S1: Post Production at Netflix

Episode Summary

Director of Worldwide Post Production, Sean Cooney, and Talent Acquisition partner Talia Williams chat about the unique process and challenges of growing strong global support for Post Production at Netflix.

Episode Notes

Director of Worldwide Post Production, Sean Cooney, and Talent Acquisition partner Talia Williams chat about the unique process and challenges of growing strong global support for Post Production at Netflix.

Episode Transcription

Please note:  Michael and Lyle’s voices are very similar, so when not sure of which was speaking we used Male.


Michael:          You are listening to We Are Netflix podcast – discussions between Netflix employees.  I’m Michael Paulson.


Lyle:                And I’m Lyle Troxell.




Lyle:                When the camera stops, the lights turn off and the actors go home.  The movie is not finished. This is the time for post production.  Today we are joined by director of Worldwide Physical Post Production, Sean Cooney and his talent acquisition partner, Talia Williams to chat about the unique process and challenges of growing strong global support for post production at Netflix.Well, welcome, both of you to the podcast.


Sean:               Thank you.


Talia:               Thank you.


Lyle:                Let’s talk about post production when you’re hiring.I know that right now, I’m just going to give like, a little bit of basically what I know.  And please correct me.  But we spin up production companies that are small LLCs that actually run our titles.  So, Stranger Things, for example, is a production company that we own.  And we hire maybe one or two employees.  But then that corporation actually runs by itself.What are you guys focused on?  Are you guys focused on those little corporations, or are you focused at a different level?


Sean:               So, I think there’s post production at the show level and then there’s post production at the studio level.  We work with shows to manage the process from somewhat of a remove.So, each show has its own post production supervisor or post production producer.  And they are executing to complete the show and deliver it into Netflix.And our job as a team is to make sure that all of that happens on schedule, on budget, and at the optimal, sort of, creative level.  And with the creative engagement from our teams at the studio.


Talia:               And when I’m working with the team, we’re looking for the studio side.  So, when I’m working with Sean or anyone on his-, in his organization, we’re hiring for the studio.  So, people who will be looking across a lot of shows working with those post sups and post producers that are on the shows.


Male:               When you say ‘the studio’…?


Talia:               Us.  Netflix.


Male:               Us.  Okay.


Talia:               The studio.


Male:               You’re working for us.


Talia:               Yeah.


Male:               And are you hiring people that continue to work for us or work for these corporations?


Talia:               Work for us.


Male:               Work for us.  Okay.


Talia:               So, they would be working here in the office as a Netflix employee, which the studio, to a certain extent, they’re a Netflix employee as well as far as on the shows.  But here, these are corporate employees.


Male:               When I think of post production, I think of color correction, I think of editing.  I think of all the voice over work.  All those kinds of things.  What’s-, what other pieces am I missing?


Sean:               Well, there’s dubbing which is a big part of our localization push around the world to get all of our content at the optimal level enjoyed by different folks in different places of the world.  So, we are lately pushing on English dubbing.  So, shows that we’re creating in other markets, creating English tracks so that people in domestic markets can also enjoy those shows.


Male:               Are you a dub listener, or a sub reader?


Sean:               A little bit of both.


Male:               Yeah?


Sean:               Yeah.  It depends.


Male:               Really?


Sean:               If it’s late at night, I might be, you know, reading the subs just so the kids don’t wake up.


Male:               Right, right.


Sean:               But certainly, dubs are interesting to watch how that is evolving in terms of getting better and the quality improvement.  It’s probably, I wouldn’t-, I don’t know that I would be listening to dubs as much if I wasn’t working on management.


Male:               Yeah.  Do you find that there’s like, a re-write that takes place, or a translation?Which way do you think of it?


Sean:               There could be both.  I mean, the…  Subtitles can actually be a chance to find a way to get closer to the creative intent than might have been realized in the...


Male:               Odd in the actor?


Sean:               Yeah.  Exactly.


Male:               Oh, interesting.  How so?Can you give an example?


Sean:               Well, I mean, you can have a joke that didn’t fully land.And you might be able to refine the way it comes across in that final, sort of, text.


Male:               I can imagine—


Sean:               [unintelligible 00:03:41].


Male:               I can imagine a joke has a lot of variety based off the language that’s being told in, right?  It’s-, you might have to completely rephrase how it works for it to still land as a joke.


Sean:               Correct.  Yeah.Subtitling is something that is managed out of our product group.  And it’s something they’re looking at innovations and machine learning, artificial intelligence.  And so, it’s something that the post production team is not overseeing directly, but we engage with.


