Amazon Redux

As much as I hate to kick a dead horse, it seems I get the most blog views whenever I post something related to screenwriting contests or the on-going Amazon Studio “experiment.” I’ve been reading some of the complaints on the AS message boards about Amazon’s monthly choices for Top 50 semifinalist scripts, and have one bit of advice for those writers: stop whining about not making the cut.

Yes, that’s easy for me to say because I’ve had two scripts make the semifinals, and my Amish horror spec SNALLYGASTER is in the running again this month. But aside from receiving two Amazon Studios t-shirts the prior times I made the Top 50, nothing happened. No contacts from Warner Bros. or any agents/managers. Unless you actually win one of the cash prizes, the contest results are pretty meaningless.

Moreover, I really don’t think Amazon cares one bit what you do with your non-winning script, or mine for that matter. So to those complainers who keep asking Amazon to release them from their so-called option agreement, why don’t you just change the title of your script and do whatever it is you want to do with it? Do you honestly think the Amazon Studio cops are going to be tracking your every move and checking whatever scripts you’re trying to get people to read? Sheesh.

Furthermore, if you’re upset that you didn’t get any recognition in a contest that has gotten about 4,000 submissions, you are in need of a serious reality check. Over 40,000 scripts are registered each year with the WGA — ten times as many as Amazon has received. Add those to the backlog of screenplays that have been floating around for a long time, some of which are actually damn good, then put yourself in the shoes of professional readers/reps/development execs who have to sift through hundreds of awful scripts each month. To make it to the top of the dung heap, your script or story needs something that sets it apart. You have to show them an idea or twist on an idea they haven’t seen before.

I haven’t had the time nor interest to read many of the Amazon entries, but obviously the AS judges saw something in the ones they have chosen over the past few months. Are their choices flawed, or simply bad taste in some cases? I don’t know. The other night my wife and I tried to watch that Tom Cruise/Cameron Diaz action “comedy” that began as a hot script called WICHITA. They changed the title to KNIGHT AND DAY. It was horrible. When I read the script, I thought it was too over-the-top and predicted it would bomb. But somebody, including Cruise, Diaz and their people, obviously saw something different when they looked at the project. Does it mean they were all wrong from the get-go? Maybe. Bottom line is it doesn’t matter what you or I think is going to make a good movie. It’s always going to be up to someone else to play “judge” and pick their favorites, based on whatever criteria they have developed over time.

If you’re lucky and develop your craft, you’ll improve your odds and get better at choosing story ideas that aren’t D.O.A . from page one. But if you let contest results and rejections get in your head, you’re already out of the race.

NEXT POST: Confessions of a screenwriting contest junkie… and how I learned to “read” the contest judges to get a leg up on the competition.

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