Amazon Provides TV-Sized Budgets as ‘Transparent’ Marks Transition From TV to Online

Amazon Provides TV-Sized Budgets as 'Transparent' Marks Transition From TV to Online

TCA 2014: “I just bought a new car,” says star Jeffrey Tambor

Is moving online the new moving to TV? For a decade, film actors, writers and directors have moved to television while explaining that TV is where some of the best work is.

Now they're moving online, again praising the creative freedom of their new medium.

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The cast and creator of Amazon's “Transparent” say it's been a very easy transition. Sundance Best Director winner Jill Soloway, who created the series, says Amazon has given her the biggest budget she's ever had. The series focuses on a Los Angeles family whose patriarch, Jeffrey Tambor, transitions to a woman.

Tambor and co-star Gaby Hoffman say the tech world pays every bit as well as Hollywood.

“This notion that we're making some sort of sacrifice working with Amazon is totally wrong,” Hoffman said at the Television Critics Association summer press tour Saturday. The “Girls” and “Good Wife” actress said Amazon pays her the same as her quote for network shows.

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“We don't have to fight for anything,” she said. “We are given everything we want and need. It is 100 percent a privilege.”

“I just bought a new car,” added Tambor (pictured).

The best evidence of online's arrival may be Amazon's rival, Netflix, which on Thursday scored 31 Emmy nominations, up from 14 the year before. Netflix also earns intense critical adoration for shows like “House of Cards” and “Orange Is the New Black.”

But Amazon, Hulu and other outlets are quickly getting in on the action. All have their own pricing and subscription plans for streamed shows, but Amazon Prime's system is the only one that comes with faster shipping on real-world items. Amazon takes a democratic approach to greenlighting shows: It airs pilots and asks for viewers’ input on which ones should continue.

The site has drawn talents including Stephen Soderbergh, Whit Stillman and “X-Files” creator Chris Carter. It presented to the TCA for the first time Saturday, sharing a day with past presenter Hulu. It highlighted not just “Transparent” but also “Alpha House,” a returning series starring John Goodman as one of four senators living together, and “Mozart in the Jungle” which comes from Roman Coppola, Jason Schwartzman, Alex Timbers, and Paul Weitz.

“These are heavy hitters,” Tambor said.

“Mozart,” starring Malcolm McDowell, Saffron Burrows and Gael Garcia Bernal, focuses on the internal politics of a symphony orchestra.

Not only is Amazon investing to build a reputation as a producer of original content, it is also giving creators more freedom. It's a familiar pattern for creators who moved from film to TV: Many have said that networks like HBO, FX and AMC have given them more space than film studios do.

Amazon's description of its approach will sound familiar to executives at those networks: “Get involved with the best, smartest people and get out of their way.”

Schwartzman and Coppola said Amazon didn't give them much interference — or even many notes.

“It always was about making it,” said Schwartzman.

“Not talking about it,” added Coppola.

There is one way Amazon is scrimping on the “Mozart” budget: All the classical music on the show is in the public domain.