What We Like About New Amazon Pilots "The Cosmopolitans" and "Hand of God"
Earlier in the week, Amazon Studios greenlit two new pilots – the half hour dramatic comedy The Cosmopolitans and one hour drama Hand of God. Here’s more on what we like about these shows.
"Whit Stillman’s unique voice, vision, and his own experiences as an expatriate lend an authenticity to the show. It’s fun, romantic, and not only a window into one of the most beautiful and romantic cities in the world, but also a peek behind the curtain at what it’s like to live there as an expatriate. The cast is also filled with colorful, diverse characters."
Hand of God
"When we first read Hand of God, the quality of the writing and edge of your seat storytelling by Ben Watkins drew us in immediately. The show’s lead, Judge Pernell Harris is a flawed man whose devotion to his dying son is so extreme that what we consider right and wrong will all to start to feel very gray. Ben’s approach to morality in Hand of God is real, raw, and edgy.”
Behind the Scenes: The Character Designs of "Spellbound"
In the world of animation design, it’s typical to go through multiple iterations of a character before landing on the right look. Every aspect of a character’s design is important - the clothes, the posture, the eyes, and even the facial expression tells you who a character is in one look.
In the early versions of new Amazon Studios test movie, Spellbound, Bastien started out as the dastardly bad guy, not to be trusted. As the story developed, so did the character - he went from being a villainous accomplice of the story’s antagonist to a rogue out for himself, to a rival for Lottie’s affections, competing against another suitor, to the guy we meet in the Spellbound test movie, who thinks he’s only in it for himself, but discovers he’s a hero inside.
What happens when a disgraced young cop is kidnapped by his civilian ride-along? Find out in this action-packed “trailerboard” for Amazon Studios movie project Gideon’s Lawby Chris Bullett. Gideon’s Law was illustrated by comics artist Ramon Bachs, and the script was adapted into trailerboard form by comics writer Ron Marz.
Amazon Studios Greenlights Two New Pilots: "The Cosmopolitans" and "Hand of God"
Amazon Studios today announced it has greenlit two new pilots—the half hour dramatic comedy The Cosmopolitans, from Whit Stillman, and one hour drama Hand of God from Executive Producers Marc Forster, Ben Watkins, Ron Perlman, Brian Wilkins and Jeff King—for its third pilot season debuting later this year on Amazon Instant Video. Customers will once again be invited to watch and provide feedback on the shows they want to see turned into full series, which will then become available on Prime Instant Video. Additional pilots joining The Cosmopolitans and Hand of God in the third pilot season will be announced in the coming weeks. More on the pilots:
The Cosmopolitans Written, directed and produced by Academy Award nominee Whit Stillman (Metropolitan, Barcelona, The Last Days of Disco), The Cosmopolitans follows a group of young American expatriates in Paris searching for love and friendship in a foreign city. The dramatic comedy pilot stars Adam Brody as “Jimmy,” Chloë Sevigny as “Vicky,” Carrie MacLemore as “Aubrey,” Dree Hemingway as “Camille,” Freddy Åsblom as “Fritz,” Shaun Evans as “Hal,” and Adriano Giannini as “Sando.” The Cosmopolitans begins shooting this week in Paris.
Hand of God Marking the television debut of renowned filmmaker Marc Forster (Monster’s Ball, Finding Neverland, World War Z) and written by Ben Watkins, Hand of God stars Golden Globe winner Ron Perlman in his first lead television role since Sons of Anarchy as “Judge Pernell Harris.” Hand of God also stars Dana Delany as the Judge’s protective wife “Crystal Harris,” Garret Dillahunt as “KD,” the born-again sociopath, whose violent tendencies are exploited by Pernell, Andre Royo as the slick, smart, gregarious, and greedy mayor “Robert ‘Bobo’ Boston,” Alona Tal as Pernell’s grieving daughter-in-law “Jocelyn Harris,” Julian Morris as the questionable preacher “Paul Dobson,” Elizabeth McLaughlin as the preacher’s sultry girlfriend “Alicia,” and Emayatzy Corinealdi as Pernell’s call girl / confidante “Tessie.” The show centers on the powerful Judge Harris, a hard-living, law-bending married man with a high-end call girl on the side, who suffers a mental breakdown, and goes on a vigilante quest to find the rapist who tore his family apart. With no real evidence to go on, Pernell begins to rely on “visions” and “messages” he believes are being sent by God through Pernell’s ventilator-bound son. Forster, Watkins, Perlman, Wilkins and King serve as Executive Producers, and Jillian Kugler as co-Executive Producer. Hand of God begins shooting this week in the Los Angeles and Long Beach areas.
