Amazon Studios Rejected My Screenplay. Here’s what I learned.
I’ve been writing intensely for the last five years. For real, I immersed myself almost completely into this amazing art.
Following orders from the wisest writers on the planet, I do my daily dose of writing every day of my life. So far, I authored not one or two, but four novels of four different genres. That’s almost a book per year. Unfortunately, I can’t list them here, they are all unpublished yet. Not because they’re bad. One of them, a multi-generational techno-thriller, almost get published in Europe.
It happens that I tend to procrastinate a lot in this area. Or it was because I didn’t try hard enough to get known? Also, I believed that in the end my books weren’t ready to see the light of day. Or maybe I wasn’t ready for the attention? Who knows?
However, despite this situation, my skills as a writer got me a bit of recognition in other scenarios. For example: I used to ghostwrite a couple articles for some publications and advice my friends and classmates on their academic writings. I thought my dedication was about to pay off when last summer I decided to write my first screenplay. By this time, I was finishing up my third book, a young-adult novel about a new biological era.
So, what happened?
I was rejected like many other writers. I didn’t knew it back then, but, from the beginning, it was supposed to fail. Why? Because I was naive and I was doing it for the wrong reasons, which is the worst. My plan was to make an original love story that absolutely anyone could relate to, based on old random conversations I had with strangers from all over the world back in 2009. This is only one of the dozens of mistakes I made while devoting myself to this oeuvre.
It wasn’t really a surprise since this was my first time doing something like that and I got advice from sources that later on I discovered were unreliable. And I still felt bad.
Anyway, after eight weeks of hard work, I completed the first draft. I did my homework and prepped my screenplay following Hollywood’s standards. Then I submitted it to Amazon Studios.
I waited 45 days because that’s how it works. You have to wait all those days to get a yes or no. If the project is chosen to enter the development phase, the writer (me, in this case) wins 10,000 dollars, and if it gets a full movie order, the writer receives 200,000 bucks.
Obviously, I didn’t get neither of those prizes. Instead, I got a ‘no’.
I could continue this article complaining about Amazon Studios’ approach of not giving you the reasons or any feedback about why they passed on your work. And, yeah, I know I can make it public and receive commentary from other screenwriters on the platform and begin another conversation. But I prefer to continue in a different way. Now, I’m going to share with you what I did with my screenplay.
I turned it into a novel
I didn’t have much choice and I like it. While restarting, I ignored more or less why it sucked. Later on, when I was more critic with my own work, I found that it had some embarrassing parts, and some inconceivable ones. Maybe eight weeks weren’t enough for me to pull off a worthy screenplay. But, not matter what, I didn’t want to accept that that outcome was final for my screenplay. So I transformed it onto something I was more familiar with.
My embarrassing screenplay became my potential fourth novel.
It might seem odd at first, however, a screenplay it’s also an excellent template to start or expand a more complex story. That’s why companion novels to feature films often get made. It already has a beginning, a middle and an end.
Correcting the madness
To fix my screenplay, I deleted all the unnatural craziness, deepened the characters backgrounds and gave to each of them a more compelling arc. In film form, a lot of details very often got under the radar. With a novel, you have the opportunity to get to the bottom and make it explicit. In other words, when I was writing my screenplay I cut parts, when I was converting it in a novel, I was adding parts (…and also cutting the crap).
Also, I changed the omniscient narrator point of view to a first person one, so all of the four main characters would get their chance to express his or her version of the events properly. I considered it was best for the story because the characters change at their own pace even when they are having the same bad experience. This time, it would be more interesting to see through four pairs of eyes instead of two.
I did a lot of other adjustments. These were some of the most significant ones.
You decide where your work really ends…
When I received the negative response from Amazon Studios, I could just select my screenplay and trash it. After all, it was rejected by a movie studio! ‘There’s no way in the world it would be good’, one might usually conclude. Wrong.
I didn’t get what I wanted on day one, but got something to start anew. Recently, I completed the first draft of this new novel. I pretend to publish it this Spring.
If you believe your ‘failed’ work still has potential, it may require a few more tries to get it right. Go ahead, do it again, maybe the timing wasn’t the best for you or the project, adjust it, turn it into something new and discover what it really is. It doesn’t matter if a big company or even a movie studio rejects it. I know it didn’t mattered to me.
I want to end this piece by saying that I don’t hate Amazon Studios (or Dribbble, ha!). I think it’s an excellent platform to start up on screenwriting or to discover other screenwriters’ work. And I’m sure that I will write another (better) screenplay later on.
P.S.: If you have any questions, don’t hesitate and throw me a line! I said before that I use to talk with strangers from all over the world.