Male:               But you do oversee the dubs.  And I’m assuming dubs normally follow subs in the sense that at least you have a script at some level that we’d like to then, try to match the language with on.


Sean:               Exactly.


Talia:               I actually had somebody tell me recently, and I wish I could remember the show, that a friend was watching it and didn’t realize they were watching the dubbed version.  Like, that’s how good it was.  They thought it was an English show, English language show.


Male:               Interesting.


Male:               So, you guys are responsible for hiring the talent that does the dubs?


Sean:               We are hiring the talent that manages the talent.  So, our teams, in some cases, are doing the hiring of the directors who are hiring the-, who are doing the voice casting.And then overseeing that whole process.


Male:               So, that voice casting work and the directors, where is that being done?  Is that being done in the building we’re in right now?


Sean:               It’s being done all around the world.  And our post team is more and more a global team.  So, we’re hiring supervisors and post managers in each of our major global markets.


Male:               Why are we doing that?


Sean:               Well, to be closer to the creation process.  So, the shows that we’re creating in those markets, we’re inspiring people in each territory to produce and tell their own stories.And so, our teams have to be within the same time zone so that they can be hand in glove with those shows as they are finishing and making their way onto the service.


Male:               Can we talk about a title-, an actual title in one of our territories we’re talking about that’s been produced not locally, you know, in Los Angeles, but somewhere in the rest of the world?  Do one of you have a title we can talk about?


Talia:               Dark.


Male:               Dark.  Great.Dark Germany, right?


Talia:               Yeah.


Male:               So, when we did Dark, the original actors, of course, are cast.  The whole thing’s shot in Germany somewhere.  And then at some stage, the episode’s done.  What happens at that point?  Just like, really, like, broad spectrum, what happens?


Sean:               So, broad spectrum…  When you mean the episode is done…  You mean, it’s…


Male:               It’s in the can. 


Sean:               So, while we do color correction, we do editing, we do sound finishing, and—


Male:               Where is that done?


Sean:               …localization.  So, that would be done in local facilities in Germany.


Male:               Okay.


Male:               Do you hire the people to oversee the people doing it?


Sean:               Exactly.


Male:               Is that the…?


Talia:               Yeah.  So, if you think of—


Male:               Is it the same process as—


Talia:               …either dubbing or any part of production, if you-, maybe an example that works is these would be like the general contractors which is something that you would hear the head of production here talk about.And so, we are hiring the people on each project, Netflix employees.  The ones that I-, our—


Male:               That are located in Germany—


Talia:               …I team would work with Sean to hire. 


Male:               …for example.


Talia:               Well, so, our teams are growing to be more in region.Our studio corporate teams are growing to be more global.  We’re hiring for post production in our Amsterdam offices and parts of-, all over Asia, all over Latin America.  And so, yes, maybe.  But also, they could be run out of LA as well.


Male:               Okay.  And so, that person is actually going to manage the contractors that actually are going to do the color correction work and so-on.


Talia:               Yeah.  And they’d have multiple shows at once.  So, it wouldn’t like, just be that one Netflix studio employee would be just working on Dark.


Male:               Right.  So, Dark gets color corrected.  It gets mastered in audio.  It gets, kind of, at some point subs and dubs start being worked on?


Sean:               Yes.


Male:               And does that happen at that office as well?  Like, why are we spreading ourselves out to do this creative process if it’s similar in every show we do?  Why aren’t we centralizing it?


Sean:               Well, as a matter of fact, we are working on some initiatives to centralize some of the mixing, which is the final, sort of, delivery process.  So, once you’ve recorded the language tracks, you can deliver them to a centralized facility where we can get better consistency in terms of what comes into Netflix.


Male:               Okay.  Kind of—


Sean:               Historically—


Male:               …like, how we traditionally pull in films and titles when we’re licensing them, right, from other studio that’s mastered it.  We get a copy.  We have all ingestion process to make that whole thing streamlined.


Sean:               Exactly.  And I think because the history was, we started with 100 percent licensed, sort of, approach to content, we-, the first thing that we focused on was the vendor community and then we had to rely on to deliver in that content once we licensed it.We didn’t have the option of creating our own, sort of, workflows in centralized facilities.  And so now, it’s something we’re looking at to supplement the vendor community.  We actually have a team within the post production work that focuses entirely on that vendor ecosystem.  And they’re called post partnerships and integrations.  And…


Male:               Are these like, tools teams?  Like, people that are writing tools to do this, or…?


Sean:               It’s more-so people who are analyzing the marketplace and developing relationships with all the local facilities.  And they’ve even created a badging system for Netflix preferred vendors.