Last week, Amazon Studios announced the series pickup of Gortimer Gibbon’s Life on Normal Street. This live-action children’s show was created by first-time writer David Anaxagoras, who submitted his project through the Amazon Studios’ open-door submission process.
The Detourist, a movie project on the Amazon Studios development slate, is a fun, action comedy that appeals to the entire family. It’s a thrill ride full of hilarious antics and dangerous escapades that keeps audiences on their toes and engaged throughout. Packed full of adventure, this movie has the makings of a classic and guarantees to take us on a trip of a lifetime. Watch the test movie.
The Making of "Spellbound": Q&A with Producer Kevin Bannerman
Spellbound, an animated feature film story is the latest test movie released by Amazon Studios. Test movies are videos that help an audience imagine what a story will be like as a finished film. We asked producer Kevin Bannerman (Anastasia, Ice Age) how he approached Spellbound and the evolution of the story.
How did you approach making the test movie?
The test movie allows us to see if audiences will respond to our “big picture” questions. Specifically, if the movie were to be produced as a full-animated feature, would our viewers be interested in going to a movie theater to see it?
We worked to get the script to a point where the story is clear; we are aware the story still needs further development. Character designs were created early in the process because seeing how the characters look and what their attitudes are help inspire both the screenwriters and the songwriters.
Did direction change from the start of it to the end?
The core story stayed the same but many changes are implemented over the course of development. Originally we had a competing love interest for Lottie but the scenes felt too crowded and we cut that character. The character of Werner was a late addition; Innusha needed someone to talk to so the audience would know what she was thinking.
What happens to a small Texas town after 7 local residents are killed in a bank robbery gone wrong? Find out in this suspenseful “trailerboard” for Amazon Studios project Dark Before Dawn. The movie trailer meets storyboard was illustrated by comics artist Thomas Nachlik, and the script was adapted into trailer board form by comics writer Landry Walker.
Amazon Studios Original Comedy Series "Alpha House" Will Return for a Second Season
The beloved Senators-turned-roomies will once again be shaking hands, kissing babies and bunking up. Amazon Studios today announced that the critically-acclaimed and customer-favorite Garry Trudeau political series Alpha House will return for a second season.
The After: “The great news is we get the chance to continue working with such a talented group of people,” said Chris Carter. “Amazon has been incredibly supportive in their approach to telling original stories and making great television. This is an exciting time to be a storyteller.”
What You Need to Know Before Submitting Your Children’s Series to Amazon Studios
Do you think you have what it takes to be part of Amazon’s new slate of children’s series? Amazon Studios has an open door policy for kids series and invites you to submit your project. Creators of series added to the Development Slate will get $10,000, plus another $55,000 if their show is produced into a series (with the potential for other royalties and bonuses).
Before you submit, here are the kinds of children’s submissions Amazon Studios is looking for:
Amazon Studios is looking for projects with unique yet grounded characters that drive stories in both unusual worlds/environments or offers a fresh perspective on the real world. We love distinct and varied visual design.
Series can be animated of any type or live action. We are looking for 11-minute episodes for preschool and 6 to 11 comedies, and 22 minute episodes for serialized adventures or live action shows. A children’s series proposal must include a mini-bible that describes the series in general, and its main characters. It should tell where the series is going and include 5 or 6 episode ideas.
Our Preschool (3-5) and Traditional Preschool (4-7) shows should offer educational threads which inspire lifelong learning, creativity, and playfulness with character driven stories. Check out Amazon Studios pilots, Tumbleaf and Creative Galaxy, for reference.
Kids (6-11) Shows
Our Kids (6-11) shows can range from stand-alone comedies to serialized action adventure. We love concepts which will appeal to kids and aren’t too sarcastic or catered towards tweens. We love innovative storytelling. Check out Amazon Studios pilots, Gortimer Gibbon’s Life on Normal Street and Annebots.
