Amazon flexes its on-demand muscle and we take time out with artist Jonathan Ellery
Amazon is best known as a place to buy books and last-minute Christmas presents but the retail giant is fast rivalling the likes of HBO and Netflix with a slew of original television series.
The company’s online TV service, Amazon Prime Instant Video, has been building up its roster of original shows from the likes of Steven Soderbergh and The X-Files creator Chris Carter (see list) over the past 12 months as it searches for its House of Cards or Orange is the New Black.
Political comedy Alpha House, which was written by Doonesbury creator Garry Trudeau and stars John Goodman as a US senator sharing a house with his Senate colleagues, has been the company’s most successful series to date, having already been renewed for a second 10-part series.
Meanwhile, Amazon has successfully piloted shows including sex, drugs and classical-music drama Mozart in the Jungle, co-written by Jason Schwartzman, and transgender comedy Transparent starring Arrested Development’s Jeffrey Tambor.
Amazon is currently adapting Philip K Dick’s 1962 novel The Man in the High Castle into a TV series with Hunted writer Frank Spotnitz. The Seattle-based firm is also looking to add to the thousands of hours of existing shows – from Homeland to The Walking Dead – on the TV service, which is available in the US, UK, Germany and Japan, as part of a global multi-million dollar strategy.
In the UK Amazon beat traditional channels to the rights for the Steven Spielberg-produced, Halle Berry-fronted sci-fi series Extant. Through its TV boss Roy Price (son of legendary Hollywood exec Frank Price), it recently stated it would spend $100m (€76m) on series and pilot production in the third quarter of 2014.
The After Post-apocalyptic drama from The X-Files creator Chris Carter centring around eight strangers brought together to survive.
The Cosmopolitans Half-hour comedy from The Last Days of Disco director Whit Stillman following a group of young American expats living in Paris. Chloë Sevigny stars.
Hand Of God The story of a hard-living married man on a vigilante mission following a mental breakdown, created by World War Z director Marc Forster.
Red Oaks Comedy set in a suburban country club in New Jersey in 1985, produced by Steven Soderbergh and starring Jennifer Grey.
British artist Jonathan Ellery embraces strange bedfellows for Browns Editions’ provocative new book series. Exploring the friction between seemingly random subjects, his five picture books range from the amusing to the sinister, with themes including “London garden birds”, “political symbols” and “sexual predators”. Ellery talks about sculpting narratives through mismatched ideas.
Why did you choose these five concepts that seem to have no connection to each other?
Generally with these odd subject matters, I like the friction. On the front page of the newspaper today were Israel and Hamas. What’s next to something else can change everything.
What is the story behind the London garden birds book?
Those birds are the birds I always see through my windows and they are quite Dickensian in a way – these odd little Bermondsey birds. They would be very different in Australia, for instance.
Were you conscious about the church’s reaction to the book on sexual predators, which includes photos of religious leaders convicted of sexual assault?
If you go on the internet and look for Catholic paedophiles in Italy, apparently they don’t exist. You won’t find one image. The powerful censorship from the Vatican is extraordinary. The Pope, a couple of weeks ago, admitted that he thinks 2 per cent of Catholic priests are predatory paedophiles. And they’ve been telling us to be good over the years. Again, a ludicrous notion of God.
What are your personal Bibles from the worlds of art and photography?
I’ve always liked the objectivity of books. In a way, they kind of define you. Key books that meant something to me and always have are Various Small Fires and Milk by Edward Ruscha, and Twentysix Gasoline Stations [also by Ruscha] is just ridiculous. I always liked early Larry Clark, like Tulsa. There is also a book Lawrence Weiner and Ruscha did together called Hard Light.
You usually tie in your book launches with an exhibition. Will you be doing so this time?
Absolutely. The next step is making the books come alive in a space – in New York, Berlin or somewhere. The notion of this in a vast space somewhere, of moving images, live birds, logos or objects, is exciting. For instance, if you do London garden birds in Tokyo, it’s totally out of context. It depends on where you have the show. It all changes again.
You’d call Ruark’s updated R7 audio system the pièce de résistance if these ear-massaging Essex boys weren’t so proud of their British heritage. Ruark’s flagship machine takes the classic radiogram as its key design origin but is fitted with technology for both wired and wireless devices. All the while it stays true to its audiophile roots with the sort of iron-fist-in-a-velvet-glove approach of the high-end hi-fi. What a beauty.