Male:               And we’re talking about recording studios, things of that nature where you want to build an access resource and they might have the talent pool, the director company could cast from.


Sean:               Correct.  Hm-hmm. [affirmative] Exactly.  And it expands to color correction facilities, mixing facilities.  Historically it’s been more fulfillment related in terms of commodity services.  And as we scale, we’re looking to identify gaps in the vendor ecosystem on the creative services side as well.  And look into areas where we may need to partner or build to, again, supplement the existing resources. 


Male:               When you say you’re, kind of, filling in potential voids in a region, what kind of-, can you give an example of one? Maybe not the country, but some thing that was like, oh, we don’t have enough of this kind of thing in my country, or in the region.


Sean:               Sure.  In each-, and what we’re doing now is a lot of analytic work around what it takes to make a show.  And then looking at that against the projections of how many shows we’re going to produce in any given territory.  And then doing the math.  So, if any…


Male:               And going, oh, my gosh, we need a lot of resources.


Sean:               Right.  So, if you need, on a large feature film, four weeks’ worth of mixing time in a large, sort of, mixing studio, and you decide you want to do X number of large feature films in Brazil or in Asia, are there enough high-quality facilities that exist in those regions to support that? 


Male:               That’s a big undertaking because it takes a lot of time to do that kind of research.  And I’m assuming that’s what you’re hiring for right now, right?  Is that, kind of, people you’re focusing on?


Talia:               I mean, in general, resources includes people, right?


Male:               Yeah.


Talia:               So, it’s a lot of this is, how do-, and this is domestic too.  It’s not just international challenge.  But where do we find people?  And also, where are they best served?  Like, do we want to…  Are they best served for us here and helping us build this studio?  Or with the vendor relationships and the folks who are on the shows, you know, independent shows, that’s another place where you need strong people and you want to have great partnerships.  And so, a lot of the resource is, you know, focused on the people part as well.


Male:               I’ve worked on set before when I was-, lived down here, I worked on a small four-million-dollar picture.  And the—


Talia:               Doing what?


Male:               I was props.  Special effects props.  And actually, we had it on service for a while.  Caught Up, a film from, I don’t know, it was 2000 area. 


Male:               Love that film.




Male:               You don’t know that film.  Any case, it was a really interesting experience moving from like, theatre into that and seeing what it was like on set.  And one of the things I remember pretty strongly is a pretty established way of engaging with people.  And it was not the most collaborative and friendly environment to work in.  It was very much regulated by, you know, I couldn’t touch an extension cord.  Somebody else had to touch the extension cord.  There’s a lot of rules and processes involved in production.  I know you guys are in post production.  But I’m assuming that same type of work ethic and industry had exists.How much do you have to force and push and change and shift that to make it function the way that function as a business?


Talia:               Well, I think what you said, the industry existed.  Right?  Like, this is not something where we’re creating from the start an entertainment industry.  So, when we’re-, when I’m specifically talking to people for production or post production, it is trying to find the folks who have existed really successfully in this business.  But also, know how to remain an independent thinker and have been able to seek out the efficiencies.  Or when we’re talking to folks, you know, looking for shows, looking at shows and posts, the workflow piece and our questioning workflows and not just accepting that this is how things were done.  And this is the best way to do it.  Like, and that, I think, is-, seems to permeate through a lot of the different-, whether it be other studios or other production companies, just the lack of questioning.And so, in general, at Netflix, all of us, right, are meant to be constantly engaged and thinking what-, about what we’re doing and that the same is extending to here.  It’s just a lot of folks have grown up in industry or in this industry that’s very specific culture to itself. 


Male:               So, there’s a whole industry in place that already uses clever tools of some nature.  I wouldn’t say that they’re up to par with what we have, for example.  But if you’ve been doing this kind of work for 20 years, you know how you’re doing it.  And it’s not the way Netflix is doing it.  So, you have these talented people that have to pre-learn the skillset. And then, if you’re dealing with a lot of contractors, they have to, then, push that into new hands all the time.  Is there like, a training seminar boot up for that process?


Sean:               Yeah.  And actually, there’s multiple teams within post production at Netflix whose part of their job is to educate and, sort of, on board and involve that community of partners and vendors that we work with.  So, the first team that I mentioned, post partnerships, they have vendor education events that they host all around the world.  And where they’ll train people on what it means to deliver 4K high resolution content, high-dynamic range content into the Netflix service.  And to engage with that, we have a digital asset team that have-, a portion of their team spends time training and onboarding facilities and crew on how to engage with the content hub on a day-to-day basis.


