Amazon Studios is making some changes atop its development team.
Head of half-hour programming Joe Lewis has added drama series development to his oversight. Meanwhile, former head of drama development Morgan Wandell is becoming head of international productions, a job that will have him sourcing original series developed outside of the U.S.
The changes are a nod to comments that Amazon executives made at the Television Critics Association’s summer press tour about how it is becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish between comedies and dramas. Lewis, who was one of Amazon Studios head Roy Price’s first hires, was originally head of comedy, but his title was later changed to head of half-hour to reflect that not all 30-minute shows are comedies.
Amazon has broken out in the half-hour format thanks to the early critical and awards recognition for Jill Soloway’s Transparent, but it has yet to have a breakout drama despite a number of projects with high-profile talent including Eric Overmyer’s Bosch and Ron Perlman starrer Hand of God.
International projects, however, have proved significant to the growth of Amazon’s originals brand. Half-hours Catastrophe and Fleabag have both earned critical praise. The development of these original series and others sourced internationally will now fall under Wandell’s purview.
In addition, Brad Beale, vp TV content acquisition for Prime Video, is expanding his role to oversee selection of series for individual countries and licensing television content on a local and worldwide basis.
Amazon Studios also has a burgeoning film business, which it has now renamed Prime Movies. Everything from production to distribution to licensing of original films will fall under this new division. Jason Ropell continues as worldwide head of motion pictures with all of Amazon’s film business going through him.
The Seattle e-commerce giant launched Amazon Studios in 2009 but it took a few years before the L.A.-based arm settled on its current model, in which it develops and releases pilots for audience feedback before making most series pickups. It had its first breakout with Transparent, which has gone on to win several Golden Globe and Emmy awards. It expanded into feature films in 2015 with the hiring of indie guru Ted Hope and marketing and distribution veteran Bob Berney. Its first release was Spike Lee’s Chi-Raq. This year Amazon’s Manchester by the Sea, which it picked up at Sundance, has been receiving some early Oscar buzz.