Amazon Co-Head of Movies Ted Hope Returning to Production

Ted Hope, co-head of movies at Amazon Studios, is reportedly transitioning back into content production after five years with the e-commerce giant. Hope, who began as head of Amazon Original Movies, leaves his position June 2 and will begin a first-look production deal with Amazon Studios, studio boss Jennifer Salke disclosed in a memo to staff.

Ted Hope

“Ted approached me earlier this year and expressed his feelings about taking on a new challenge,” Salke wrote. “Over the course of several months and many conversations I came to realize Ted is a producer through and through and that now is the right time for both him and the studio to make a change.”

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During his tenure, Hope was responsible for spearheading Amazon’s forays into feature films, including The Big Sick and Oscar winner Manchester By the Sea, among others. He was instrumental in Amazon greenlighting Spike Lee’s Chi-Raq, and Cafe Society and Wonder Wheel from Woody Allen.

More recent theatrical forays included Late Night, Brittany Runs a Marathon, Honey Boy, The Aeronauts and Troop Zero.

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Amazon Studios’ other co-heads, Julia Rapaport and Matt Newman, will assume control of movie production, with senior executive Scott Foundas and Christian Davin, head of marketing, continuing in their positions — and all reporting to Salke.

Amazon Studios Greenlights ‘Jack Reacher’ Series

Amazon Studios has ordered “Jack Reacher,” a series based on the character from Lee Child’s bestselling books.

Produced by Amazon Studios, Skydance Television and Paramount Television Studios, the series will be written and executive produced by Nick Santora.

The first season will be based on the first novel The Killing Floor.

Paramount Pictures previously produced two feature films starring Tom Cruise as Jack Reacher.

“Lee Child has created an incredible character and world; it will be the goal of every writer, producer, actor, executive and crew member to capture the essence of Mr. Child’s books — and luckily Lee has been there, and will continue to be there, to help guide us along the way in this series. He is the pulse of Reacher,” said Santora in a statement.

“It’s been great so far, but really, the fun starts here. By now I know these guys, and Reacher is in the perfect hands, believe me,” said Child in a statement.

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“Lee Child’s Jack Reacher books series is a global phenomenon with one of entertainment’s most well-known heroes, and a perfect fit for Amazon Studios’ slate of bold, character-driven series,” said Jennifer Salke, head of Amazon Studios, in a statemtn. “We look forward to expanding the of the Jack Reacher universe and bringing more thrilling action to our Amazon Prime Video audience.”

In addition to Santora, the series will be executive produced by Child, Don Granger, Scott Sullivan and Christopher McQuarrie, with David Ellison, Dana Goldberg and Marcy Ross executive producing for Skydance. Carolyn Harris oversees the series for Skydance.

Amazon Greenlights Nick Jonas, Pryanka Chopra Reality Wedding Series

Amazon Studios has greenlighted an untitled reality series from Nick Jonas and Pryanka Chopra, based in part on their 2018 wedding in India. The series will focus on the sangeet, a pre-wedding tradition in India.

According to a press release, Jonas, who will replace Gwen Stefani on the next season of “The Voice,” and Chopra are casting couples planning to have a sangeet in their wedding.

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“We want to share this amazing experience with couples set to be wed,” Chopra wrote in a tweet. “So … if you’re engaged to be married in the spring or summer next year (2020), we want to be part of the celebration and help you make it even more spectacular … Visit the link in bio, and we’ll have you dancing before you walk down the aisle!”

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Casting for the series is currently underway and filming will take place in 2020 with participants driving the creative vision for their respective ceremonies. The series is produced by Amazon Studios, Dan Cutforth and Jane Lipsitz’s Alfred Street Industries, Chopra Jonas’ Purple Pebble Pictures and Jonas’ Image 32.

“The sangeet is such a beautiful tradition and we’re excited to partner with Priyanka and Nick to honor it through this series and find couples from all different backgrounds that are excited to bring their families together through the universal language of song and dance,” Jennifer Salke, head of Amazon Studios, said in a statement.

Studio Wars: Comcast’s Sky Building New U.K. Production Facility

In the burgeoning over-the-top video streaming world, original content production has become a prerequisite to lure consumers. And the physical space to create movies and TV shows in the United Kingdom is now a new cottage industry.

Comcast-owned satellite TV operator Sky has announced plans to build a Hollywood-style studio on 32 acres north of London it claims would employ 2,000 people and help it better compete against Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Disney+.

Dubbed Sky Studios Elstree, the facility would emerge as the European production base for Sky Studios and NBC Universal — corporate parent to Universal Pictures.