Talia:               So, and even within the broader physical production work, there are people who are literally meant to help train up the shows and get them comfortable with the way that we want to share information.


Male:               It seems like a lot of our success is going to be able to achieve that fluidly.  Like, the transfer of all these people’s skillsets into a system that works better, hopefully.And we take advantage of that system.But at the same time, all those, a lot of those contractors are people that are going to come and go and in facilities that are going to, you know, work with us but also work with another studio.It seems like that general way of working is going to permeate outside of us and change the industry at some level.At the same time, we-, I would assume that the tools we build, we’re not going to open source them or something.So, I’m assuming it’s a bit of our secret sauce.  But how-, where-, what’s our stance on that in the sense of that if the entire industry gets better at this, as we pull in new creatives, they’ll know the system’s better?


Sean:               Yeah.  I think that is correct.  And I think one of the benefits we have at Netflix in the way we’re handling post production is it is more of an end-to-end approach.  So, the fact that we have all of these, sort of, teams within our larger post production org is unique in the industry.  Normally, you’ll have siloed entities at the studios.  One handles vendor management.  One handles facilities, usually for, with the aim of making a profit off of their co-workers or external partners.  And another group will handle management of the shows.  In our case, we have, sort of, end to end technology and show management under one umbrella.  And trying to figure out ways to optimize the connections from each point in the supply chain.  So, having a separate QC team which may have been the norm in the past, where people wonder why things get bottlenecked in that area of the flow, we now have that team within our larger team.  And we can actually look and see how we can refine that.  Also, having each of those components of the supply chain with it on one umbrella allows us to apply a consistent philosophy around the entire endeavor.  And at Netflix, we have such a focus on supporting creative visions, our teams in the post production org who are each handling a piece of that supply chain can come together and figure out ways to refine their work flows toward that aim.


Male:               It’s so funny you—


Talia:               I was going to say though that to-, when you guys first thing to workflows, I think of that as far as the culture piece and how what we do here, we can then infuse out and back in and like, make it this sharing so that we can slowly, hopefully, change the industry around us to have people—


Male:               Improve the world.


Talia:               Right.  But, I mean, honestly, if I talk to folks…  If I’m talking to them for a job for us, but maybe they’ve been on one of our shows, I always want to know how it felt differently than everything else you’ve done.And I think it’s really interesting when they can recognize very clearly that delivering a show to us, if they’re a post professional, like, delivering to us is different.  Not just in the actual, you know, maybe the specs, but how they talk to folks and the collaboration piece and the candor.


Male:               Can you give us an example of this?  Like, what do you-, what’d someone say to you?


Talia:               Well, they often will talk about how accessible folks are here.  And then just how easily you can communicate and talk openly.  I think that’s one of the biggest pieces and what you can say when.And Netflix is really well practiced and expecting people to share feedback in a great respectful way and openly and across all channels, right?  It’s not just up and down, or down.  And so, I think that’s a piece of it that is one of the first areas that is very different from a lot of the places where people work.


Sean:               Yeah.  I think we don’t make such an overt effort to spread the Netflix culture into the shows, per say, but it comes through in the way we engage with them.  So, if we are coming from a place that is not hierarchical and is about helping that creative vision, they eventually sense that, even though in the early stages they may still be a little shell-shocked from working from other companies where it might not be the case.


Talia:               And that’s even with our titles.  So, our titles exist in the industry.  So, a post coordinator exists in the industry, but not necessarily apples to apples.  We-, here we all know, we don’t prioritize titles.  And so, in a fairly flat structure, a post coordinator here can have a ton of experience and the folks working on the shows will recognize that it’s, you know, this isn’t somebody with one year of experience.  This is somebody who’s delivered shows and was probably a post supervisor.  I mean, there’s a wide range of it.  But that also is a big difference is that we-, you can’t exactly figure out someone’s experience or their scope of work here just by the title.


Male:               Yeah.  And they-, it’s actually not that they…  Not only do they have that experience, but they have that autonomy.


Talia:               Right.  Absolutely.


Sean:               So, and that can come as a surprise to the folks that we work with.  People who have a job description that at other companies would have to—


Male:               Ask for everything.


Sean:               …ask for everything all the way up the chain can make decisions.And again, that can be an adjustment for folks that work with us.


Male:               How long does that process take?  Because I would assume that this idea of just feedback…  And it’s not just simply downwards feedback.  So, the first time they experience feedback, is it kind of like, they’re like, oh, no.  I’m doing something wrong as opposed to, oh, this is a way to better myself.This is a way to become the Netflix-better person, if you will.  Like, is that a hard leap for them to realize they can also go the other direction, or the responsibility, or the freedom to be able to make these bigger decisions on their own?


