Amazon Studios Ends Open Call For Script Submissions

If you were thinking of submitting your original script to Amazon Studios, now is a better time than ever to send it in. Amazon announced that they are ending their open call for script and concept submissions.
The studio born out of the e-commerce giant made the announcement on their website on Friday. Launched in 2010, the open submission program allowed aspiring writers to submit their scripts and concepts for TV and film, giving them the chance to become the next best…

If you were thinking of submitting your original script to Amazon Studios, now is a better time than ever to send it in. Amazon announced that they are ending their open call for script and concept submissions. The studio born out of the e-commerce giant made the announcement on their website on Friday. Launched in 2010, the open submission program allowed aspiring writers to submit their scripts and concepts for TV and film, giving them the chance to become the next best…

Inside the Fight for ‘Transparent’: Jill Soloway’s Turmoil Over Jeffrey Tambor

“Transparent” creator Jill Soloway struggled for months to find a way forward with or without her Emmy winning star Jeffrey Tambor and address the concerns of a politically passionate core audience, TheWrap has learned. The actor was fired by studio Amazon on Thursday.

Tambor’s dismissal is a move that echoes that of numerous Hollywood men who stand accused of inappropriate workplace behavior — which Tambor vehemently denies — but Soloway hoped for a scenario that would satisfy his accusers and allow him to finish his work as trans matriarch Maura Pfefferman, numerous insiders said.

As recently as last week, Soloway was seeking “a third way” through a crisis so many in show business have recently faced, one of the individuals told TheWrap. Amazon instructed Soloway and her writers room to prepare for several outcomes, a second insider said, including storylines that would exclude Tambor’s character entirely or phase him out as early as the upcoming season’s third episode.

Also Read: Jeffrey Tambor Disappeared From ‘Stalin’ Movie Poster

Having Tambor appear only in flashbacks as his pre-transition character Mort Pfefferman was also discussed, given the increased pressure on Hollywood to stop casting cisgender actors in trans roles, the individual added.

Representatives for Tambor and Soloway did not immediately respond to TheWrap’s request for comment on the matter, nor did Amazon Studios spokespeople.

Tambor was accused in November of harassing two trans women on the “Transparent” set, including costar Trace Lysette and his personal assistant Van Jones. A third woman unrelated to the production later came forward, makeup artist Tamara Delbridge.

While Soloway was empowered creatively during the crisis, the contents of Amazon’s investigation ultimately led them to fire Tambor on Wednesday, the insider said. Soloway does not know what was discovered in the investigation, they said.

News of Tambor’s firing leaked Thursday before the full cast had been informed. Soloway praised the decision and the accusers for their “courage in speaking out” as “an example of the leadership this moment in our culture requires.”

Tambor issued a blistering response that blasted the studio as “biased” and specifically called out Soloway.

“I am profoundly disappointed in Amazon’s handling of these false accusations against me. I am even more disappointed in Jill Soloway’s unfair characterization of me as someone who would ever cause harm to any of my fellow cast mates,” Tambor said in a statement.

Also Read: Jeffrey Tambor Out at ‘Transparent’ After Sexual Harassment Investigation

“I can only surmise that the investigation against me was deeply flawed and biased toward the toxic politicized atmosphere that afflicted our set,” he added.

Soloway has a legacy at stake when it comes to “Transparent.” The drama was not only the first original streaming series for Amazon, it evolved the portrayal of trans people and explored intersectional identities through the filter of a family drama. She’s won two Primetime Emmys for directing the series, and Tambor has two Emmys in the best actor category for playing Maura.

That she would seek a “third way” to remedy the misconduct claims would also have been groundbreaking, as many in Hollywood have complained that responses have been extreme to any accusation of sexual misconduct, no matter how unproven or relatively slight, since the Harvey Weinstein scandal broke last October.

Kevin Spacey was written out of his Netflix drama “House of Cards” and replaced in the film “All the Money in the World.”  HBO took a wait-and-see approach with James Franco, who will return to his series “The Deuce” after he was accused of abusing actresses on the set of an indie film he directed. The accusations against both actors differ greatly, of course, but the responses stand.

It’s unclear what direction the show will go in, though the writers room will be active in the coming days and the show is still eyeing a September premiere

Related stories from TheWrap:

Jeffrey Tambor Disappeared From ‘Stalin’ Movie Poster

Jeffrey Tambor Calls Amazon Investigation ‘Deeply Flawed and Biased’ After ‘Transparent’ Firing

Jeffrey Tambor Out at ‘Transparent’ After Sexual Harassment Investigation

“Transparent” creator Jill Soloway struggled for months to find a way forward with or without her Emmy winning star Jeffrey Tambor and address the concerns of a politically passionate core audience, TheWrap has learned. The actor was fired by studio Amazon on Thursday.

Tambor’s dismissal is a move that echoes that of numerous Hollywood men who stand accused of inappropriate workplace behavior — which Tambor vehemently denies — but Soloway hoped for a scenario that would satisfy his accusers and allow him to finish his work as trans matriarch Maura Pfefferman, numerous insiders said.

As recently as last week, Soloway was seeking “a third way” through a crisis so many in show business have recently faced, one of the individuals told TheWrap. Amazon instructed Soloway and her writers room to prepare for several outcomes, a second insider said, including storylines that would exclude Tambor’s character entirely or phase him out as early as the upcoming season’s third episode.

Having Tambor appear only in flashbacks as his pre-transition character Mort Pfefferman was also discussed, given the increased pressure on Hollywood to stop casting cisgender actors in trans roles, the individual added.

Representatives for Tambor and Soloway did not immediately respond to TheWrap’s request for comment on the matter, nor did Amazon Studios spokespeople.

Tambor was accused in November of harassing two trans women on the “Transparent” set, including costar Trace Lysette and his personal assistant Van Jones. A third woman unrelated to the production later came forward, makeup artist Tamara Delbridge.

While Soloway was empowered creatively during the crisis, the contents of Amazon’s investigation ultimately led them to fire Tambor on Wednesday, the insider said. Soloway does not know what was discovered in the investigation, they said.

News of Tambor’s firing leaked Thursday before the full cast had been informed. Soloway praised the decision and the accusers for their “courage in speaking out” as “an example of the leadership this moment in our culture requires.”

