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Photo credit: Courtesy of Stage 32
How Netflix Tapped LA Talent Incubator Stage 32 to Pull in Global Creatives
“The purpose of doing this … was to help people realize their pitches for serialized storytelling,” Netflix’s Christopher Mack says
An L.A.-based social network for film, TV and theater creators has seen a huge spike in interest and membership since the company partnered with Netflix to help people prepare pitches rooted in stories around the world.
Richard “RB” Botto, founder and CEO of Stage 32, a 75,000 member hub for creators all over the world, said continuing response from old and new members to the Netflix workshop has accelerated the 10-year-old company’s mission to “democratize” entertainment industry access and opportunity for global creatives by fostering foot-in-the-door connections with high-level decision-makers and financiers.
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“One thing I noticed back in 2011 was, we were headed towards an era where content was going to be produced on a mass level, not just at the studio level but with the proliferation of streaming platforms,” Botto told TheWrap. “And with some of the premium cable companies — HBO, Showtime — moving further and further into prestige original content, it just seemed to me there was going to be a need for content all over the world, and a need to discover content creators all over the world.”
Christopher Mack, director, Creative Talent Investment & Development for Netflix, who led the virtual seminar last month, confirmed that Netflix was looking for a way to tap into Stage 32’s global reach.
“The purpose of doing this workshop was to help people realize their pitches for serialized storytelling all over the world in a way that could help our executives at Netflix, at the local language original offices, to help find content to put on our service,” Mack said. “The idea of tapping into Stage 32’s global community of writers, creators and other talent that are working closely with their roster of professional writers and development executives really appealed to me.”
Netflix’s interest in developing specific regional content was clearly evident in mid-February when the company announced plans to open a new office in Canada to “work directly with Canadian creatives.” “Canada is an amazingly diverse country and growing our presence locally will help us share more authentically Canadian stories with the world, whether through the development of original content or through co-production and licensing opportunities,” Netflix said in the announcement statement.
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Botto told TheWrap that the Netflix TV pitching workshop, which is still available for free download via the company website, drove record numbers of visitors to Stage 32.
He added that 50,000 creatives and other entertainment industry professionals from 180 countries have registered for the seminar, including about 10,000 who viewed it live, about 30,000 who have viewed it on-demand and 10,000 who have registered but not yet watched. Of the total, he said about 25,000 are newcomers to the platform. In addition, the company said the Stage 32 website traffic has spiked by 300% since the webinar.
Membership in the social network is free. Some educational content is free, such as the Netflix webinar, and the site also offers various paid premium content and classes ranging from $39 to $499.
Botto said a decade of building a global network has put Stage 32 in a “sweet spot” to take advantage of the demand for new streaming content accelerated by the pandemic. “Now, we’re in a position where these streamers and networks are coming directly to us,” he said. “At the end of the day, if we are able to vet the talent and content to a certain extent, it shortens their path, and saves them an awful lot of time and money.”
Richard Botto/Stage 32
Mack explained during the webinar that Netflix does not accept unsolicited scripts and pitches without the traditional contact through an agent, manager or attorney. However, Botto said working through Stage 32 can pave the way to finding representation, and in many cases foster a direct relationship with some entertainment companies.
He added that material recommended through Stage 32’s extensive development review system is sent out to “thousands of execs. If an exec wants to meet with a writer, we help facilitate the meeting and, should it go further, help piece together the project.”
As an example, Botto cited the 2020 action movie “Chick Fight,” about an underground, all-female fight club and starring Malin Ackerman and Alec Baldwin. He said the movie, distributed by Quiver Distribution and available on Amazon, began with a script by a writer out of Pittsburgh submitted through Stage 32 in 2016. “We helped connect the production companies and the legal team that helped make the film a success,” he said.
In 2020, writer Laurie Ashborne, who developed her script “10-31” in a Stage 32 lab, had the script optioned by horror film producer Eli Roth through his company The Arts District. Eric Jeske, the winner of Stage 32’s 5th annual Feature Screenwriting Contest, was signed by boutique management company First Friday Entertainment.
Botto said he predicts a “great content Gold Rush of 2021” post-pandemic will, in all likelihood, be led by the demand for international content, particular the kind that can also translate to U.S. audiences, including Netflix’s “Suburra: Blood on Rome” from Italy, launched in 2017, and 2021’s French mystery thriller hit “Lupin” starring Omar Sy.
“Netflix is looking all over the world to find local language productions to be able to broadcast regionally, but then expand out to other regions and expand those libraries as well,” Botto said. “This is not to say that things are not going to get churned out through the normal machinery, but there is a shifting and a sea change toward dealing directly with the creator, and I think that’s really exciting.”