Amazon Studios unveiled $1 million and $100,000 winners Tuesday in the filmmaking competition the online retailer launched in November 2010. Writer-director Rob Gardner’s 12 Princesses won Best Test Movie taking the $1 million grand prize “for its family friendly storyline and magical imagery brought to life.” Matthew Gossett’s thriller Origin Of Species won Best Script of the Year for its “chilling suspense and mind-twisting storyline that left judges on the edge of their seats,” according to Amazon’s announcement. Since debuting its program, Amazon Studios has featured 700 test movies and 7,000 scripts, awarding more than $1.9 million.
After its launch in a bid to identify new filmmakers and screenwriters, the initiative sparked controversy. Some Hollywood writers warned aspiring screenwriters about the program’s potential copyright and authorship drawbacks.
Five projects made it to the final running for the $1 million prize including I Think My Facebook Friend Is Dead, The Alchemist Agenda, Sky Pirates, 12 Princesses and Evolver. They’re featured along with four other projects Amazon Studios funded. Two of the films, Velvet Elvis by Jeff Stewart and The Temple by Alex Greenfield, were made by Amazon insiders. Both had submitted proposals in response to an “open directing assignment where filmmakers were given the opportunity to turn any script on the site into a test movie.”
One lucky USC grad went the more traditional route, getting a green light to direct an Amazon script after a September 2011 pitch. Rajeev Dassani directed The Nevsky Project about a photojournalist who travels to Russia in search of her mail-order-bride-seeking father. The Nevsky Project script won a prize, but Dassani told Deadline “I never met the guy who actually won the screenwriting contest.” Dassani won a Student Academy Award for A Day’s Work in 2011. He shot the 1 hour and 34 minute The Nevsky Project in October and November, delivering the $100,000 project in January. Though not eligible for the awards announced today, he did score representation via WME’s digital division as well as with HWHM+F.