Amazon Prime Video & SXSW To Stream Content From Coronavirus-Canceled Festival; Jennifer Salke Explains

Amazon Prime Video and SXSW have teamed to launch Prime Video Presents the SXSW 2020 Film Festival Collection. Eyed to go live later this month, the initiative was hatched as a way to give exposure to films slated to premiere at the Austin-based festival before their red carpet hopes were dashed when the festival got canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Filmmakers are being invited to opt-in and have their work premier exclusively for 10 days in the U.S. on Prime Video. A fee of an undisclosed amount will be paid to the makers of each film. It’s up to the filmmakers whether or not they want to show their work this way. Those who need to monetize their projects with theatrical or other VOD deals will likely demur.

Jennifer Salke
Amazon Studios’ Jennifer Salke Willy Sanjuan/Invision/AP/Shutterstock

But Amazon is offering its widest opportunity for eyeballs: the program will be made available free to audiences, with or without an Amazon Prime membership, all that is needed is a free Amazon account. Filmmakers will receive a fee for their participation.

Amazon Studios head Jennifer Salke, said she leaned into this “Not as a business opportunity, but an effort to be supportive of filmmakers and talent in this trying time,” she told Deadline. “We saw this festival being canceled and I’ve been there many times and we had a huge financial and emotional investment, and we wanted to find a way for the community to be able to come together and celebrate that work. This was about wanting to create a doorway for filmmakers to platform their work.”

SXSW festival head Janet Pierson and her team are sending letters to all of the filmmakers today, and they’ll have a better idea shortly how big this video initiative will be. Salke said she wants the presentation to include conversations with the makers of the SXSW films to create a virtual festival feel and make the most of an unimaginable situation (SXSW had never before been canceled). They will also be relying on indie filmmakers like Jay Duplass for help in setting this up.

Salke said she and her team are hanging in and are plenty busy, after having to unplug what she called “a fair amount” of global shows and films in production, some in the final days and weeks of shooting, others about to start and in prep, and others that were in the writer’s room, because we emphasize getting all scripts in order on series and movies before we move forward.”

As for Amazon’s expectations of when all that production might re-start, she said “We have projections of different scenarios, but none of us can answer question when it will be safe to put our teams back in production all over world,” she said. “There is too much we are still learning about this virus.”

On the SXSW development, festival director Pierson said: “Ever since SXSW was cancelled by the City of Austin, we’ve been focused on how we could help the incredible films and filmmakers in the SXSW 2020 Film Festival lineup. We were delighted when Amazon Prime Video offered to host an online film festival, and jumped at the opportunity to connect their audiences to our filmmakers. We’re inspired by the adaptability and resilience of the film community as it searches for creative solutions in this unprecedented crisis.”

Said Duplass: “I’m thrilled that these two great champions of indie film (SXSW and Amazon Prime Video) are teaming up to resurrect this year’s canceled film festival,” said Jay Duplass, independent filmmaker and SXSW alum. “These are unprecedented times, and it’s going to take unprecedented solutions to carry on and celebrate these great films and the people who worked so hard to make them.”

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