Tambor issued a blistering response that blasted the studio as “biased” and specifically called out Soloway.

“I am profoundly disappointed in Amazon’s handling of these false accusations against me. I am even more disappointed in Jill Soloway’s unfair characterization of me as someone who would ever cause harm to any of my fellow cast mates,” Tambor said in a statement.

“I can only surmise that the investigation against me was deeply flawed and biased toward the toxic politicized atmosphere that afflicted our set,” he added.

Soloway has a legacy at stake when it comes to “Transparent.” The drama was not only the first original streaming series for Amazon, it evolved the portrayal of trans people and explored intersectional identities through the filter of a family drama. She’s won two Primetime Emmys for directing the series, and Tambor has two Emmys in the best actor category for playing Maura.

That she would seek a “third way” to remedy the misconduct claims would also have been groundbreaking, as many in Hollywood have complained that responses have been extreme to any accusation of sexual misconduct, no matter how unproven or relatively slight, since the Harvey Weinstein scandal broke last October.

Kevin Spacey was written out of his Netflix drama “House of Cards” and replaced in the film “All the Money in the World.”  HBO took a wait-and-see approach with James Franco, who will return to his series “The Deuce” after he was accused of abusing actresses on the set of an indie film he directed. The accusations against both actors differ greatly, of course, but the responses stand.

It’s unclear what direction the show will go in, though the writers room will be active in the coming days and the show is still eyeing a September premiere

Related stories from TheWrap:

Jeffrey Tambor Disappeared From 'Stalin' Movie Poster

Jeffrey Tambor Calls Amazon Investigation 'Deeply Flawed and Biased' After 'Transparent' Firing

Jeffrey Tambor Out at 'Transparent' After Sexual Harassment Investigation

Amazon Studios’ Bold New Leader Faces a Film Division With an Identity Crisis

The industry has seen seismic shifts since Amazon Studios launched its film division. Here’s the challenges Jennifer Salke will face.

Amazon Studios’ hire of NBC Entertainment veteran Jennifer Salke as its new president should bode well for its TV production, which needs a seasoned hand to develop its own must-see TV. However, while she has no background in film development or production, Amazon’s film division will also need her leadership to focus its own strategy.

Amazon Studios’ chief operating officer Albert Cheng, who served as its interim head following Roy Price’s resignation last fall, will report to Salke, as will Jason Ropell, VP and worldwide head of motion pictures for Amazon Studios and Prime Video. This resolves one matter up front: After Price’s exit, Ropell refused to report to Cheng and reported directly to Seattle-based Amazon senior VP Jeff Blackburn. With new leadership in place, however, the deep-pocked production and distribution unit also may see a confrontation with an identity crisis that’s been a long time coming.

The day before Sundance, a Reuters report said Amazon Studios’ film team planned to refocus its efforts on more commercial projects. Ropell hotly denied that claim in a Deadline article on Sundance’s opening day, but nothing followed to counter that impression: Amazon bought no new titles and its premieres, Gus Van Sant’s “Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot,” Lauren Greenfield documentary “Generation Wealth,” and “Pass Over,” Spike Lee’s record of the Antoinette Nwandu play at Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre, found modest receptions. (Amazon also screened “You Were Never Really Here” from writer-director Lynne Ramsay, which premiered in May at Cannes and won star Joaquin Phoenix the Best Actor prize.)

Bumphre/StarPix/REX/Shutterstock

Salke, who played a key role in launching “Glee” and “Modern Family” at 20th Century Fox Television before joining NBC in 2011, will initially focus on overhauling Amazon’s TV side, which has been in a state of chaos. With film not at the top of Amazon head Jeff Bezos’ priorities, that may be good news for the motion picture side of Amazon Studios: The last year was unkind to its titles that weren’t “The Big Sick.”

After scoring one of the biggest Sundance 2017 buys with “The Big Sick” (and a 2018 Best Screenplay nomination), and significant 2017 Oscar wins for “Manchester By the Sea” and “The Salesman,” its fortunes turned fast: Amazon’s in-house distribution debut, Woody Allen’s “Wonder Wheel,” grossed just $1.3 million and was an Oscar nonstarter, partly due to a #MeToo backlash that’s also left its next project with the filmmaker, “A Rainy Day in New York,” in question. Stars Timothée Chalamet and Rebecca Hall have already donated their salaries to charity, and the New York Times reported that Amazon is having “serious conversations about ending its relationship with Mr. Allen.”

Another Sundance acquisition, “Landline,” starring Jenny Slate ($3 million, U.S. rights), stalled at $941,000. Amazon co-financed Ben Stiller vehicle “Brad’s Status,” which grossed just over $3 million worldwide.

Other auteur-friendly Amazon productions struggled despite tony festival berths: Todd Haynes’ Cannes competition entry “Wonderstruck” grossed $2 million worldwide. The global take for New York Film Festival opener Richard Linklater’s “Last Flag Flying” didn’t cross $1 million, despite a cast that included Steve Carell, Bryan Cranston, and Laurence Fishburne. Neither made the grade for awards season.

“Last Flag Flying”

Amazon Studios / Wilson Webb

Of course, measures of success at Amazon are different. All Amazon titles are viewed with an eye toward Amazon Prime, and their ability to lure new users to the service. However, it’s unclear whether Amazon’s long-term interests continue to lie with funding $5 million-$20 million movies.

If not, it would follow a growing trend. Bezos has made it clear that priorities on Amazon’s TV side are moving away from quirky properties in favor of big-ticket series with worldwide appeal: less “Transparent,” more Game of Thrones.

Meanwhile, primary streaming competitor Netflix — which nabbed eight 2018 Oscar nominations to Amazon’s one — has clearly come down on the side of greenlighting movies that appeal to the masses. Under motion picture president Scott Stuber, it’s making titles like “Bright,” a $90-million crime fantasy starring Will Smith, helmed by his “Suicide Squad” director, David Ayer. It rated just 27 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, but Netflix announced a sequel ahead of its December 22 release. According to Nielsen estimates, 11 million Netflix subscribers had watched the film by Christmas.

