Movie Maniac

Amazon tweaks its film contest project, but it's still complicated

Last month, I wrote about the film competition happening at Amazon Studios (http:// .com), a new branch of the online power-seller that will make movies.

I mentioned how I thought it was a weird setup — once you submit a script you waive all creative ownership and it becomes free rein to be rewritten by anyone else registered in the contest. It's almost creepy. Script stalkers!

Apparently others felt it was unfair, too. Amazon is now exercising its right to tweak the rules of the contest by giving back ownership to the writers. Score!

Now, when you submit a script you will designate whether your work is "open" (meaning anyone can revise it), "closed" (only you can submit new drafts) or "revisable by permission" (others can add a revised script only with your approval).

The contest now has 2,574 film projects in the works.

The first two monthly winners of $20,000 have also been announced. Eventually, at the end of the year, the contest will award $1 million to the best movie project (basically a "test movie" using rough footage, animation, storyboards or a mixture of all three) and $100,000 to the best script.

I still think it's all a vague and complicated concept, one that says it will reward the most "commercially viable" ideas, which to me says "most mainstream."

But the contest is good exposure for budding filmmakers or movie buffs. You can enter the contest by starting an account and uploading your script or idea, or you can provide input on existing projects.

Upcoming events — There are several special film events coming up this month. Here's a preview:

* The Mid-Kansas Jewish Federation will present the documentary " First Lesson in Peace" at 7 p.m. Monday in Room 208 of Wichita State University's Hubbard Hall. The film explores the Jewish-Arab conflict through the eyes of a 6-year-old girl, Michal, who is the daughter of the film's director, Yoram Honig (he will be present for the screening, which will be in Hebrew with English subtitles). There is no charge for WSU students and faculty (with ID); admission for others is $5.

* KPTS and its Community Cinema program will present " Me Facing Life: Cyntoia's Story" at 7 p.m. Feb. 15 at the Orpheum Theatre, 200 N. Broadway. The documentary follows a 16-year-old girl imprisoned after killing a man she was trying to fend off after he sexually assaulted her. Admission is free, and a panel discussion follows the film.

* The Tallgrass Film Association will host an encore screening of the documentary " Do It Again!," which was a hit at last year's festival and follows journalist Geoff Edgers on his quest to reunite iconic rock band the Kinks. The Feb. 18 event is a fundraiser, and tickets to the 7 p.m. screening at the Orpheum are $10 (admission to an after-party with the filmmaker at Oeno will cost an additional $10).

* Tallgrass also will present its Third Thursday offering, " The Last Survivor" —which explores the 1994 genocide in Rwanda — at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 17 at the CAC Theater at WSU. And its Tallgrass Filmmakers Lab will present the free workshop " Contemporary Indie Cinema Appreciation," hosted by Tallgrass programming co-director Nick Pope, at 2 p.m. Feb. 26 at House of Schwan, 3636 N. Comotara. Admission is free, and complimentary beverages will be served. The workshop is limited to the first 30 registrants (e-mail lela@ to reserve a spot).