Charlie thought his biggest challenge was finding a job to support his family…until he stumbles upon a GPS device with the location of a priceless stolen artifact. Will Charlie’s wild Hawaiian adventure to find this treasure with his family solve all his problems?
Lottie loves magic more than anything in the world but when her best friend and eleven fellow royals are kidnapped by a vengeful and powerful sorcerous, it’s up to Lottie, a rakish bandit and a traveling salesman to rescue the princesses before the sorcerous can unlock the most powerful talisman in all the land.
See new behind the scenes photos of dramatic comedy, Mozart in the Jungle. Written by Oscar-nominated writer and director Roman Coppola (Moonrise Kingdom, The Darjeeling Limited), actor and musician Jason Schwartzman (Saving Mr. Banks, Moonrise Kingdom, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World), and Tony-nominated writer and director Alex Timbers (Peter and the Starcatcher).
Character Spotlight: The Inventors at "Maker Shack Agency"
Amazon Original kids pilot, Maker Shack Agency takes a unique look at the adventures of Wolfie, a 13-year-old inventor with grand ideas and a motto of “fail forward.” Together with his friends Merle, a tech wizard, and Jo, a girl who can build anything, they create gadgets to help fellow classmates. Wolfie, Merle and Jo use all the branches of science and personal ingenuity to solve problems with a new invention in every episode. Watch the pilot now and help decide if this show should be made into a series.
More on the characters:
“If I wasn’t creating problems for myself, then I wouldn’t have a reason to fix them.”
If you combine the brilliant scientific mind of Ben Franklin, the resourcefulness of MacGyver and the naturally charismatic leadership of Ferris Buehler, you got the Wolf (add a little Max Fisher from RUSHMORE for good measure). He’s irrepressibly confident, naturally inquisitive and believes that every problem in life has a scientific solution.
“I write the codes that make the whole world sing.”
Youngest son of famed professional football player Merle “Lights Out” Haggerty. Both his brothers are walking refrigerators and legends in the town, sure to follow in their father’s footsteps and play professional football. To keep his father happy, Merle plays on the football team, but his true passion is computer programming where he can hack into anything.
“I sold my Barbies to buy my first power drill”
She’s the daughter of the town’s used car salesman and having grown up around the mechanics at the car dealerships, if she can’t build it, it can’t be built. Underneath her welding mask is the beautiful face of a future prom queen, but she loves getting her hands dirty. She’s popular but hasn’t been able to fully express herself and all her talents.
The Art of Storytelling– Jill Soloway gets “Transparent” for Amazon Studios
Prior to the release of her Amazon Original pilot, Transparent, we asked creator Jill Soloway a few questions on the art of storytelling, her inspirations and the future of her new show. Read the article below.
Writer/Director/Producer Jill Soloway has always considered herself a “storyteller first and a filmmaker by necessity”. As a child, she and her sister created and performed plays for anyone that they could get to watch. This evolved into a drive to write and direct films and TV and to tell longer and better kinds of stories. Her career has been a successful one, serving as a writer and producer for series such as United States of Tara and Six Feet Under - for which she was nominated for 3 primetime Emmy Awards and a WGA award. She also took home the Best Director prize at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival for her feature film Afternoon Delight which she both wrote and directed.
Jill’s latest project is Transparent, an original comedy pilot greenlit by Amazon Studios about an L.A. family with serious boundary issues. Their past and future begins to unravel when a dramatic admission causes everyone’s secrets to spill out.
We spoke to Jill about her inspirations, her approach to her multiple job titles and her expectations for Transparent.
Character Spotlight: Miss Hudspith from "Gortimer Gibbon’s Life on Normal Street"
Emmy-award winning actress Fionnula Flanagan (The Others, Lost) guest stars as Miss Hudspith, Gortimer Gibbon’s glamorous, headstrong neighbor who mysteriously lost her sight decades ago. After a chance encounter with Gortimer at the local convenience store, she enlists his help for an unusual household project — one that could unlock the mystery behind Miss Hudspith’s haunted past…and Normal Street’s sweltering present.
