Amazon’s Jennifer Salke on Jeff Bezos, Globes Noms & Small Axe Debate

Amazon Studios head Jennifer Salke doesn’t expect Jeff Bezos to turn his attention to producing

Amazon Studios head Jennifer Salke doesn’t expect Jeff Bezos to turn his attention to producing as he steps down as Amazon CEO — but she doesn’t rule it out either.

Variety took the opportunity on Wednesday morning to ask Salke — calling in to chat about the Golden Globes 2021 nominations — about Bezos’ big news. Now that Bezos has a bit more free time, would the billionaire be up for, say, getting into the TV producing game?

“I don’t think he’s going be developing shows for me,” Salke quipped, a day after Bezos blockbuster announcement that he would transition to executive chairman of Amazon’s board and hand the CEO title to Andy Jassy. “But I am really sincerely excited for Jeff. He’s going to be around for a long time. He’s a lover and a passionate supporter of content and our business. And Andy’s a fantastic leader who has obviously very deep roots at Amazon. There’s really nothing feeling seismic for us at the company, we’re happy for Jeff and this transition should be pretty seamless for us, so I don’t have any major concerns.”

In a statement on Tuesday, Bezos said that in the exec chair role, “I intend to focus my energies and attention on new products and early initiatives,” including the Bezos Earth Fund, Blue Origin spaceship company, The Washington Post and the Amazon Day 1 Fund.

What about, say, Bezos hosting a TV show about any of those pursuits? “Maybe you’re right, you never know, I shouldn’t predict the future,” Salke added.

Salke was celebrating Amazon Studios’ haul of ten Golden Globe nominations, including seven in film and three in television. Among the highlights: “One Night in Miami,” which scored a best director nod for Regina King — making her just the second Black woman ever nominated in the category. Star Leslie Odom Jr. grabbed two noms, for best supporting actor in a motion picture and best original song for his track from the film, “Speak Now.”

Also, Sacha Baron Cohen’s “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” landed three nominations: best picture (musical/comedy), best actor in a comedy for Cohen and best actress in a comedy for Maria Bakalova, And “Sound of Metal” landed a best actor in a drama nod for Riz Ahmed.

“I’m really excited about what this says about our film strategy and slate moving forward,” Salke said. “And the diversity of this content to me is really exciting and gratifying. Moving into this, even though these are some of these are acquired films, the partnerships are very real.”

On the TV side, Amazon went into this Globes without eligibility for its signature awards grabber, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.” But it still landed a nod in best drama actor for “Hunters” star Al Pacino, as well as two for Steve McQueen’s “Small Axe”: best limited series and best supporting actor in TV, for star John Boyega.

“Small Axe” caused a debate among film and TV pundits over whether it was a film project or a TV anthology series. Amazon ultimately decided to put it in the TV track, and the awards recognition has paid off.

“For us the approach doesn’t matter,” Salke said. “We think this is the best strategy for Small Axe. Steve is so excited and thrilled. It really encourages creativity, and the form shouldn’t be the barrier to anything.”

As the worlds of TV and film blur together, does it matter? “I obviously come from a TV background but so many of our creators on our slate at Amazon, they’re working across both mediums,” Salke said. “I have found that the learning curve on adapting to both has been pretty seamless. These are artists and filmmakers that have something they want to say and they want it to reach as many people as possible. And we’re there to support it, no matter what form it comes in and I think that’s really what matters. And allows them to really express their vision. And I don’t get hung up on what lane they’re in, we’re just we’re working on making sure all that content translates across the world in the most impactful way.”