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“This was an opportunity to build something brand new, state of the art and at scale,” Gary Davey, CEO of Sky Studios, said in a statement. “It is a big enough site to attract very high-end production in both TV and film from all over the world. We are going to fill this thing with projects of all kinds. It means a huge number of new jobs and new investment.”

Sky Studios has created several hits, including miniseries “Chernobyl” and “Patrick Melrose” for HBO, and the pending “The Third Day,” a six-part drama starring Jude Law co-produced by the WarnerMedia subsidiary.

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Sky has said it plans to double spending on original content, reaching £1 billion ($1.3 billion) annually over the next five years.

Netflix earlier this year inked a long-term lease with Shepperton Studios to better produce original content across the studios’ 14 sound stages.

Disney then upped the ante, announcing it would lease legendary Pinewood Studios in Buckinghamshire, U.K. — production home to many James Bond movies.

“It’s wonderful to have Disney here at Pinewood. They’ve been making great films with us for many years and the fact they want to shoot so many more here is testimony not only to the quality of the teams and infrastructure at Pinewood, but also to the British film industry as a whole,” the studio said in a statement.

 

HBO Streaming Aspiring Directorial Pilots

Taking an earlier page from Amazon Studios, HBO has begun streaming directorial shorts from aspiring directors on its SVOD platform HBO Now and TVOD service HBO Go.

HBO Access Directing Fellowship selects three-to-four fellows to participate in a biennial program designed to foster diverse directing talent. The program includes a series of master classes, which lead into the production of pilots.

Delivered by industry professionals both internal and external to HBO, the classes cover a variety of subjects including creative topics such as story and character, as well as the technical aspects of production and post.

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Upon completion of the course, the fellows are given a budget and crew to direct a short presentation allowing them full immersion in a true industry production.

HBO said it would continue to support the directors by screening the films for the entertainment community and offering shadowing opportunities on HBO series.

Pilots include:

HALFWAY | Run Time: 16:21
Written & Created by Katherine Craft
Directed by Carey Williams

Recently released from prison, Krystal must navigate the new rules and strong personalities of her local Christian halfway house if she has any hope of regaining custody of her estranged daughter.

 

 

UNIMUNDO 45 | Run Time: 13:38
Written & Created by Claudia Forestieri
Directed by Thembi Banks

When her parents threaten to self-deport, a jaded Latina news producer sheds her cynicism and becomes an activist — on live TV.

 

 

 

 

 

 

STERLING | Run Time: 20:12
Written & Created by Bryce Ahart & Stephanie McFarlane
Directed by Ryan Zaragoza

A small West Texas town struggles to pick up the pieces after a devastating mass shooting at their local high school.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Director bios:

Carey Williams — Recently hailed by Filmmaker Magazine as one of the 25 New Faces of Independent Film, Williams is currently in pre-production on his first feature, R#J, with Timur Bekmambetov, a participant in the NBC Emerging Directors Program and has set up the feature version of his award-winning short film, “Emergency.”

Thembi Banks — Born in Harlem New York, Banks is an award-winning writer/director who received her MFA from USC’s Film & TV Production program. Banks was a 2017 directing fellow at Film Independent’s Project Involve, she was also a 2018 HBO Access Directing Fellow, a 2019 Ryan Murphy Half Initiative Directing Fellow and a participant in Powder Keg’s inaugural female directing program, created by Paul Feig.

She will be making her feature film directorial debut with Young. Wild. Free written by Juel Taylor in 2020 and is currently writing a feature for Universal Studios with Malcolm D. Lee attached to produce and direct. Her most recent television directing credit is on Issa Rae’s show “Insecure.”

Ryan Zaragoza — Zaragoza is a writer/director originally from El Paso, Texas. He’s an alumni of Ryan Murphy’s HALF Initiative, WBTV Director’s Program, and HBO Access, where he directed Sterling, which premiered at SXSW. Zaragoza is currently directing an episode of “All American” season 2, and is slated to direct an episode of “Animal Kingdom” in early 2020.

Writer bios:

Claudia Forestieri is a bilingual, biracial TV writer of Dominican-Italian descent who was born in Puerto Rico and raised in Miami. Her storytelling career began in the world of news where she served as a reporter and producer for Telemundo stations in Miami, San Francisco, Chicago, and Los Angeles.

She broke into TV writing in 2017 and has since staffed on Freeform’s “Good Trouble” and Netflix’s “Selena: The Series.”

