Georgia Brown, Amazon Studio’s Director of European Originals, said that audiences have been increasingly turning to feature films on their service in the last few years and expressed plans for the company to beef up its film slate. Speaking in the penultimate conversation at the Edinburgh TV Festival on Thursday, the exec also touched on the importance of investing in local language talent as well as its plans to implement some “robust” diversity strategies.
“I think what has worked really well for us, broadly, is movies, interestingly,” she said. “We were aware of this and we were aware that audiences wanted movies, and my original remit wasn’t to include movies, it was television series that we were looking at. But we started to realize that audiences, they come in and they give us this precious time for these big series – they give us six, seven, eight, nine, ten hours of their time to watch this incredible world come to life and then when they go what they’re tending to go to watch is movies.”
Brown added: “I call them a “palate cleanser. [Audiences] are not necessarily going to the Palme d’Or or the Goya Award winning movies, but they are going to our rom-coms or to genre to action-adventure to horror. They want something they can come in and be engaged and very satisfied by and then go away again.”
When Covid hit, Brown says it “really compounded” viewers’ need for movies. “We decided to really double down,” said Brown. “So, what’s been working well is our local movie strategy and we have a lot coming up in production.”
Brown pointed to investment in local language titles such as upcoming Melanie Laurent-starrer La Bal Des Folles as a good example of Amazon’s push into local content. That mystery-thriller project is the streamer’s first French original.
She also stressed how important it was for the studio to invest in new voices and new talent and showed a clip from its first original Italian project Anni Da Cane (Dog Years), as an example. The project, written by Mary Stella Brugiati and Alessandro Bosi, directed by Fabio Mollo, is premiering on the service in the fall.
“That’s a big investment for us,” noted Brown. “It’s an entirely unknown cast, and that is our first big movie offering in Italy and it’s important when making that statement that you do not have these big award-winning movie actors. We’re prepared to work with brand new talent and give a platform to these guys. It’s really important for us and something like this has every chance of going on and being as big of a global hit as something like a Lord Of The Rings and that’s what’s important for us.
When pressed upon the news of the Lord of the Rings series recently relocating its shoot from New Zealand to the UK, Brown said that while she didn’t have details she thought it was “fantastic news.”
“We’ve talked a lot about investing very strongly into the UK and we will continue to invest heavily,” she said. “It’s somewhere I think breeds some of the most remarkable talent and I am just overjoyed that the production is coming here.”
In regards to Amazon’s pending $8.45 billion acquisition of MGM, Brown remarked “there’s lots of smart people working on that and I’m hugely excited by it.”
“You look at their [MGM’s] capital and some of the IP they have and it’s really spectacular, so fingers-crossed it means really positive things for us and just delivering much more content for the customer which is ultimately what we’re all about.”
On the ongoing subject of diversity and inclusion, which has markedly been a big talking point of the festival this week, Brown said as far as Amazon Studios goes, “we take it very seriously.”
The studio is looking to hire a European Head of Diversity to help steer the company so it can start putting “some robust, long-term” diversity and inclusion strategies into the company.
“We’ve already been working very passionately towards that,” said Brown. “My team have it as part of their DNA and it’s a day-to-day conversation where we will not work with indies who aren’t prepared to share our values. We make sure that every development even has a step where we have a conversation about diversity. If you come in and try and pitch and that’s not part of your pitch, we won’t be taking it forward so [diversity] is integral to us.”