Amazon Pilot Spotlight: "The Jo B. and G. Raff Show" from Josh Selig
The Jo B. & G. Raff Show is an animated series created by multiple Emmy Award-winning writer and producer Josh Selig (The Wonder Pets). Created specifically to help teach preschoolers the importance of resolving conflict in constructive ways, The Jo B. & G. Raff Show follows two best friends, Jo B. and G. Raff, who are hosts of their very own TV show. Each day, just as their show is about to start, Jo B. realizes G. Raff has gone somewhere new and exciting and needs to go find him. Jo B. travels to get G. Raff, but G. Raff always wants to stay and explore. The two friends reach a compromise by the end of the show.
Written by Jeremy Garelick and Jon Weinbach, sports comedy The Rebelsfollows Julie Levine (Natalie Zea) after her husband suddenly dies and leaves her as the sole owner of a pro football team. The Rebels creative team also includes executive producer, Matt Alvarez (Ride Along), musician and actor Ice Cube and Michael Strahan, former football player for the New York Giants and host of Live with Kelly and Michael.
Written by Angela Santomero, creator of Blue’s Clues, Creative Galaxy, and the Emmy-nominated literacy series, Super Why!, Wishenpoof! is an animated pilot that revolves around Bianca, who has “wish magic” which means if she wishes to play under the sea then— Wishenpoof! — she’s a mermaid, swimming around with the sea horses. Bianca uses her wish magic to help others and learns to solve life’s problems in her own creative way because with magic, or without, we all have the power to make good choices. This is Santomero’s second Amazon Studios pilot. Santomero’s first pilot, Creative Galaxy, is currently in production and scheduled to be available on Prime Instant Video in 2014.
Go behind the scenes of the making of Amazon Original pilot, Bosch. Watch 3 new clips as creator and author Michael Connelly walks through the set of the Hollywood Station and Bone Lab and talks working with Scott Wilson (The Walking Dead).
I saw Spike Jones’ Her last night and I’ve been thinking about how virtual versions of things measure up to their physical world counterparts. A writer only has a few tools and most of them are a computer. The remaining ones; the backs of receipts, pages of chicken scratch, conversations with friends… are usually as much a hindrance to the process as they are helpful.
As Amazon continues to roll out tools that simplify a (perhaps unneeded) complex process, their intention becomes clearer. Innovation. Amazon simply removes the writer’s tools’ vestiges, which in this case, happen to be the trappings of the physical world. An infinitely long and maneuverable corkboard! A drawer that never gets cluttered with junk mail! Virtual adhesives that never lose their stickiness! This is what I think the jump to the virtual world is about…getting to the root of what makes certain things useful, or joyful, or cringe worthy, and figuring out the ways that humans can connect with them. Whether it’s a sexy OS or a scriptwriting program, the point is the same. Can the physical world be improved upon? Should it be?
Maker Shack Agency takes a unique look at the “maker” movement through the adventures of Wolfie, a 13-year-old inventor with a grand idea and a motto of “fail forward.” Together with his friends Merle, a tech wizard, and Jo, a girl who can build anything, they create gadgets to help fellow classmates. Wolfie, Merle and Jo use all the branches of science and personal ingenuity to solve problems and kids can look forward to a new invention in every episode. Created in conjunction with the think tank Applied Minds and the production company Electus, the pilot was written by Arland DiGirolamo (Sketchy), Geoff Barbanell (Kickin’ It) and directed by Alex Winter (Ben 10, Downloaded) and features original music from Dr. Dog.
I had quit screenwriting in spring of 2012, just around the time when Amazon Studios opened up to TV pilot submissions. I had written many feature film screenplays (and gotten nowhere) but I had never attempted a TV pilot. So I figured I would have just one more go.
And I had just one idea.
I wrote “Gortimer” for an audience of one — me. I knew it was different from the current crop of standard corporate “kidcoms” and thus no one would buy it. I wrote it anyway. I wrote it because I wanted to see something with a sense of adventure where ordinary kids ventured into extraordinary circumstances with courage and friendship — without a laugh track.
I sent “Gortimer” to Amazon Studios through their open submission process. I had no expectations about the outcome and set to work outlining a novel. Four weeks later, Amazon Studios made the call I had waited for my entire writing career. They wanted to option “Gortimer”.
