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Amazon Studios suspends chief Roy Price following harassment allegations

Roy Price, the head of Amazon Studios (seen above talking with Jeff Bezos), has been suspended after allegations of sexual harassment were leveled at him by Isa Hackett, one of the producers of the company’s first series, The Man in the High Castle. A potentially cozy relationship with disgraced Hollywood power broker Harvey Weinstein may also have contributed to his ouster.

Hackett, who is currently working on another Philip K. Dick adaptation for the company, made her allegations public earlier today in an interview with Hollywood Reporter. She said that Price invited her to a staff party, and in the taxi there (with another person in it, even) propositioned her repeatedly, saying “You will love my dick.”

Hackett says she told Price she wasn’t interested, and furthermore that she has a wife and children; he didn’t give up, continuing to harass her, and yelled “anal sex” in her ear at the party.

Others were witness to this behavior, and Hackett reported it immediately. Amazon brought in someone to investigate, but the outcome of that investigation isn’t public. The company told the Hollywood Reporter that “we looked closely at this specific concern and addressed it directly with those involved.”

They addressed it again, apparently, hours after Hackett went public. An Amazon statement issued later in the afternoon said that “Roy Price is on leave of absence effective immediately.  We are reviewing our options for the projects we have with The Weinstein Co.”

It’s no coincidence that this happened shortly after decades of sexual misconduct by producer Harvey Weinstein were dragged into the light for the umpteenth time by several women, whose stories the New York Times printed in a feature last week. The New Yorker collected more, publishing them online on Tuesday (in print this week).

Among those women is Rose McGowan, who took to Twitter yesterday to take Roy Price to task for failing to listen to her repeated complaints about Weinstein.

In a series of tweets yesterday, McGowan explained that when Weinstein was being considered for a producer role on a show of hers, she told Price several times that Weinstein had raped her and that Amazon should decline to do business with him. Price apparently did not agree; Weinstein was brought on (to what project exactly it isn’t clear) and the result was Amazon Studios winning what McGowan called “a dirty Oscar.”

The exposure of this ugly, yet far from unfamiliar, side of Hollywood mirrors a similar movement in Silicon Valley, where many women in tech have recently found the courage to speak out on their own sexual harassment.

CEOs, investors, and others in the industry have been accused by women who had sometimes remained silent for years. Some allegations resulted in firings, some in resignations, some in major reorganizations.

Clearly rape culture is pervasive in many industries, but especially those historically dominated by men. That’s changing, but it’s a slow and painful process. As Hackett concluded in her interview with the Hollywood Reporter:

It is said over and over and sounds like a cliché, but we desperately need more women in leadership positions in Hollywood. There’s a culture of harassment [in Hollywood] and we need an infusion of new and diverse leadership, not just including women but gay people, people of color, people with disabilities — people with the full spectrum of life experience.

I’ve asked for more details from Amazon and will update this post if I hear back.

Featured Image: Charley Gallay/Getty Images

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amazon studios

Apple hires Amazon Studios exec Morgan Wandell in push for scripted programming

Apple’s first few pieces of original programming, Carpool Karaoke and Planet of the Apps, felt more like stumbles out of the gate. In this era of prestige television from cord cutting platforms like Netflix and Amazon, the shows weren’t exactly, say, House of Cards or Transparent. But a number of moves over the past several months find the company positioning itself as a serious contender in the world of scripted television.

The company has already built a team that includes a former WGN American president and a pair of executives from Sony Pictures Television — and the company just made another key hire, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Morgan Wandell, who most recently served as Amazon’s Head of International Series, is joining team Apple to help bring more scripted series to the table.

Wendell had been at Amazon since 2013, playing a role in the some of the company’s highest profile series like Man in the High Castle and the upcoming Tom Clancy adaptation, Jack Ryan. He’s exiting the company during a recent bit of turmoil, which found Amazon Studios cutting ties with  head Roy Price and dropping a Harvey Weinstein-produced series, both over sexual harassment allegations. Of course, Apple wasn’t immune the recent deluge of reports either — the company cancelled a planned Elvis series over ties with Weinstein.

That series aside, however, Apple’s still got a lot in the works on the scripted front. The company reportedly recently struck a deal with Steven Spielberg to revive the 80s anthology series, Amazing Stories. According to another recent report, Apple’s planning to spend around $1 billion to ramp up its original series in its first year of production.

Featured Image: Charley Gallay/Getty Images

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Amazon Studios will now handle its own theatrical distribution, too

Amazon Studios takes a very different approach to acquiring and releasing movies when compared to rival Netflix, and the most significant difference is that it releases major films in theaters before making them available on its Prime Video streaming service. Amazon Studios has previously worked with a handful of independent third-party distributors to make this happen, but starting in December, it’s taking over theater distribution duties for its films, including marketing campaigns.

This won’t affect its plans to actually release movies in theater, to be clear: Amazon tells Variety that it’s still committed to that distribution model. But it will help the Amazon subsidiary evolve into more of a traditional Hollywood studio, and could give it some advantages in terms of attracting major projects and talents, which in turn will ultimately be a boon to Amazon Prime memberships once the projects enter exclusive digital distribution via the commerce giant’s streaming video service.

Amazon Studios’ marketing and distribution team has brought on IFC executive Mark Boxer to help make its aspirations a reality, and it will be adding staff to work on theatrical releases, while also simultaneously helping to cut down costs, and to gain greater control over the branding of its in-house projects. Variety also reports that Amazon Studios is working more on actually developing projects in-house from inception, instead of acquiring projects at film festivals, as it has done with its big hits like Manchester By The Sea.

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Amazon inks exclusive TV deal with ‘Stranger Things’ writer

The next project for TV from Stranger Things writer and producer Justin Doble. The overall deal means that he’ll be producing television projects exclusively for Amazon Studios and Amazon’s Prime Video streaming service.

Doble’s CV isn’t limited to just his work on the Emmy-winning Stranger Things, which has been a huge surprise hit for Netflix, with a second season set to release this coming October. He also has writing credits on Fringe, and on The Path and Into the Badlands.

This is the latest in a series of creator exclusive deal tie-ups that both Amazon and Netflix have been announcing lately. Some of the more high-profile recent deals have included Amazon’s Shonda Rhimes contract, as well as Amazon’s first look deal with Robert Kirkman, the creator of The Walking Dead.

This announcement doesn’t include any specific projects yet, but Amazon’s Head of Event Series Sharon Tal Yguado says that the company is “excited to collaborate with [Doble] as we build a slate of high-profile shows.”

Amazon recently experienced a shakeup of its original programming, reportedly set in motion thanks to a proclamation by Amazon CEO himself Jeff Bezos, who instructed the company’s Studios department to bring him their own ‘Game of Thrones,’ according to Variety. The hunt is bound to result in more of these kinds of exclusive creator-focused deals, especially for anyone who’s had a streaming hit to their credit already.

Featured Image: Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images

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