Report: Amazon Studios Stagnates Amid Clashes With Hollywood

Amazon Studios is struggling to establish itself as a major producer and distributor of movies and series that its parent is hoping it will eventually become, The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this month, detailing a number of issues that are currently troubling the filmmaking unit of the Seattle, Washington-based tech giant. Amazon Studios comedy and drama programming chief Joe Lewis and the division's top official Roy Price have both allegedly clashed with high-profile filmmakers before and during previous shootings, having subsequently proved to be unwilling to resolve their differences with big Hollywood names, sources close to the company said, adding that conflicts are a common occurrence in the industry and not something that often results in major movie or programming deals falling through.

Following the latest iteration of Primetime Emmy Awards which ended without Amazon winning in a single category, Mr. Lewis reportedly held a meeting with the staff and vowed that he'll do everything in his power to overcome the current challenges and allow Amazon Studios to fulfill its potential. The video entertainment division of the firm is now said to be in a process of revamping its general content strategy and reducing its focus on content aimed at children while simultaneously committing more resources to programming targeting at a wider demographic, people familiar with the company's efforts say, adding that the division as a whole still lacks a firm direction that may hurt its ambitions to become an acknowledged video producer in the future.

Amazon Studios was established in 2010 and started aggressively pursuing original content projects three years later, with the company then saying that it will finance programming based on data instead of decisions from individual executives, essentially adopting an approach that's the polar opposite of how Hollywood usually greenlights scripts. Four years later, Amazon is said to have largely abandoned that approach following numerous disputes with renowned filmmakers and the fact that its results didn't amount to much, at least in the sense that none of its content is nearly as popular as top shows from companies like HBO and Netflix despite also spending billions of dollars on original programming. While not all creative talent from Hollywood that worked with Amazon is critical of its entertainment division, some high-profile individuals like Shawn Ryan (The Shield) and David E. Kelley (Ally McBeal) are, with many of them suggesting that the firm provides a somewhat chaotic working environment and meddles with creative direction to a large degree compared to traditional productions.

Allegations of veiled nepotism at Amazon Studios have also been circulating the industry in recent times, with Mr. Lewis supposedly getting his girlfriend Yara Martinez cast for The Tick pilot, then later supposedly lobbying for her character to be included in more episodes. Mr. Price was also said to be suggesting that some executives that report to him buy a script from his fiancee Lila Feinberg last year. Ms. Feinberg's screenplay for a show called "12 Parties" was later declined after the company's legal department concluded that accepting it would be a conflict of interests, with recent reports suggesting that the two main characters in the series were extremely similar to Mr. Price and Ms. Feinberg. Even if Amazon Studios chief didn't aggressively push for the script to be purchased, cases like these don't help the atmosphere at the firm, sources claim.

It's presently unclear whether the company's recent clashes with Hollywood heavyweights irreparably damaged their relations, though not all talent in the industry dislikes its experiences with Amazon Studios. Ben Edlund who worked on The Tick and Kate Robin whose One Mississippi was also financed by the Sancta Monica, California-based entertainment firm have both publicly supported its practices in the past and suggested they'd be open to more similar collaborations going forward. Likewise, Amazon still has some reasons for optimism, with the company previously securing deals for award-winning projects like Manchester By The Sea and Transparent, though it remains to be seen whether it manages to build on their momentum and do a better job of making its entertainment unit compatible with the Hollywood elite and renowned filmmakers whom it presently needs more than they need its funding that they're still capable of getting from other places. Ultimately, while Amazon already has some critically acclaimed successes in its portfolio, the production house's search for a global commercial hit continues.

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Dominik Bosnjak

Senior Writer
Dominik started at AndroidHeadlines in 2016. He’s approaching his first full decade in the media industry, with his background being primarily in technology, gaming, and entertainment. These days, his focus is more on the political side of the tech game, as well as data privacy issues, with him looking at both of those through the prism of Android. Contact him at [email protected]