Like Netflix, Amazon relies on user data to drive its programming decisions. However, Price hired a team of unabashed arthouse connoisseurs to head its film division, including Good Machine co-founder and onetime San Francisco Film Society executive director Ted Hope; independent distribution ace Bob Berney, who presided over such lauded theatrical hits as “The Passion of the Christ,” “Monster,” and “Pan’s Labyrinth;” and acquisitions executive Scott Foundas, the former film critic who also served as a programmer at the New York Film Festival.

Ropell’s background may feel more familiar to Salke: Prior to joining Amazon as its head of international content for Prime Video in October 2012, he spent three years in business affairs and development at NBCUniversal, then nearly two years heading North American TV content acquisition and strategy for Netflix.

“You Were Never Really Here”

Amazon has a robust development slate of some 50 features, including a “Suspiria” remake from Luca Guadagnino (“Call Me by Your Name”), and “Beautiful Boy” starring 2018 Oscar nominee Chalamet as the meth-addicted son of Steve Carell.

This will also mark the first full year of Amazon’s first-look deals with Bona Fide Prods. (“Cold Mountain,” “Little Miss Sunshine”), Killer Films (“Boys Don’t Cry,” “Far From Heaven”), and Le Grisbi Prods. (“Birdman,” “Black Mass”). Amazon also has big plans for its theatrical distribution arm, with Berney recently making a slate of hires.

However, Amazon’s biggest challenge is an ever-changing distribution landscape in which exciting new players can become yesterday’s news overnight. When Amazon first entered the scene, it was considered a major disruptor. Now, it faces competition from emerging players like financing company 30WEST, which recently poached longtime Sundance director of programming Trevor Groth, announced its acquisition of new distribution player Neon, and spent $10 million on midnight movie “Assassination Nation” in the biggest deal of Sundance 2018.

While deep-pocked Amazon may have the resources to outspend such new contenders, it’s no longer clear if the company will make that a priority. As the head of its acquisitions team, Hope was seen as a major conduit for American filmmakers to gain a degree of financial support that no other company of similar size would ever provide, and it followed through on that potential with risky, unconventional projects from Lee, Ramsay, and others. But while that accomplishment sounds good on paper, it doesn’t gel with the agenda of a company angling to reach the biggest audience possible. If Amazon falls into that category, 2018 may not be the last Sundance where it takes a backseat.

Anne Thompson and Eric Kohn contributed reporting.

Sign Up: Stay on top of the latest breaking film and TV news! Sign up for our Email Newsletters here.

Jen Salke to Replace Roy Price as Amazon Studios Chief

Jen Salke has been named the new head of Amazon Studios. NBC Entertainment president since July 2011, Salke replaces Roy Price, who resigned from the Amazon role in October amid a sexual harassment scandal.

In her new role. Salke will oversee Amazon’s television and film production and report to Jeff Blackburn, the company’s senior VP of business development and digital entertainment.

“What stood out about Jen was the deep relationships she has nurtured with creators and talent over her career, spanning NBCU, Twentieth Century Fox, and Aaron Spelling Productions,” Blackburn said. “She’s built an impeccable reputation as a big leader who emphasizes creativity, collaboration, and teamwork.”

Last month, Salke had added the oversight of business affairs and production for scripted programming to her NBCUniversal job description. She is credited with bringing well-received sitcoms “Superstore” and “The Good Place” to the network, and was the driving force behind shows like “This Is Us,” “The Blacklist,” and Dick Wolf’s “Chicago” franchise. Salke oversaw the development of “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” and “The Mindy Project,” among other series.

Also Read: Nancy Dubuc No Longer Pursuing Amazon Studios President Job

Prior to joining NBC Entertainment, Salke was with 20th Century Fox Television, where she was executive vice president of creative affairs. Salke joined Fox in 2002.

“I’m incredibly excited about the future at Amazon Studios,” Salke added. “In the studio’s relatively short existence they have innovated, disrupted, and created characters that are already an indelible part of pop-culture. I am both honored and emboldened by the opportunity to lead this extraordinary business. Of course, this is also bittersweet for me. NBC has been an amazing home – creatively, professionally and personally – and I leave there knowing that the work we did had groundbreaking impact. It’s an exciting time to be a content creator, and I look forward to being on the front lines of an innovative business with storytelling at its heart.”

Amazon COO Albert Cheng, who has overseen the studio since Price’s exit, will now report to Salke, along with Amazon Studios film head Jason Ropell and VP of content acquisition Brad Beale. Ropell will still oversee the day to day of the film biz. The execs will be sorting out a detailed management plan for the studio over the next few months.

Also Read: Arnold Schwarzenegger in Talks to Star in New Amazon Series ‘Outrider’

“Jennifer Salke is a world class entertainment executive and deserves enormous credit for helping put NBC back on top,” Robert Greenblatt, NBC Entertainment chairman, said Friday of Salke’s exit from the Peacock. “This opportunity is the logical next step in her phenomenal career and we wish her only the best. While we will all miss her enormously, we will hopefully find many new ways to be in business with her at Amazon.”

A+E Networks’ Nancy Dubuc had also been in the running for Price’s vacant seat, but she bowed out on Thursday.

Last fall, Price was put on leave after “The Man in the High Castle” executive producer Isa Hackett accused the executive of sexually harassing her. Chief operating officer Albert Cheng was named his interim replacement. Price resigned about a week after his initial suspension.

Also Read: Amazon Crushes Q4 Earnings Behind Monster Holiday Season

The executive had been with Amazon since 2004, where he led the tech giant’s entry into the streaming video business and oversaw the launch of original titles including “Transparent,” “Mozart in the Jungle” and “The Man in the High Castle.”

The alleged incident with Hackett and Price first came to light in August, after an investigation of the tech giant by website The Information revealed a complaint was lodged in 2015. Amazon, run by Jeff Bezos, hired a third-party firm to investigate the accusations.

The inquiry was closed and its findings were never revealed.

Also Read: Amazon Cancels ‘I Love Dick,’ ‘One Mississippi,’ ‘Jean-Claude Van Johnson’

“You’ll love my dick,” Price allegedly told Hackett during a cab ride at San Diego Comic-Con, the producer told The Hollywood Reporter on Thursday.

