel reply