Katherine Craft is a playwright, screenwriter, and Texas native. She’s the creator of “Kappa Crypto,” a Snap Original series, currently streaming on Snapchat. She’s also the founder of Conspire Theatre, a prison theater program that worked with women during and post-incarceration. Her short films have played in the Tribeca Film Festival, PBS Online Film Festival, and the LA Asian Pacific American Film Festival, among others.

Bryce Ahart and Stephanie McFarlane are both alums of NYU Tisch School of the Arts, where they each graduated Cum Laude from the Dramatic Writing Department. After completing the 2017–2018 HBO Access Writer’s Fellowship, they went on to staff on The CW’s “Legacies.” Most recently, their pilot, “Sterling,” premiered at SXSW and is currently continuing the festival circuit.

Amazon Ups Q3 Online Store Sales 21%

Amazon Oct. 24 announced third-quarter (ended Sept. 30) online store revenue of $35 billion, which was 21% higher than $29 billion in revenue in the previous-year period.

Online stores include product sales and digital media content available in both a physical (DVD and Blu-ray Disc) and digital format, such as books, music, videos, games and software sold on a transactional basis.

Subscription services revenue, which includes annual and monthly fees associated with Prime memberships, as well as audiobook, digital movies, e-book, digital music and other non-AWS subscription services, increased 34% to $4.95 billion compared to $3.69 billion last year.

Other Q3 highlights featured a new line up of Echo personal speakers; 20 new Fire TV products, including the first Fire TV Edition soundbar; the all-new Fire TV Cube, the fastest and most powerful Fire TV ever; the first OLED Fire TV Edition smart TV; and the first Fire TV Edition smart TV with far-field Alexa voice control.

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Fire TV announced more than 37 million active users worldwide and continues to be the No. 1 selling family of streaming media players in the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, Japan and India.

The e-commerce behemoth introduced the all-new eero mesh WiFi system, which offers simple, reliable WiFi for streaming, gaming, and working from home — all for $99. The mesh WiFi system replaces your existing router and extends WiFi coverage seamlessly throughout your home, according to Amazon. In addition, eero is expanding to Europe — customers in France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom will be able to try the eero and eero Pro in early November.

Prime Video won 15 Emmy awards, with “Fleabag” receiving four, including Outstanding Comedy Series, as well as Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series and Outstanding Writing in a Comedy Series for Phoebe Waller-Bridge.

Prime Video premiered four new Amazon Original series: “The Boys,” “Carnival Row,” “Undone” and “Modern Love.” In addition, Prime Video will see the return of “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan,” starring John Krasinski, on Nov. 1; “The Man in the High Castle,” from author Philip K. Dick, on Nov. 15; “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” recent winner of eight Emmy awards, on Dec. 6; and the relaunch of series “The Expanse,” with an all-new season four, on Dec. 13.

Prime Video launched its third season of “NFL Thursday Night Football” with new features, such as Next Gen Stats on X-Ray, which gives fans access to deeper analytics and allows football fans all over the globe to customize their Thursday Night Football streaming experience.

Prime Video continues to create local Original Series around the world, including “All or Nothing: Brazil National Football Team” and “Soltos em Floripa” in Brazil; “El Juego de las Llaves” and “Derbez Family Vacation” in Mexico; “LOL: Last One Laughing” in Australia; “Truth Seekers” in the United Kingdom; “Inside Borussia Dortmund” in Germany; “El Corazón de Sergio Ramos” in Spain; “The Family Man” in India; and season three of “The Bachelor” in Japan.

Amazon Studios Partners with Howard University to Promote Racial Diversity in Hollywood

Amazon Studios and Howard University Oct. 10 announced a partnership designed to diversify the entertainment industry by creating a pipeline for African-American students and other marginalized groups to train and study alongside Hollywood executives.

The Howard Entertainment program is an immersive two semester class located in Los Angeles that offers Washington, D.C.-based Howard University students the opportunity to take academic courses during the spring semester and participate in a fellowship imbedded in the entertainment industry during the summer semester.

The coursework will be applied toward the student’s graduation requirements and the fellowship provides hands-on experience and an opportunity to make networking connections.

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The experience will offer students an interdisciplinary curriculum curated with Amazon’s industry partners. The program will begin in January 2020.

“Collaborating with Amazon Studios will enable us to marry academia and industry efforts to build a robust workforce of diverse entertainment industry leaders,” Howard president A. I. Frederick said in a statement.

Jennifer Salke, head of Amazon Studios, said the program underscores the studio’s commitment to create “new pathways into the industry” for talented students of all backgrounds.

“As we strive to delight our Prime Video customers, we’re ensuring there are diverse perspectives and experiences around the table to help us make the best decisions in all aspects of the business,” Salke said.