In the wake of the accusations against Price, as well as those lodged against producer Harvey Weinstein, Amazon senior vice president Jeff Blackburn sent an email to employees calling the news “sad and very disappointing to me.”

“Amazon does not tolerate harassment or abuse of our employees or our business partners. If a concern is brought to our attention, we investigate it quickly and thoroughly,” Blackburn wrote.

Also Read: Amazon Studios to Shift Strategy From Indies to $50 Million-Plus ‘Commercial’ Movies (Report)

Around the same time, Amazon announced that it had cut ties with Weinstein and The Weinstein Company, axing a planned series from director David O. Russell and taking over Matt Weiner’s eight-episode anthology series “The Romanoffs.”

Related stories from TheWrap:

Tech World’s Winners & Losers After a Wild Week of Earnings, From Amazon to Apple

Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and Chase to Form Health Care Company

Why Amazon, Netflix Ghosted Sundance Sales After Dominating Last Year

Jen Salke has been named the new head of Amazon Studios. NBC Entertainment president since July 2011, Salke replaces Roy Price, who resigned from the Amazon role in October amid a sexual harassment scandal.

In her new role. Salke will oversee Amazon’s television and film production and report to Jeff Blackburn, the company’s senior VP of business development and digital entertainment.

“What stood out about Jen was the deep relationships she has nurtured with creators and talent over her career, spanning NBCU, Twentieth Century Fox, and Aaron Spelling Productions,” Blackburn said. “She’s built an impeccable reputation as a big leader who emphasizes creativity, collaboration, and teamwork.”

Last month, Salke had added the oversight of business affairs and production for scripted programming to her NBCUniversal job description. She is credited with bringing well-received sitcoms “Superstore” and “The Good Place” to the network, and was the driving force behind shows like “This Is Us,” “The Blacklist,” and Dick Wolf’s “Chicago” franchise. Salke oversaw the development of “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” and “The Mindy Project,” among other series.

Prior to joining NBC Entertainment, Salke was with 20th Century Fox Television, where she was executive vice president of creative affairs. Salke joined Fox in 2002.

“I’m incredibly excited about the future at Amazon Studios,” Salke added. “In the studio’s relatively short existence they have innovated, disrupted, and created characters that are already an indelible part of pop-culture. I am both honored and emboldened by the opportunity to lead this extraordinary business. Of course, this is also bittersweet for me. NBC has been an amazing home – creatively, professionally and personally – and I leave there knowing that the work we did had groundbreaking impact. It’s an exciting time to be a content creator, and I look forward to being on the front lines of an innovative business with storytelling at its heart.”

Amazon COO Albert Cheng, who has overseen the studio since Price’s exit, will now report to Salke, along with Amazon Studios film head Jason Ropell and VP of content acquisition Brad Beale. Ropell will still oversee the day to day of the film biz. The execs will be sorting out a detailed management plan for the studio over the next few months.

“Jennifer Salke is a world class entertainment executive and deserves enormous credit for helping put NBC back on top,” Robert Greenblatt, NBC Entertainment chairman, said Friday of Salke’s exit from the Peacock. “This opportunity is the logical next step in her phenomenal career and we wish her only the best. While we will all miss her enormously, we will hopefully find many new ways to be in business with her at Amazon.”

A+E Networks’ Nancy Dubuc had also been in the running for Price’s vacant seat, but she bowed out on Thursday.

Last fall, Price was put on leave after “The Man in the High Castle” executive producer Isa Hackett accused the executive of sexually harassing her. Chief operating officer Albert Cheng was named his interim replacement. Price resigned about a week after his initial suspension.

The executive had been with Amazon since 2004, where he led the tech giant’s entry into the streaming video business and oversaw the launch of original titles including “Transparent,” “Mozart in the Jungle” and “The Man in the High Castle.”

The alleged incident with Hackett and Price first came to light in August, after an investigation of the tech giant by website The Information revealed a complaint was lodged in 2015. Amazon, run by Jeff Bezos, hired a third-party firm to investigate the accusations.

The inquiry was closed and its findings were never revealed.

“You’ll love my dick,” Price allegedly told Hackett during a cab ride at San Diego Comic-Con, the producer told The Hollywood Reporter on Thursday.

In the wake of the accusations against Price, as well as those lodged against producer Harvey Weinstein, Amazon senior vice president Jeff Blackburn sent an email to employees calling the news “sad and very disappointing to me.”

“Amazon does not tolerate harassment or abuse of our employees or our business partners. If a concern is brought to our attention, we investigate it quickly and thoroughly,” Blackburn wrote.

Around the same time, Amazon announced that it had cut ties with Weinstein and The Weinstein Company, axing a planned series from director David O. Russell and taking over Matt Weiner’s eight-episode anthology series “The Romanoffs.”

Related stories from TheWrap:

Tech World's Winners & Losers After a Wild Week of Earnings, From Amazon to Apple

Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and Chase to Form Health Care Company

Why Amazon, Netflix Ghosted Sundance Sales After Dominating Last Year

Nancy Dubuc No Longer Pursuing Amazon Studios President Job

A&E Networks President Nancy Dubuc is no longer pursuing the open seat for president of Amazon Studios , an individual with knowledge of the talks told TheWrap.

The studio is searching for a replacement for Roy Price from the TV side while Amazon looks to expand their “triple A programming,” according to one industry insider with knowledge of their strategy. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has made clear that he wants the streaming service to grow a mega franchise on the order  “Game of Thrones” to compete with other platforms. In order to grow their TV side, the studio is leaning away from candidates from the movie world and toward an experienced TV veteran.

Dubuc is now expected to re-up as president and CEO of A&E, a position she has held since 2013. During her time there, she has overseen the cable networks History, A&E and Lifetime and has assisted in releasing reality shows like “Duck Dynasty.” That same year, she was listed on Fortune’s list of 50 Most Powerful Women in Business.  Before A&E, she worked at The Christian Science Monitor and the Boston television station WGBG-TV, and then moved on to the History Channel where she became the director of historical programming.

Also Read: Lionsgate Roars: Shares Up 7 Percent on Merger Report

Other contenders include  NBC’s Jennifer Salke and former HBO Entertainment President Sue Naegle, according to the insider.