Sean:               You mean, on our members of our team at the company when they come on as new employees?


Male:               Yeah.


Sean:               I think-, yeah.  They’re-, sometime-, depending on how long they’ve been in other environments, it can be almost like, a decompression chamber is needed.  You know? Where you’ve been, sort of, told that your place is not to question things for so many years.  So, it depends.  Some of the folks who are earlier on in their careers, they have a quicker adaptation to it.But for sure when we go for people with a lot of experience in the studio system, it hasn’t been what they came from.So, it could be-, oh, like, a breath of fresh air after a while.  They realize that I really can have that kind of freedom.


Male:               Does it work the same way with outside vendors?  Do we practice the same candor, like, open feedback?And is that hard for these people that don’t exist within our ecosystem to really rock?


Sean:               Yeah.  And also, analytics.  You know, so, as I was describing our way of engaging with external vendors, it’s a wholistic approach.  It looks globally.  We track metrics.  We look at their, sort of, delivery history and where they’ve succeeded and maybe need work.  And we’ll communicate that directly and…


Male:               And they’ll be like, hey, you’re watching us.


Sean:               Exactly.


Male:               Are they happy about that?  Do you reveal blind spots that they just don’t even see themselves?Because they don’t have the same data power we do?


Sean:               Yes. Absolutely.And I think there too is there’s an adjustment. So, if it was only delivering feedback that they need to get better, they probably wouldn’t be so happy with it.  But in our case, we’re doing education as well as feedback.  So, we are-, we’re investing in sending people out around the world to host these events where facilities and partners are invited to come and learn about how to be successful with engaging with us.  So…  I think they’re generally appreciative of that.  But I do think there’s more and more work we have to do in that area because we’re growing so fast that we can also be a mystery to a lot of entities around the world.  And the traditional vendors and agents and the ecosystem that supports production can-, it can take awhile for them to get up to speed to what we’re trying to accomplish.


Male:               You know, it’s interesting.  When you talk about the supply chain, almost, like, it feels like a mechanism that’s very, you know, mechanical and step-by-step, kind of, thing.  And at the same time, I understand that we are, as a company, we don’t like process.  We don’t like to declare a way of, this is the way to do it.  How do you match those two things together and be functional?


Talia:               I mean, it’s a question that, sometimes, will come up from like, terrified candidates because they’re just so used to being super-, you know, they’re used to their workflows in the way they go.  And I think for me, in the way I’ve always interpreted it is, we’re not lawless in that post exists without any, sort of-, I’ll even say the word process or workflows or efficiencies.  It’s more to me how you show up within that and whether or not you accepted it in its state and don’t question it.  Or whether you’re flexible or nimble to how things change.  I mean, we are growing as we can talk about at nausea.  So, quickly, that there’s just no room for anything to stay the way it is often.  And so, I think that is where…  Or even on the corporate side, right?  You wouldn’t look to process to like, well, I have to go through these three steps as Sean mentioned earlier about that autonomy piece.  That’s a huge part of, I think, just getting rid of a lot of process.  You can’t do X. Those are processes now that’s different than just getting a show delivered and the processes that come with that.  But it is funny, sometimes, to watch candidates reconcile like, the terror of, oh, no.  It’s chaos.


Male:               Yeah.  Well, it also sounds like you’re giving them a lot of change.  You know, okay, you’ve been doing this for 20 years.  That’s great.  We really want your work.  You know, we like working with you.  So, here you’re not going to have any process, really.  Anytime you think something should be changed, you should change things.  And when you want to talk to somebody, anybody at the company, go ahead and feel, you know, talk to them.  And they’re like, they’re looking at the side of the eye.  They’re like, really?  Is it really like that?  How do you convinced that that’s how we run?  And is it getting easier as we hire more people and more people shift through us?


Talia:               I would say you’d be surprised how much I encounter that conversation verses the holy smokes, this is what I’ve always wanted conversation.  Like, oh, wow, is this real conversation?  There are so many smart people working in this business. And just because they have existed in process, even if it’s for 20 years, that doesn’t mean that they are not wanting of something different.I mean, at least that’s who we really want to be talking to, right?  Like, those are the folks that would be most interested.  So, it’s not often like, backing them down from terror and more just, they’re excited about how does this work? Explain it to me.  Walk me through it.