I was stunned. It’s one thing to have a vision, but another thing entirely for there to be people to receive that vision, to understand it and champion it. That’s really what has made all the difference — Amazon Studios didn’t just option my pilot, they were and remain huge fans.
After a year of careful development, “Gortimer” was given the greenlight for production. This was a strange new experience for me. For ten years, screenplays were written, made a short trip out into the world, and were then retired — placed in the metaphorical trunk. Going into production was like being invited to the cool-kids party when you had only planned to stay home that night and brush the mats out of your cat’s fur. Getting the greenlight was certainly cause to celebrate. Nobody grudgingly greenlights a pilot. There has to be a lot of energy, support and enthusiasm for it to even have a chance. It really does feel as good as you might imagine.
Not that it isn’t effort. There are many moving parts to a production, and they all have to work together. When you think about it, it just seems improbable that anything could be committed to film. It’s really a miracle that any movie or TV show gets made.
Guest Blog: Author Michael Connelly on Bringing Harry Bosch to the Screen
Neal Thompson is Senior Editor at Amazon Books. He is also a journalist & author, amateur photographer/videographer, and compulsive reader-writer. Neal interviewed Michael Connelly, creator of Bosch, a new Amazon Original Pilot.
In 1992, a seasoned crime reporter named Michael Connelly published his first novel, the story of a body in a drainpipe, a bank robbery, and police corruption, based partly on a true crime that had occurred in LA. Featuring Hieronymous “Harry” Bosch, a Vietnam vet turned LAPD detective, The Black Echo won the Edgar Award for Best First Novel, established Connelly as a new voice in the mystery/thriller world and Bosch as one of the more complex characters in modern crime fiction.
Now, more than a dozen novels later, Bosch is coming to the little screen. Amazon Studios has produced the first episode in a hoped-for series entitled Bosch, co-written by Connelly and with Titus Welliver (who has also appeared in Argo and The Good Wife) as Connelly’s maverick detective. In the pilot, Bosch investigates the murder of a 13-year-old boy while facing accusations that he, too, is a murderer.
The pilot episode is available for free to watch on Amazon Instant Video. (More Amazon Studios pilots are available for viewing at AmazonOriginals.com; Amazon solicits votes from viewers to determine which pilots will become a series.) Bosch is already finding an audience: the pilot has received more than 3,000 five-star ratings.
Recently, we spoke with Connelly by email to find out how it feels to see Bosch brought to life.
You’ve been down this road before, with The Lincoln Lawyer. But Bosch is your man, your best-known character. Any parental concerns about setting him loose onto the screen?
There were many concerns initially. My process in the past was to do due diligence on the producers interested in my stuff and then hand it off to the people I thought most likely to be loyal to it. That worked very well with The Lincoln Lawyer. But with Bosch I had a twenty-year investment of creativity and he is really the character I am all about as an author. So when it came to making a deal my terms were pretty simple and unalterable: If you want Bosch you have to take me, too, and I am going in to safeguard how this character will be presented and I am going to have a say in every decision I want to have a say in. I got lucky and found a partner who said that’s a deal, we want you to have a say.
In new Amazon Kids Pilot Hardboiled Eggheads, Miles Van Vleep and Kelvin Quark are brilliant scientists…who happen to be in the fifth grade. With the help of their feisty friend Pilar, our two no-nonsense brainiacs use their smarts and their gadgetry to defend their school, their city, and occasionally the world from science run amok —often perpetrated by their arch-nemesis, the diabolical but hilarious Professor Zam. Created by Emmy Award-winner Duane Capizzi (Transformers Prime, Jackie Chan Adventures, Men in Black: The Series).
“It is thrilling to see Gortimer Gibbon’s Life on Normal Street come to fruition and to have the pilot directed by Oscar winning director Luke Matheny,” said creator David Anaxagoras. “As a creator that broke into the industry thanks to the Amazon Studios open door process, it’s been a very positive experience working with Amazon and their excellent creative teams.”
“We can’t wait to share The After with audiences all over the world via Amazon.com. It’s an exciting time to be making TV—and this is an exciting place to be doing it,” said Chris Carter, creator of The After.