Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Studio or Scam? - the Amazon Debate

As an educator and working filmmaker, I tend to look at film contests with a double edge sword; both as a potential opportunity for advancement or scandal. Too often, these contests have clauses that state if the sponsor comes out with a similar idea to your submission then you have to sign away your right to sue. Artist's source of income stem from the creation of ideas and executing those ideas for a specific purpose. The consequence of some contests are cutting the artist out of their rights to intellectual property. In essence, stealing ideas.
There are two sides to this debate. Supporters of such contests believe that this approach benefits artists by giving them goals and access to publicity, funds, and support that would otherwise be difficult at best to maintain on their own.
Any artist can agree that maintaining a career as a artist is an exercise in persistence and humility. Yes, we need all the help we can get to get a functioning career kickstarted. However, the question I post to you: Are your ideas are worth giving away in order to get access to an opportunity? This is not an easy question.
This line of thought was sparked by a link posted on the "Studio of the Future" post from two weeks ago. This link is an article posted by the National Film Festival for Talented Youth. The director, Jessie Harris, spelled out his thoughts of caution. His opinion is this:
Basically the goal of Amazon studios is to take original ideas from inexperienced filmmakers and pay them very little or nothing for their work, all while creating an interesting social experiment for their users and a fake PR stunt that Amazon is revolutionizing Hollywood and supporting the next generation of filmmakers.
He goes into the details of the Amazon contract to support this opinion. Click HERE to read the full article.
Here are a few links that are posted by artists against this method of soliciting materials:
Motionographer Response to Sesame Street Contest
VFX Soldier Post on Unpaid Internships
Personally, I believe an opinion stems from the purpose of the contest. There are many non-profit, union based organizations (WGA, DGA, WFNYC) that support filmmakers by supplying financial support for creating and distributing films. These organizations do not profit from ideas. Their goal is to judge work based on their reputations as pillars of their artistic communities.
The fine print is what defines the deal as good or bad. Best advice: read all terms of contract before submitting to anything! Including film festivals Make sure you know your rights as an artist/creator.  
The ultimate question to all of you: Do you support or disagree with the idea of contests? Let me know what you think. - Eve.

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