Cover of "Zombieland"

Cover of Zombieland

In an interesting twist on the traditional pilot television show formula, Amazon Studios has bought 13 pilots for its Prime Instant Video collection and viewer feedback will determine which of the free pilots will be made into full season productions.  Seven comedy shows and six children’s pilots will be shown on the Amazon Instant Video and LOVEFiLM UK site where viewers can watch for free and thereafter review the shows on the site.  Cult classic film “Zombieland” starring Jesse Eisenberg and Emma Stone will receive its own pilot and be a part of one of the seven comedic offerings, although that particular pilot will not cast the original actors from the movie.

An article on yesterday’s MIT Technology Review discussing this new move by Amazon asked the questions of “what happens when viewers become the gatekeepers for entertainment and when pandering to an audience and its dollars governs creative decision-making?”  It then aptly answered this question by arguing that creative types including Martin Scorcese have always had to make concessions “to commerce in order to get their passion projects off the ground.”

It seems to us that this really doesn’t change creativity all that much as pilots back in the days of yesteryear were viewed by network and studio executives and oftentimes test audiences.  If feedback was positive, four to eight episodes were typically greenlighted to be made.   It may be cheaper to do surveying of the pilots online, but if feedback is positive approximately 13 episodes will be bought-certainly more expensive than shooting four to eight episodes.  When looking at it from that vantage point, we don’t necessarily see it as chilling the creative process to the point where finances trumps artistic integrity.

Quite simply, creatives in the television industry have always had to be mindful of the business end of things.  That’s why it’s called show business.  We don’t see how this new Amazon development changes things all that much.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic.  Until then, enjoy whatever you view.


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