Male:               Yeah.  And of course, if they’re seeing the difference from the description and going, wow, that would really change things.  And they’re bringing this idea of, you know, when I was stuck in a situation, a solution could have been this.  And they realize, wow, if I go to Netflix and join, I could actually implement that kind of idea.


Talia:               Yeah.  By nature, production people, I think, are hyper-efficient people.  Like, they’re doing great work.  And so, if you’re saying, here’s a place where you can be even more efficient and it’s up to you to design it, then that seems appealing.


Sean:               And I think the idea of, sort of, the term supply chain, it’s, again, with the name towards supporting creativity, hopefully in the most invisible way possible.  So, the goal being that if we are really good about how we’re approaching education and onboarding of partners, they know what to do.  It’s…  All the effort can go towards telling better stories.  And there can be less distraction which is what you usually get in a, sort of, disjointed ecosystem where there are a lot of handoffs without synergy. And you spend a lot of your time and energy trying to resolve conflicts between dispart entities and your-, it’s a distraction from the creative process.


Male:               Hm-hmm. [affirmative]


Talia:               And we’re not siloed in the way a lot of places are also.So, even when folks are here, they’re able to navigate a lot easier.  And that helps them understand how things work better in a way that maybe they didn’t have access to quite…  I mean, I hear often literally in physical buildings, they were just separate from people, separate floors.  And it’s not like that here.  Everybody sits with their vertical and like, the type of content they might be supporting.


Male:               Okay.  So, who sits together?  Like, on a…Just since we did it already, let’s just use Dark as an example.  Or maybe that’s not as much here.  Let’s use a title here where somewhere in this building I could walk over and see a group of people working together be partly your team members.


Sean:               Right.


Male:               What would we see?


Sean:               Yeah.  The way it’s typically divided is in pods around the creative entities supporting that type of content.  So, if you have on one floor feature films are being supported creatively, then the post teams would be aligned around that.  There’s some exceptions.  So, the asset management team will all, sort of, sit together on this floor, actually.And…  But more and more, we’re trying to embed any of our teammates as close as possible to the creative process as we can.  Because that’s where the decisions are coming and that’s where we can be the most supportive.


Male:               In engineering side, up in Los Gatos, we sit next to the designers and the product people.  So, you’ve got engineers, the designers, and the product people, which that has to be really close.  And you all have questions and chat. 


Sean:               Yeah.


Talia:               And so, physical production, post production, the creatives, they would all be sitting together if they’re supporting-, so like, Dark our international originals, those team-, that literally sits together.


Male:               Okay, cool.  I think there’s probably an analogy to engineering in that you’re supporting visions as well.  And so, that’s top of mind for us in terms of how we place our people.


Male:               Yeah.  Talia, how do you pitch Netflix to a person that’s in the industry that you want to hire?


Talia:               Well, it’s-, first of all, it’s a place that’s unique in that we’re doing everything under one preverbal roof.  So, right, global roof.  But I mean, it’s a place where we have incredible big budget films.  We have Indy films.  We have original series and the whole gamut is here and I think that’s really appealing to people.  You would come in, probably, with a background in a certain thing.  Like, you would have worked in unscripted.  Or you would have worked in international originals some type of capacity.  But to come here and have access to, you know, we have our openness here and the fact that we share everything.  And that’s really appealing to a lot of people.  And just the independence, I think, is a lot of it.  We hire people who are great at their work and can come here and be trusted to do really well and to work well with others and know when to run on their own and know when to collaborate.  And that’s also very appealing because that, I think, is probably the most atypical on the outside.


Sean:               Yeah.  I like to tell people, you know, talk to people when we’re in the interview process that we really are curious to know if they’re at the point in their career when they want access to that much freedom.  Because it’s a responsibility.  And, you know, it’s almost like, you think, here’s a race car engine.  Are you at the point where you want to really drive that?And because we do have no-, almost no limit to how much growth they can achieve here.  And the things that people can explore that they may have wished they could try out something new when they were in another, sort of, company or studio environment.  And we offer that freedom.  And so, if that’s the kind of thing that you want at this point in your career, this is the best place to be doing it.


Talia:               Yeah.  I often lean into that curiosity piece.  And if someone will press me on it, I’ll say you-, everything is open to you here, right?But Sean, nor anyone’s going to tap you on the shoulder and say, okay, go read this.  Go take a look at this. And if you come here and you don’t have that energy right now in your life to be curious constantly, then you’re just not taking advantage of Netflix.  And so, maybe you’ll come here and be okay.  But, why?  Right?Like, why come here and get to drive a Ferrari when you’re just, you know, not pushing the gas.