The streaming giant has been looking for a female to fill the vacant job of Amazon chief since Price’s exit, a move widely reported to remedy its internal sexual harassment problem and an attempt at gender parity in their upper ranks. Paramount TV President Amy Powell was an early candidate last fall, though a spokesperson for the executive told TheWrap last fall the reports were not true. Fox chairman Dana Walden was also an early candidate for the job, but she has since bowed out.

A spokesperson for Amazon Studios has not yet responded to TheWrap’s request for comment.

Related stories from TheWrap:

Amazon Cancels ‘I Love Dick,’ ‘One Mississippi,’ ‘Jean-Claude Van Johnson’

‘The Tick’ Renewed by Amazon for Season 2

Amazon’s ‘Electric Dreams’ Hints at What Might Have Happened to Real-Life Philip K. Dick Android

A&E Networks President Nancy Dubuc is no longer pursuing the open seat for president of Amazon Studios , an individual with knowledge of the talks told TheWrap.

The studio is searching for a replacement for Roy Price from the TV side while Amazon looks to expand their “triple A programming,” according to one industry insider with knowledge of their strategy. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has made clear that he wants the streaming service to grow a mega franchise on the order  “Game of Thrones” to compete with other platforms. In order to grow their TV side, the studio is leaning away from candidates from the movie world and toward an experienced TV veteran.

Dubuc is now expected to re-up as president and CEO of A&E, a position she has held since 2013. During her time there, she has overseen the cable networks History, A&E and Lifetime and has assisted in releasing reality shows like “Duck Dynasty.” That same year, she was listed on Fortune’s list of 50 Most Powerful Women in Business.  Before A&E, she worked at The Christian Science Monitor and the Boston television station WGBG-TV, and then moved on to the History Channel where she became the director of historical programming.

Other contenders include  NBC’s Jennifer Salke and former HBO Entertainment President Sue Naegle, according to the insider.

The streaming giant has been looking for a female to fill the vacant job of Amazon chief since Price’s exit, a move widely reported to remedy its internal sexual harassment problem and an attempt at gender parity in their upper ranks. Paramount TV President Amy Powell was an early candidate last fall, though a spokesperson for the executive told TheWrap last fall the reports were not true. Fox chairman Dana Walden was also an early candidate for the job, but she has since bowed out.

A spokesperson for Amazon Studios has not yet responded to TheWrap’s request for comment.

Related stories from TheWrap:

Amazon Cancels 'I Love Dick,' 'One Mississippi,' 'Jean-Claude Van Johnson'

'The Tick' Renewed by Amazon for Season 2

Amazon's 'Electric Dreams' Hints at What Might Have Happened to Real-Life Philip K. Dick Android

Why Amazon, Netflix Ghosted Sundance Sales After Dominating Last Year

Amazon Studios and Netflix pretty much ghosted this year’s Sundance Film Festival — acquiring no films just one year after dominating the indie marketplace with big-dollar acquisitions films like “Mudbound” and “The Big Sick.”

Insiders say Amazon at least bid on multiple films but came up short to more traditional theatrically focused indie distributors — sometimes working in tandem with upstarts like 30West and MoviePass.

One factor was this year’s slate of films — which didn’t inspire the kind of bidding wars that prompted some to question whether the streaming giants had overspent last year. “The commercial viability of the lineup was as low as any in recent memory,” one festival veteran told TheWrap. “There were not many titles for anything beyond a festival audience.”

Also Read: Sundance Film Festival Programming Chief Trevor Groth Heads to 30West

In addition, both companies have hinted at a new focus on pricier, more commercial projects going forward. Netflix just greenlit the sequel to its Will Smith sci-fi movie “Bright,” while Amazon recently acquired TV rights for “The Lord of the Rings” books with a multi-season commitment.

“No one showed up,” one top dealmaker told TheWrap about other nontraditional content companies like Hulu, Facebook and YouTube failing to emerge as big players in this year’s marketplace. (Also MIA: go-to Sundance buyers like Fox Searchlight and The Weinstein Company, both awaiting the completion of deals by new owners).

Amazon Studios Worldwide Film Head Jason Ropell tried to debunk a Reuters report about its Sundance plans, insisting the company was not “abandoning the indie space” but rather “increasing the potential size of the audience for our films.”

Also Read: Neon Lights Up Sundance With Big Money, Big Acquisitions

Still, one sales agent told TheWrap that Amazon’s main focus seems to be finding the next big “Game of Thrones,” not another art-house hit. The studio has also been weathering the fallout from film chief Roy Price’s ouster after sexual misconduct accusations — as well as clouds surrounding “Transparent” star Jeffrey Tambor and Woody Allen, director of the upcoming “A Rainy Day in New York.”

And it went home empty-handed this year after purchasing a whopping five titles at the 2017 Sundance, including Kumail Nanjiani’s “The Big Sick” for $12 million and Jenny Slate’s comedy “Landline”spent for mid-seven figures.

Netflix also kept its wallet hidden this year after spending $12.5 million on Dee Rees’ “Mudbound,” now nominated for four Oscars, as well as $8 million for Lily Collins’ “To the Bone” and $5 million for the Russian sports-doping doc “Icarus,” another Oscar nominee.

Of course, both Amazon and Netflix came to the festival with titles to screen — Netflix debuted the Gloria Allred documentary “Seeing Allred” and the comedy “A Futile and Stupid Gesture,” while Amazon arrived with Spike Lee’s “Pass Over” and Gus Van Sant’s “Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot.”

And YouTube, which sponsored a portrait studio on Main Street, went home only with Eminem and Joseph Kahn’s battle-rap parody film “Bodied” — which it had acquired before the festival even began.

Reps for Netflix and Amazon Studios have not yet responded to TheWrap’s request for comment.

Also Read: Sundance: Will Fox Searchlight Still Be a Player in Shadow of Disney Acquisition?

With the streaming and tech behemoths on the sidelines, Neon and Bleecker Street emerged as the biggest players at this year’s festival — which had a dramatically lower profile as well as sales prices.

Neon partnered with the Russo Brothers to pay upwards of $10 million for tech thriller “Assassination Nation,” and also acquired police brutality drama “Monsters & Men,” the documentary “Three Identical Strangers” and Coralie Fargeat’s “Revenge” (with Shudder).

