Amazon Studios director on breaking the rules, shaking up pilot season and Top Gear's future

With the 'golden age of television' in full swing Amazon Studios director Roy Price believes to succeed in today's market you need to be "distinctive and add something to the conversation".

Speaking at The Edinburgh International Television Festival Price commented that his vision for Amazon Studios is to create more shows that break the rules.

"When you have a certain idea of what a show should be or how it should be made, that's when you fall behind," said Price. "New shows become great shows by being rule breakers and we [Amazon Studios] have to be open to exploring that and focusing on new talent."

Less constrained by the rules that regulate traditional television networks, Price explained that the online marketplace allows Amazon as a "network, producer and studio" to explore the topics not everyone would take on.

"For whatever reason in the TV universe certain topics which would appear in novels or that you'd talk about in day-to-day life haven't been a part of TV life," he said. "I suspect over time that will erode, if it's an interesting part of people's lives there's no reason why they shouldn't be part of the television discourse."

Price pointed toward Amazon Studios award-winning Transparent and forthcoming series Hand of God as examples of the kind of shows that traditional networks would shy away from with viewers overwhelmingly describing the Hand of God pilot "new and fresh", comments echoed by showrunner Ben Watkins the Hand of God screening and Q&A with the cast and crew earlier in the day.

At the Q&A Watkins said: "I knew a show about a modern day zealot was not something everyone could agree with and when I had the idea I thought 'this is never going to get made'. I tried really hard not to write it but I had to get it off my chest, because of the content I knew people would be scared of it."

Ron Perlman who plays Hand of God central character, Judge Pernell Harris, added: "During my time on Sons of Anarchy TV was beginning to become more expansive and what you could do on television was widening but with Amazon whatever you can shoot you can show. [As an actor] it's seductive as it's where the greatest storytelling is taking place."

Unlike traditional networks, Amazon Studios also places a certain amount of power in the hands of its audience asking viewers to vote on the pilots they would like to get full seasons. Something which Amazon Studios head of drama development, Morgan Wandell, championed at the Hand of God Q&A.

"It's interesting to customers that early on because it negates any kind of false feedback, it's not voting like Survivor or American Idol but it's a helpful way of making decisions, to ask people to pay you have to offer something different," he said.

Price then likened the process to that of a restaurant looking to add to its menu and running a special. "It's the actual audience and you get real feedback," he said. "It makes the pilot process less random, in entertainment you never know but it does make it a lot less speculative."

Of Amazon Studios focus for now Price was firm in his stance over comedy and drama despite the recent Top Gear acquisition and revealed no plans to gun for a "Dancing with the Stars type" entertainment format but did tease, "never say never."

As for Top Gear, he said Clarkson, Hammond and May's "global passionate fanbase" was very much a deciding factor in the studios decision to splash out on the trio. Repeatedly calling the move "exciting" he added their success on Amazon would be measured not only in audience numbers but also in how it drives engagement and subscriptions to Amazon Prime.

For more on the Edinburgh International Television Festival follow The Drum's live coverage here.

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