Male:               Going around the yard.  Yeah.


Male:               So, kind of, a common, I’d say, fear among the people that we interview on the engineering side is that okay, I am going to be this big owner over a piece.  Like, I’m going to have a lot of say.  Like, is this really what I want to do?  Is there like, a common fear that you get that you can address?  Like, what is some common like, oh, I don’t know if I should do that.  Or, maybe it’s difficult.  Maybe I’m not ready for this.


Sean:               I think I’ve found that some people may have a misconception that we-, we’re a start up mentality.  So, you picture start up mentality.  Oh, you’re working ‘til midnight.  You’re, you know, chained to the office.  And we certainly work hard.  But as you know, in this company, it’s more we work, sort of, smart and intense.  And we do find ways to have, sort of, our personal time.  And the whole, sort of, experience is just as important in our culture as the work.So, for people to have a great family life, and do the things that excite them in addition to their work, we know it’ll make them better at their work.


Male:               Sean, what do you do that excites you besides your work?


Sean:               I like to swim in the ocean quite a bit.  That’s what drew me out to California from New York. 


Male:               Just, just swim?


Male:               Just breast stroke?  Like, butterfly?  Like, is it mostly swimming, or is it snorkeling?  Is it…


Sean:               It’s mostly a side stroke.


Male:               A side stroke.


Sean:               Yeah.   


Male:               Really good form.


Talia:               I am now going to go to a cliff and try and find Sean side stroking through the Pacific.


Male:               All right.  Spending time in the ocean, that’s good.  And how’s your work-life balance?  Do you vacation?  Or are you good-, spending some time away?


Sean:               Absolutely.  Yeah.Well, I’ll be going back to New York this next month for a couple of weeks with family.  And definitely encourage the whole team to.  If you’re-, the more you can feed your soul and find your internal happiness, the better you are at your work.  Yeah.


Talia:               I’ll often tell people that probably most of the people on our organization, but in post and on my team and talent are working harder or denser than they have.  But nobody feels that way.  Like, I am a mom.  And I came here about a year ago thinking, you know, ready for more, a lot more.And it is more.  But I’ve never once gone, ‘Dang, I miss those days where I had that two-hour block of staring at the computer.’  You know?  It’s so exciting and it’s such a special time right now that while you’re here it’s really invigorating.


Male:               Was that your qualification to get this job, to-, staring at a computer for two hours?


Talia:               Exactly.  I’m like, I’m very good at that.  And then I talk to someone.  And then I stare some more.


Male:               When you talk about a show, you’re talking about the production team putting a movie or a series on. 


Sean:               Correct.


Male:               I want a little more detail just to put it in my mind. Where is the boundary of where it becomes the show’s responsibility verses it becomes our infrastructure, your larger teams, the studio’s responsibly?


Sean:               Right.  And I think traditionally—


Male:               Is that influx as well?  Is that—


Sean:               I would say so because if…  For example, if we stand up physical resource that is a facility that we’re managing, then that becomes an area that is our responsibility that may have not been our responsibility previously.  But in broad strokes, most of the responsibility for completing the show falls on the people who are on the crew and on that show.  And we’re there to help them along the way and make sure that they are-, that the communication channel is open so that if they need to reallocate funding or make a change to their existing plan, that we have made sure that all the folks who need to know are alerted at our company at the studio.And that we can bring any resources to bear to help them get where they need to go.  But generally, the responsibility is fairly clear in terms of they’re carrying the ball and we’re there to help them across the finish line. 


Male:               It seems like I might have left that-, this part of the industry too soon.  That seems like a place I’d want to work.


Talia:               Is this actually a podcast for me to recruit you into post production?  Because this is what it’s starting to turn into.


Male:               Surprise.  This is actually an interview. This is actually—


Male:               I’m available on Monday for talks.  No.


Talia:               Am I going to need to input this somewhere?


Male:               Just don’t tell Jeff.


Male:               That’s right.  No, quite happy up north.  I think that it’s pretty wonderful to see the industry changing though.  The thing that I-, the reason I got out of it was because it felt like an unhealthy place to be.  And it seems like we’re changing that at some level.  So, that’s exciting. 


Male:               When-, what was the most stark change for you, Talia, when you came here verses, like, and what did you believe and not believe?  And how long did it take for you to go, wow.I own all this.  And I can really do what I want to do?


Talia:               I mean, the information piece was just stunning.  I literally thought someone was punking me the first couple weeks I was here.  Just…


Male:               Oh, when you’re like, this is how the business runs.  Here’s all the documentation.