An insider told TheWrap that Neon’s game plan ahead of the festival was to build a slate from scratch with as many purchases as possible, chasing a similar business model as Oscar-winning indie darling A24.

Bleecker Street also made a splash in Park City, acquiring Ben Foster’s “Leave No Trace” and Keira Knightley’s “Colette” (alongside 30West).

HBO Films surprised many when it bought the buzzy Laura Dern film “The Tale” for a deal in the high-seven figures. HBO has decided to skip a theatrical release, going for Emmy instead of Oscar glory. This also marked the first time in a while that HBO bought anything other than a documentary out of Sundance. Speaking of documentaries, HBO also acquired the U.S. rights to “The Sentence” and “The Oslo Diaries.”

Also Read: ‘A Kid Like Jake’ Star Priyanka Chopra Says Gender Identity Story ‘Needs to be Told’ (Video)

“Sorry to Bother You,” starring Lakeith Stanfield, Steven Yeun, Tessa Thompson and Armie Hammer, sold to Annapurna. Sony Pictures Classics paid $5 million for world rights to director Marc Turtletaub’s debut feature “Puzzle.”

Gunpowder & Sky bought the rights to Nick Offerman’s “Hearts Beat Loud,” with the international rights going to Sony Worldwide Acquisitions — which also paid $5 million for “Search,” starring John Cho and Debra Messing.

And Lionsgate beat out Neon, The Orchard and CBS Films for the buzzy “Blindspotting.”

Also Read: Kristen Stewart, Chloe Sevigny Crime Drama ‘Lizzie’ Picked Up by Saban Films

Many distributors teamed up for acquisitions this year, perhaps to mitigate their risk at a time when the indie theatrical marketplace is in such a state of transition.

After a huge bidding war for the ax-murderer period drama “Lizzie,” starring Chloe Sevigny and Kristen Stewart, Saban Films acquired the North American rights in partnership with Roadside Attractions.

Magnolia purchased “The Guilty” and the Ruth Bader Ginsburg doc “RBG” with Participant Media, while The Orchard bought the rights to “American Animals” with MoviePass, which announced it would begin acquiring films with established distributors and promote them via its movie ticket subscription program. The film was purchased for $3 million plus P&A.

And some titles, like “A Kid Like Jake” and “The Miseducation of Cameron Post,” were still up for grabs as industry figures packed up and left Utah.

Related stories from TheWrap:

2018 Sundance Film Festival Awards: The Complete Winners List

Sundance: Every Movie Sold So Far – And It Ain’t Much

Sundance So Far: Festival Gets Woke With Strong Set of Diverse Films

Amazon Studios and Netflix pretty much ghosted this year’s Sundance Film Festival — acquiring no films just one year after dominating the indie marketplace with big-dollar acquisitions films like “Mudbound” and “The Big Sick.”

Insiders say Amazon at least bid on multiple films but came up short to more traditional theatrically focused indie distributors — sometimes working in tandem with upstarts like 30West and MoviePass.

One factor was this year’s slate of films — which didn’t inspire the kind of bidding wars that prompted some to question whether the streaming giants had overspent last year. “The commercial viability of the lineup was as low as any in recent memory,” one festival veteran told TheWrap. “There were not many titles for anything beyond a festival audience.”

In addition, both companies have hinted at a new focus on pricier, more commercial projects going forward. Netflix just greenlit the sequel to its Will Smith sci-fi movie “Bright,” while Amazon recently acquired TV rights for “The Lord of the Rings” books with a multi-season commitment.

“No one showed up,” one top dealmaker told TheWrap about other nontraditional content companies like Hulu, Facebook and YouTube failing to emerge as big players in this year’s marketplace. (Also MIA: go-to Sundance buyers like Fox Searchlight and The Weinstein Company, both awaiting the completion of deals by new owners).

Amazon Studios Worldwide Film Head Jason Ropell tried to debunk a Reuters report about its Sundance plans, insisting the company was not “abandoning the indie space” but rather “increasing the potential size of the audience for our films.”

Still, one sales agent told TheWrap that Amazon’s main focus seems to be finding the next big “Game of Thrones,” not another art-house hit. The studio has also been weathering the fallout from film chief Roy Price’s ouster after sexual misconduct accusations — as well as clouds surrounding “Transparent” star Jeffrey Tambor and Woody Allen, director of the upcoming “A Rainy Day in New York.”

And it went home empty-handed this year after purchasing a whopping five titles at the 2017 Sundance, including Kumail Nanjiani’s “The Big Sick” for $12 million and Jenny Slate’s comedy “Landline”spent for mid-seven figures.

Netflix also kept its wallet hidden this year after spending $12.5 million on Dee Rees’ “Mudbound,” now nominated for four Oscars, as well as $8 million for Lily Collins’ “To the Bone” and $5 million for the Russian sports-doping doc “Icarus,” another Oscar nominee.

Of course, both Amazon and Netflix came to the festival with titles to screen — Netflix debuted the Gloria Allred documentary “Seeing Allred” and the comedy “A Futile and Stupid Gesture,” while Amazon arrived with Spike Lee’s “Pass Over” and Gus Van Sant’s “Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot.”

And YouTube, which sponsored a portrait studio on Main Street, went home only with Eminem and Joseph Kahn’s battle-rap parody film “Bodied” — which it had acquired before the festival even began.

Reps for Netflix and Amazon Studios have not yet responded to TheWrap’s request for comment.

With the streaming and tech behemoths on the sidelines, Neon and Bleecker Street emerged as the biggest players at this year’s festival — which had a dramatically lower profile as well as sales prices.

Neon partnered with the Russo Brothers to pay upwards of $10 million for tech thriller “Assassination Nation,” and also acquired police brutality drama “Monsters & Men,” the documentary “Three Identical Strangers” and Coralie Fargeat’s “Revenge” (with Shudder).

An insider told TheWrap that Neon’s game plan ahead of the festival was to build a slate from scratch with as many purchases as possible, chasing a similar business model as Oscar-winning indie darling A24.

Bleecker Street also made a splash in Park City, acquiring Ben Foster’s “Leave No Trace” and Keira Knightley’s “Colette” (alongside 30West).

