Netflix was unusually transparent at the recent Produced by New York conference, where film chief Scott Stuber and director Ron Howard spoke at length about the company’s relationship to its filmmakers, and the viewership numbers the streamer holds close to its chest.
Netflix and Howard, who moderated the discussion, are currently at work on “Hillbilly Elegy,” making Howard yet another prolific filmmaker lured by the deep-pocketed streamer, joining the high-profile ranks of Martin Scorsese, Steven Soderbergh, Guillermo del Toro, Damien Chazelle, Dee Rees, Noah Baumbach, Alfonso Cuarón, David Michôd, Tamara Jenkins, Nicole Holofcener, Jeremy Saulnier, and more.
As reported by Deadline, Stuber said, in regards to how filmmakers are compensated at Netflix, “I believe in fair and righteous behavior…One of the things I love so much about the company is that’s the way we’re built. When we make deals, we’re slightly different [than traditional studios]. We have a model. If we make a film, we pay in success.” Stuber previously served as an executive at Universal, which is how he met Howard, whose Imagine Entertainment had a deal with the studio.
Per the report, Netflix takes into account a filmmaker’s body of work to calculate a reasonable budget. (Martin Scorsese, just for example, was given carte blanche on “The Irishman” with a budget topping $140 million.) “We together, with their attorneys, assume the great success ratio of that film. So if we make a movie for $60 million, and it made $200 million, we pay people under the auspices that that’s what your deal would be. And what we never want to be is a place where people feel they got taken advantage of,” Stuber said. He also added that a film’s performance is taken into account. “We want to make sure to take care of you,” Stuber said of filmmakers whose work succeeds on the streaming platform.
“The whole business is talent and you need talent to feel great — spiritually about the work and financially about the respect of getting what you deserve,” Stuber said. The Netflix executive also told Howard that the company will sit down with a filmmaker on the Monday following a film’s Friday opening to examine its performance, which is followed by further review across weekly and monthly sessions.
As per those elusive viewership numbers, Stuber said the experience at Netflix has been a positive one. “My friends who run other studios always say, ‘Aren’t you lucky you don’t have tracking anymore? You don’t have all those things you deal with on opening weekend.’…And I say, ‘But we do. We just have it internally.’ I see it all, and have the same anxieties and the same worries and text my guys Friday night and say, ‘How are we doing?’”
Stuber insisted at the conference that Netflix isn’t keeping tabs on viewers as much as you might think. “We don’t know who is on an account. I have no idea that that 70-year-old woman in Liverpool, England, is watching ‘Riverdale’ or our teen comedies. I don’t know who she is. So I don’t have bias in marketing to her.”