Amazon Studios’ James Farrell Looks to Build Lighter, Cost-Conscious Scripted International Originals

Amazon Studios’ head of international originals, James Farrell, who started overseeing Europe six months ago, said at Series Mania Festival that the service isn’t pulling out of local content but is keeping an eye on costs.

Farrell, who previously worked at Amazon Studios in Japan where he backed the creation of the original format behind “LOL” in 2016, said Amazon “won’t cut down on the number of shows or films” they’re doing, but “want to continue to be really good corporate stewards.”

“The world is having a tough time. There’s wars, you know, political situations are tough. That means, you know, you got to be thoughtful about what you spend,” said Farrell.

“If you can make this great movie with 20 locations instead of 30 to save a little bit of money, let’s do that. If we can reduce the episodes on the scripted show from eight to six and tell the story we wanted to tell, save some money, let’s do that. Let’s be let’s be responsible, let’s be thoughtful,” continued the L.A.-based executive.

Farrell said the real changes he’s looking to make are “around the kinds of content (Amazon Studios) make.” “People want to laugh more, they want to see the romance more, want to see action more. So I do try to direct people in that direction,” he said, giving the example of “Citadel,” Russo Brothers’ action-packed spy thriller which he described as a mix of “Mission Impossible” and “James Bond.”

The executive is also looking to find a middle ground when it comes to budgets for local fare, and mentioned a $1 million budget per episode — substantially higher than average broadcasters’ budgets.

He previously told Variety that he’s aiming to have 12 originals across several genre produced every year in Amazon’s key territories. Within those originals, there will be some spin-offs and adaptations, such as “LOL,” which also thrived in Italy and Germany where it ranked as the most watched local titles on the service.

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