Talia:               I mean, it’s unbelievable to feel like as a grown people you could educate yourself holistically across the business.  And that’s—


Male:               Describe what that means.  What documents are you talking about?


Talia:               So, I mean, just the fact that you don’t have to stay in your lane, right?  I mean, I can obviously get to know Sean’s team and ask as many questions as I want.But I can also go and read about your team and I can go and learn about PR and marketing’s doing with all of our, you know, documents that we share in the way we are really open with our doors too if I want to get to know somebody outside of what I’m specifically doing.  And the way we’re really candid internally here with how things-, what things are happening and when, I think that other places it might take longer for it to get to the masses, if you will.  And here, everyone seems to, for the most part, get on the same page at about the same time.  And there’s just a great priority and business learning for everybody.  But everybody should understand Netflix and not just your job in front of you.  And that, to me, was-, is one of the most stunning things about being here and was probably the biggest shock coming from a larger corporation.


Male:               Yeah.  And the more context you have about everything that’s happened, the better you can do your job.


Talia:               Yeah.  Right.And you just are more-, if you’re interested, then you’re more interested.  Right?Like it makes you happier in your day to day.


Sean:               Yeah.  I think for me, it was realizing that when you identify a business challenge, there is very little holding you back from addressing the challenge.  And so, early on, it was about a year ago, we started realizing that our post management team that look after the shows are spending a lot of time thinking about digital assets and what it takes to move them around the globe.  And we said, well, what if we set up a separate team that’s called the digital asset team?And we-, within the space of about two months, had a team growing and then within about six months, we had about seven or eight folks on that team. 


Male:               That is quick.


Sean:               Getting up to speed.  Yeah.  So, we also did something similar recently where we said, well, our organization, the post organization’s getting big with lots of teams within it.  How do we optimize how the teams work together?  And we created a team called the Post Production Systems and Innovation Team.  And their job is to look at the organizational efficiency and to help everyone who’s looking at-, say, making the shows work better, their job is to make the organization work better.  And if one team needs a project management application, they can engage with engineering and help that come to pass.


Male:               Is that what freedom and responsibility looks like to you as head of production, post production?  That you’re able to go, I need a team here.  What did you have to do to get the resources to hire those people or to define that group?


Sean:               Yeah.  It’s very much is one of the benefits of the philosophy of this company because there’s a trust that if you are…  If you’ve been hired here, you have value and expertise that is relied on to make those good decisions.  And the goal is not to hold people up from addressing business needs and challenges.  Because, as we know, as we’re scaling at the pace we are, we can’t afford to waste time, sort of, second-guessing.  We-, certainly we analyze and we try to make collaborative decisions. So, we surface, as you know, across functionally and amongst our groups any new initiatives so that we get a lot of input and feedback before we, you know—


Male:               So, for that initiative, for example, for one of those teams you just described, you’d like, write up a doc that would say we’re having this problem.I’m planning on solving this way.It looks like this is the kind of resources I want.  And then at some time, you have a meeting with people, like, kind of your peer people that are doing similar org sizes to you and say this is my thought process in this.And someone say, you know, I did that last year, but I did it this way.  So, make sure to avoid that, or I’m questioning about this, and you have a discussion.  And at the end of that, it’s your call.



Sean:               Right.  And that particular example, we had another level of analysis where initially we were going to have that team exist within a different team.  We tried that for a few months.  We got together.  We said it actually makes sense to move them over here.  And so, there’s a lot of fluidity in terms of making decisions to address business challenges and then also being able to pivot when you realize that maybe your decision has to be refined or changed in some way.


Male:               Which means that everybody across the company has to be pretty eager to learn a lot because as you change the name of a team, and I’ve been working with another team, it happens sometimes.  You’re like, wait, what was that team?


Sean:               Team names are tricky.  I will admit that.


Male:               Luckily, the company is still, kind of, small enough where if I’m working with somebody and they change, you know, work structure and they’re still doing a similar job, I know who the person is.  It’s not that hard.


Male:               That’s right.


Talia:               We are ripe with acronyms here.


Male:               We are.  We are.We move fast.


Talia:               Thank you.


Male:               Thank you.  It was a pleasure.


Talia:               Thanks.


Lyle:                I hope you’re enjoying the We Are Netflix podcast.I’m Lyle Troxell. 


Michael:          And I’m Michael Paulson.  And we’d love to hear feedback from you all if you’d like to let us know how things are going, please do.


Lyle:                Yeah.  You can reach out to We Are Netflix, the Twitter handle, and, kind of, give some feedback for us.


Michael:          Yeah.  We’d love to hear it.


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