HBO Films surprised many when it bought the buzzy Laura Dern film “The Tale” for a deal in the high-seven figures. HBO has decided to skip a theatrical release, going for Emmy instead of Oscar glory. This also marked the first time in a while that HBO bought anything other than a documentary out of Sundance. Speaking of documentaries, HBO also acquired the U.S. rights to “The Sentence” and “The Oslo Diaries.”

“Sorry to Bother You,” starring Lakeith Stanfield, Steven Yeun, Tessa Thompson and Armie Hammer, sold to Annapurna. Sony Pictures Classics paid $5 million for world rights to director Marc Turtletaub’s debut feature “Puzzle.”

Gunpowder & Sky bought the rights to Nick Offerman’s “Hearts Beat Loud,” with the international rights going to Sony Worldwide Acquisitions — which also paid $5 million for “Search,” starring John Cho and Debra Messing.

And Lionsgate beat out Neon, The Orchard and CBS Films for the buzzy “Blindspotting.”

Many distributors teamed up for acquisitions this year, perhaps to mitigate their risk at a time when the indie theatrical marketplace is in such a state of transition.

After a huge bidding war for the ax-murderer period drama “Lizzie,” starring Chloe Sevigny and Kristen Stewart, Saban Films acquired the North American rights in partnership with Roadside Attractions.

Magnolia purchased “The Guilty” and the Ruth Bader Ginsburg doc “RBG” with Participant Media, while The Orchard bought the rights to “American Animals” with MoviePass, which announced it would begin acquiring films with established distributors and promote them via its movie ticket subscription program. The film was purchased for $3 million plus P&A.

And some titles, like “A Kid Like Jake” and “The Miseducation of Cameron Post,” were still up for grabs as industry figures packed up and left Utah.

Related stories from TheWrap:

2018 Sundance Film Festival Awards: The Complete Winners List

Sundance: Every Movie Sold So Far – And It Ain't Much

Sundance So Far: Festival Gets Woke With Strong Set of Diverse Films

Sundance After #MeToo: Indie Buyers and Sellers Step Up Vetting of Filmmakers, Stars

Hollywood has been enforcing a zero-tolerance policy for creatives and executives accused of sexual misconduct, the effects of which may impact hopeful artists and agents headed to this week’s Sundance Film Festival.

As the industry confronts horrible accounts of assault and harassment, the shunning of the accused has resulted in collateral damage for the content they produce. The landscape is so tense that many distributors plan to vet filmmakers and stars before they agree to buy their movies, numerous insiders told TheWrap.

“Everyone is being careful about who they are in business with, how it reflects on their business, and who is going to be distributing their movie on every level,” one top agent with multiple projects for sale at Sundance this year told TheWrap. This individual added that all parties will be “using every precaution to protect their downside.”

Also Read: Sundance 2018 Lineup: Lizzie Borden, Oscar Wilde, Jane Fonda and a lot of Lakeith Stanfield

“The vetting process will be better,” Keith Kjarval, producer of Michael Shannon’s new Sundance drama “What They Had,” told TheWrap. “The onus has to be on producers to the degree that they can vet and get creative afterwards on what they can do to remedy the problem.”

“I love what Ridley Scott did,” Kjarval added, referring to Scott’s replacing Kevin Spacey with Christopher Plummer in the “All the Money in the World.”

None of the individuals TheWrap contacted would speak about specific steps that sales agents or buyers would be taking to safeguard against the risk of a #MeToo disclosure — like background checks, morality clauses or other contract language attached to deals. But every one of them said a new caution is widespread in the industry.

“What everyone will be looking at more closely is the price tags and assessing risk,” one major distribution executive told TheWrap. “There have been quite a few companies who haven gotten burned.”

Also Read: 13 Hottest Sundance Movies for Sale: From Ax Murderers to Notorious ‘RBG’ (Photos)

Losses from recent scandals have been considerable. In September, distributor The Orchard bought Louis C.K.’s comedy “I Love You, Daddy” for $5 million out of the Toronto International Film Festival. The purchase came even after Roseanne Barr publicly said she’d heard many stories of inappropriate behavior exhibited by C.K. with fellow female comics.

But after the New York Times reported that five women accused the star of sexual misconduct, and C.K. admitted to the accusations, C.K. announced he would his movie back from The Orchard. (The comedian was also dropped from an overall deal at cable network FX, a planned animated series from TBS and the voice cast of “The Secret Life of Pets 2.”)

C.K. is part of a very small sect of entertainers who can afford to write a $5 million check (one dealmaker was doubtful he received the entire fee up front, but likely got a significant amount. The Orchard and a lawyer for C.K. did not return requests for comment on the matter). It would be a loss any other art-house studio would have had to absorb with a lesser-known filmmaker.

Also Read: Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Ava DuVernay, Taika Waititi Heading to 2018 Sundance Film Festival

Deep-pocketed streaming giants can afford to take a financial hit, as Amazon Studios did with Woody Allen’s “Wonder Wheel.” The Kate Winslet drama earned a paltry $1.3 million in limited release in December after the studio and the cast were criticized for working with the director, who has been accused of sexually abusing his daughter Dylan Farrow (charges that he has consistently denied).

Amazon even canceled the film’s red carpet premiere to avoid discussing the matter — one that played out against their own internal sexual harassment ordeal that resulted in the resignation of former studio president Roy Price.

Also last month, YouTube Red scrapped a $3.5 million deal for Morgan Spurlock’s sequel to his game-changing documentary “Super Size Me” after the director tweeted about an experience where he felt he had engaged in fully consensual sex and his partner hadn’t. He also admitted to paying a settlement to a woman who had accused him of sexual harassment in the workplace.

The Spurlock deal was supposed to be a litmus test for the fledgling YouTube Red: The company provided six months of exclusivity to stream the film, then was set to split all revenue from other platform releases 50-50 with Spurlock. It was never clarified who was paid, or what monies might have been returned, in the pricey transaction.

Also Read: Golden Globes: Viewers Rip Red Carpet Hosts for Not Enough #MeToo and #TIMESUP Questions

The vetting of festival filmmakers was supposed to improve after the “The Birth of a Nation” fiasco two years ago. Fox Searchlight paid a massive $17.5 million for star-director-cowriter Nate Parker’s period drama — only to see box office get torpedoed after a rape charge from his college days, of which Parker was acquitted in court, resurfaced prior to the movie’s release and planned awards campaign.

