After presenting a slew of series panels for its upcoming series and a sizzle reel for its pilots, director of Amazon Studios Roy Price was bombarded with questions by the press at the Beverly Hilton about Amazon Prime‘s avant garde pilot process and overall strategy as a streaming network.
First gripe by the media: There’s no press site up yet to obtain materials, not to mention there’s an approximate, not exact, set of release dates for upcoming shows, i.e. Jill Soloway’s series Transparent drops in late September, Alpha House in late October, Roman Coppola, Alex Timbers and Jason Schwartzman’s Mozart in the Jungle in December and Amazon’s two dramas, Bosch and Chris Carter’s The After in 2015. Pilots Red Oaks, The Cosmopolitans, Really, Hysteria and Hand of God will be streamed to the site in August. Amazon’s third pilot process entails their customers voting on what they like before proceeding with a series commitment.
In terms of the number of pilots Amazon is looking to pick-up, “We’d like to get a couple of shows out every pilot season, but it depends on how many people respond. There’s a lot of flexibility and it’s not locked in stone,” said Price. As far as how many series will run a year, Price continued, “We’ll figure it out over time. One a month is too few, one a week is overkill. With the pilots this fall and our upcoming series calendar, we’ll see how this works over time,” said the executive.
Chris Carter exclaimed during his panel for The After that his goal is to churn out 99 episodes for the apocalyptic series, an homage to the 99 cantos in Dante’s Inferno.
Despite the loose-goosey means of distribution, Amazon believes it has something to offer, in terms of the creativity allowed to series creators, a process that HBO long established. Despite the fact that other networks are chasing edgy series by auteurs, and in Amazon’s case they have Steven Soderbergh (Red Oaks) and Whit Stillman (The Cosmopolitans) in their court, Price sees that there’s enough suppliers out there to choose from. “Quality is the key challenge to deal with,” said Price about how Amazon’s pilot process dictates the fate of what they’ll ultimately produce.
Oscar-nominee Coppola and Schwartzman were beaming about their collaboration with Amazon today on their classical music comedy Mozart in the Jungle. With their distinguishing resumes, they could have taken their series anywhere, but they settled on Amazon given their shared creative sensibility with Amazon programming execs Sarah Babineu and Joe Lewis. “Our agent told us Amazon was doing something exciting. We presented our writing to them, there was a huge interest and there weren’t a lot of notes. It just clicked and from the get-go there was a natural fit and we were all on a natural front,” said Coppola from a remote camera feed today.
Coming away from the panels, there was a perception that Amazon Studios was getting some tier talent at bargain prices, however, Price asserted that “People are getting paid just as much” as they would at other networks; that no dime is spared as “quality is the priority.” Added Price, “When Whit Stillman sets his script in Paris, everyone goes to Paris, we shot Mozart in the New York, and (Michael Connelly’s) Bosch in LA.”
With the press being inundated with the slew of big names that Amazon is in business with, i.e. TV creators Chris Carter, Eric Overmeyer (Bosch), and Paul Weitz (who directed the first episode of Mozart), they questioned whether Amazon Studios was still upholding its unsolicited submission process, which churned out the comedy series Those Who Can’t from a Denver-based comedy team; whether Amazon was playing favorites with Hollywood. Price assured, “Our submission policy remains the same. You can submit a script or upload a video through our website. Everyone is treated like everyone else. It all shows up on our desk.”