Amazon Video Direct Slams Gates on Indie Documentaries and Shorts

Amazon Video Direct has been changing. It used to be a wide open platform, where anyone who could meet their tech requirements was guaranteed to find a spot on Amazon Video. You content could be seen by their millions of customers. It likely wouldn’t, but the algorithm did a decent job of showing your content to people, and you can directly market your films on the site, yourself.

Over the last couple of years AVD has been tightening the creative reins. They’ve been rejecting poor-er quality films. But, if you had a well produced movie, you could still get on board. Recently they’ve added using their S3 storage for titles. And begun kicking tiles off of Prime (SVOD) based on their murky CER ratings.

And this week, the bell tolled for niche market documentaries and short films. The submission page reads (On Feb. 17, 2021):

All content submitted through Prime Video Direct is made available at the sole discretion of Amazon. At this time, we’re no longer accepting unsolicited licensing submissions via Prime Video Direct for non-fiction and short form content. We’ll notify you if these categories become available for consideration.”

So, if your documentary isn’t solicited by them, you cannot get it on the service. In other words, to get your documentary on Amazon you have to use an aggregator and hope it’s selected or a distributor who will work to get it selected. Just like Netflix and other streaming outlets.

Self distributing a movie just got harder for doc filmmakers. There used to be a few places without gatekeepers to get your film out, and recoup some of the cost of making it. AVD just slammed the gates shut on indie docs and short films.


How to Refute an Argument

You may or may not know that I have been coaching a group of (mostly) new Lincoln Douglas debaters in our newly formed speech & debate club. Side Note– This activity is one of the best you can get your kids involved in. They learn how to research, communicate, recognize good arguments and bad ones, and how to disagree without hating the person they disagree with. Find a club, join it.

One of the things we are working on is refutations. To refute an argument you have to look at its parts and point out the weaknesses. I think this process can be massively helpful in the world.

An argument, if well constructed, will have 3 parts: Claim, warrant and impact.

  1. Claim- It’s a declaration. It frames the rest of the argument, and helps shape the overall discussion. There’s normally an assertion tied to a subject.
  2. Warrant- This is the reason we should accept the claim. It’s evidence, logic, inference. 
  3. Impact- This is why it’s important. 

An argument should have all 3 of these present, though some could be implied.
To refute an argument you must find weaknesses in the parts.

You can attack a claim. Maybe the claim doesn’t apply to the overall discussion. Maybe it’s just a statement by itself, without a warrant. Does the assertion relate to the subject of the claim?

You often find the most meat for refutation when examining the warrant. What is the reasoning, is it sound? If there is evidence- is it solid, is the interpretation sound, is there contradicting evidence? Does the reasoning apply to the claim? 

You can attack the impact. Does the argument outweigh others? How much of a difference does this argument make to the issue? An argument may be true, but outweighed by other factors, which are also true. 

As you are reading things on the internet, listening to media, talking with your friends and neighbors, the more you practice thinking about arguments critically, the more quickly you can discern what’s true and what’s less than true. 

The Supreme Court, Science and the First Amendment

Today the Supreme Court of The United Stated (SCOTUS) issued a splintered opinion on a case that pits California’s government against a church in CA. Here’s the basics of what the case was about:

CA is pretty much in lockdown. Like many places across the country, they shutdown when COVID-19 hit and we didn’t know what was going on with it. We did not know how deadly it was, how easily transmissible it was, etc… So, the country pretty much shut down for a while. These stay at home, close your businesses that are not essential rules were applied across the board.

Fast forward to now. CA is lifting some restriction. They are allowing places of business to open back up, with limited capacity. They have made some glaring exceptions to some rules for entertainment industry activities. But churches were included in the must remain closed, no indoor activity group.

So, South Bay United Pentecostal Church sued Gavin Newsom, the Governor of CA. The church argued that to restrict them when other businesses are open is wrong, and they should not be treated differently. The state said they are treated differently because they do different things- gather inside in groups from multiple families, stay there for a long time, and sing or chant.

SCOTUS released their splintered opinion on this case. The gist is this, churches can open up to the capacity limits of other businesses, but cannot sing or chant- at all. There’s quite a bit of discussion on which justice said what in these opinions. I want to focus on the fundamental ruling, and where I think SCOTUS approached it all wrong.

Justice Kagan wrote the dissent, and her first two sentences sets this up: “Justices of this Court are not scientists. Nor do we know much about public health policy.”

But the court made its decision based on science, not the Constitution.

No one is denying that governments can issue stay at home orders. The issue is whether churches can be treated differently than other secular groups. To me, this is clear: if you single out a church for restriction, but allow other, similar activity to occur, you are in violation of the 1st amendment, which stops government from making rules that prohibit the free exercise of religion.

It’s one thing to say there is a public health hazard and everyone must do the same thing. It’s another to say that movie studios and recording venues can sing with precautions, but churches cannot follow the same precautions and sing in worship.

Now, a couple of the Justices (Barret and Kavanaugh) hinted that they would have allowed (might still allow) singing if they can show, in court, there is a different standard applied. But the applicant for relief did not prove this. If this were proven, they may be open to change, but that’s only 4 justices, with Alito as probably 5th after a 30 day period he favored. The failure to show this disparity falls on the lawyers for the church.

Of course, these opinions are based on what they think science has said. They are not looking at the Constitution first. Instead, they look to see if science can justify the difference in behavior. Keep in mind, CA’s position is that church’s should be closed, indoors. These justices are allowing them to open up some, but not all, because of their understanding of science and virus transmission.

Is it smart for churches to gather and sit close, and sing without masks? No.

Is it the government’s job to protect my health or protect my rights more? CA says health, and 6 or 7 SCOTUS Justices agree, though they may disagree with how CA interprets the science.

Churches and people who attend should be as free to worship, gather, sing, etc… as any other business in the governed area. A church may choose to follow stricter guidelines, as many do across the nation- but it’s their choice. If any business can be opened, the church should be as free as they are. To do otherwise, as the government, is to prohibit the free exercise of religion. That is a violation of the First Amendment.

As Justice Kagan said, they are inserting themselves into places where experts should advise. SCOTUS should simply rule that churches must be afforded the same rules as any other secular place of business. Instead, we have unqualified scientists disagreeing about how to prevent transmission of COVID.

[Photo by Ian Hutchinson on Unsplash]