To qualify, students must be enrolled at Howard University, must be an upperclassman or graduate student and will have to complete an application and interview to be considered for the program.

Students will be taught by Howard faculty who will be supported by Amazon Studios employees and other industry professionals invited by Amazon.

“This program is all about … increasing and preparing the next generation of African American, Latinx and Native American storytellers, casts, crew, and executives working on these projects,” added Latasha Gillespie, Amazon Studio’s global head of diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Students who wish to apply for admission into the program can contact HowardEntertainment@howard.edu.

‘Fleabag’ Star, Creator Inks Amazon Studios Production Deal

Fresh off its surprise six Emmy wins, episodic series “Fleabag” creator and star Phoebe Waller-Bridge has signed a production deal with Amazon Studios.

Waller-Bridge’s breakout hit won Outstanding Comedy Series, with the actress also picking up Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series, and Outstanding Writing in a Comedy Series as well.

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“As evident in her great success at the Emmy Awards this week, [Waller-Bridge] is clever, brilliant, generous and a virtuoso on multiple fronts, including writing, acting and producing,” Jennifer Salke, head of Amazon Studios, said in a statement.

Waller-Bridge is no newcomer to industry accolades. She was the writer and showrunner of the first season of BBC America’s award-winning (BAFTA, Peabody) series “Killing Eve,” starring Sandra Oh.

The show also earned Waller-Bridge — a graduate of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts — Emmy and Golden Globe nominations for writing. Oh won a Golden Globe for her performance in the series.

Notably, Waller-Bridge appeared as a droid in Ron Howard’s Solo: A Star Wars Story.

She has also joined the writing team for the 25th James Bond film, No Time to Die, starring Daniel Craig and directed by Cary Fukunaga (“True Detective”).

 

DEG Announces Board for 2019-20

DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group on Aug. 9 announced its incoming board of directors at the start of its 23rd year as one of the home entertainment industry’s leading trade associations.

DEG’s voting member companies elected the new board to serve for the 2019-20 fiscal year (Aug. 1 – July 31). New board members include Pedro Gutierrez of Microsoft Corp., Cheryl Goodman of Sony Electronics and Erol Kalafat of Amazon Studios.

Amazon Studios is a new member company represented on the
DEG board for the first time.

The DEG also has added two additional companies to its membership: Row8, a transactional digital movie service that allows viewers to stop a movie they don’t like and choose a new one at no additional charge, and Snap Inc., parent company of social networking app Snapchat.

The Officers of the DEG board were elected to a two-year term in 2018 and will continue to serve through July 2020. Officers include Chair Matt Strauss of Comcast Cable; Vice Chair Sofia Chang of WarnerMedia Distribution (HBO); CFO Bob Buchi of Paramount Home Entertainment; Secretary Jim Wuthrich of Warner Bros. Worldwide Home Entertainment & Games, and Chair Emeritus Mike Dunn, formerly of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.

“At a time when our industry is rapidly changing, the board of directors strives to produce deliverables that meet the needs of the industry at this dynamic time, such as DEG’s D2C Alliance, formed at the start of the year,” said Amy Jo Smith, president and CEO of the DEG.

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Amazon Remains Mum on Show Ratings

Drawing attention to programming through ratings and viewership data is as old as Nielsen.

With the over-the-top video market about to get crowded by Disney+, HBO Max, Apple TV+ and NBC Universal, some services such as Netflix have taken to releasing viewership data for select series and movies when the numbers are self-promoting.

The SVOD pioneer recently disclosed that more than 40 million households had streamed the third season of “Stranger Things,” one of its flagship original series.

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Don’t expect Amazon Prime Video to follow the strategy.

“We know what the numbers are and we’ll single out shows that are overperforming, but we’ve yet to embrace a strategy as a company where we put out actual numbers,” Jennifer Salke, head of Amazon Studios, told the media over the weekend at the studio’s Television Critics Association presentation.

The strategy underscores Amazon’s reluctance updating Prime membership numbers (last revealed at 100 million globally) or disclosing Prime Video viewership data.

What the studio isn’t afraid of is canceling shows, which Netflix and Hulu do as well.

Amazon is not renewing new seasons of “The Romanoffs,” “Patriot,” “Forever” and “Too Old To Die.”

New releases include “The Boys,” pending “Carnival Row,” a fifth season of “The Expanse” and upcoming “The Banker’s Wife.”

Meanwhile, hardboiled L.A. cop drama “Bosch,” Amazon’s longest-running original series renewed last year for a sixth season, remains a mystery regarding actual viewers.