But the fear of a new round of sexual misconduct accusations isn’t the only issue roiling the indie acquisition community as it heads to Park City for the festival. “There’s a ton of speculation about what is going on with all the buyers, and not just because of the harassment issue,” another top film broker said.

“We don’t have the Weinstein Company. There’s a whole question about Fox Searchlight now that it’s [soon to be] owned by Disney, and the changing of the guard at Amazon,” the individual said.

Still, Sundance veterans are quick to put this year’s challenges into perspective. “If you look closely at the history of Sundance, the same story always emerges,” the insider said. “There are a million challenges, but then you get that special movie.”

Beatrice Verhoeven contributed to this report. 

Related stories from TheWrap:

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Ava DuVernay, Taika Waititi Heading to 2018 Sundance Film Festival

Sundance: Wes Anderson VR, Joaquin Phoenix Indie, RuPaul Retrospect Join Lineup

Sundance 2018 Lineup: Lizzie Borden, Oscar Wilde, Jane Fonda and a lot of Lakeith Stanfield

13 Hottest Sundance Movies for Sale: From Ax Murderers to Notorious ‘RBG’ (Photos)

Hollywood has been enforcing a zero-tolerance policy for creatives and executives accused of sexual misconduct, the effects of which may impact hopeful artists and agents headed to this week’s Sundance Film Festival.

As the industry confronts horrible accounts of assault and harassment, the shunning of the accused has resulted in collateral damage for the content they produce. The landscape is so tense that many distributors plan to vet filmmakers and stars before they agree to buy their movies, numerous insiders told TheWrap.

“Everyone is being careful about who they are in business with, how it reflects on their business, and who is going to be distributing their movie on every level,” one top agent with multiple projects for sale at Sundance this year told TheWrap. This individual added that all parties will be “using every precaution to protect their downside.”

“The vetting process will be better,” Keith Kjarval, producer of Michael Shannon’s new Sundance drama “What They Had,” told TheWrap. “The onus has to be on producers to the degree that they can vet and get creative afterwards on what they can do to remedy the problem.”

“I love what Ridley Scott did,” Kjarval added, referring to Scott’s replacing Kevin Spacey with Christopher Plummer in the “All the Money in the World.”

None of the individuals TheWrap contacted would speak about specific steps that sales agents or buyers would be taking to safeguard against the risk of a #MeToo disclosure — like background checks, morality clauses or other contract language attached to deals. But every one of them said a new caution is widespread in the industry.

“What everyone will be looking at more closely is the price tags and assessing risk,” one major distribution executive told TheWrap. “There have been quite a few companies who haven gotten burned.”

Losses from recent scandals have been considerable. In September, distributor The Orchard bought Louis C.K.’s comedy “I Love You, Daddy” for $5 million out of the Toronto International Film Festival. The purchase came even after Roseanne Barr publicly said she’d heard many stories of inappropriate behavior exhibited by C.K. with fellow female comics.

But after the New York Times reported that five women accused the star of sexual misconduct, and C.K. admitted to the accusations, C.K. announced he would his movie back from The Orchard. (The comedian was also dropped from an overall deal at cable network FX, a planned animated series from TBS and the voice cast of “The Secret Life of Pets 2.”)

C.K. is part of a very small sect of entertainers who can afford to write a $5 million check (one dealmaker was doubtful he received the entire fee up front, but likely got a significant amount. The Orchard and a lawyer for C.K. did not return requests for comment on the matter). It would be a loss any other art-house studio would have had to absorb with a lesser-known filmmaker.

Deep-pocketed streaming giants can afford to take a financial hit, as Amazon Studios did with Woody Allen’s “Wonder Wheel.” The Kate Winslet drama earned a paltry $1.3 million in limited release in December after the studio and the cast were criticized for working with the director, who has been accused of sexually abusing his daughter Dylan Farrow (charges that he has consistently denied).

Amazon even canceled the film’s red carpet premiere to avoid discussing the matter — one that played out against their own internal sexual harassment ordeal that resulted in the resignation of former studio president Roy Price.

Also last month, YouTube Red scrapped a $3.5 million deal for Morgan Spurlock’s sequel to his game-changing documentary “Super Size Me” after the director tweeted about an experience where he felt he had engaged in fully consensual sex and his partner hadn’t. He also admitted to paying a settlement to a woman who had accused him of sexual harassment in the workplace.

The Spurlock deal was supposed to be a litmus test for the fledgling YouTube Red: The company provided six months of exclusivity to stream the film, then was set to split all revenue from other platform releases 50-50 with Spurlock. It was never clarified who was paid, or what monies might have been returned, in the pricey transaction.

The vetting of festival filmmakers was supposed to improve after the “The Birth of a Nation” fiasco two years ago. Fox Searchlight paid a massive $17.5 million for star-director-cowriter Nate Parker’s period drama — only to see box office get torpedoed after a rape charge from his college days, of which Parker was acquitted in court, resurfaced prior to the movie’s release and planned awards campaign.

But the fear of a new round of sexual misconduct accusations isn’t the only issue roiling the indie acquisition community as it heads to Park City for the festival. “There’s a ton of speculation about what is going on with all the buyers, and not just because of the harassment issue,” another top film broker said.

“We don’t have the Weinstein Company. There’s a whole question about Fox Searchlight now that it’s [soon to be] owned by Disney, and the changing of the guard at Amazon,” the individual said.

Still, Sundance veterans are quick to put this year’s challenges into perspective. “If you look closely at the history of Sundance, the same story always emerges,” the insider said. “There are a million challenges, but then you get that special movie.”

Beatrice Verhoeven contributed to this report. 

Related stories from TheWrap:

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Ava DuVernay, Taika Waititi Heading to 2018 Sundance Film Festival

Sundance: Wes Anderson VR, Joaquin Phoenix Indie, RuPaul Retrospect Join Lineup

Sundance 2018 Lineup: Lizzie Borden, Oscar Wilde, Jane Fonda and a lot of Lakeith Stanfield

13 Hottest Sundance Movies for Sale: From Ax Murderers to Notorious 'RBG' (Photos)