How do you get your project onto Netflix? With a background in VFX and a Harvard Master’s in Finance & Strategy, Netflix producer Jorge Garcia Castro shares ways filmmakers can get their projects sold. Listen to the latest episode of There to Here: Film & Media with Tanya Musgrave.
1:14 From Harvard To Hollywood
4:30 Companies he’s founded
6:52 Starting at Netflix
8:18 Working as a minority in Hollywood
15:42 International Markets
21:05 Buyout options
23:16 Selling an indie film
24:43 How much do you give up
25:08 What to look out for in a sale
26:40 New Media
28:12 How to get content onto Netflix
36:42 Getting picked up by VOD
28:30 Marketing your film
39:38 Virtual Produciton
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William Morris Endeavor (WME) Entertainment- https://www.wmeagency.com/offices/
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+1 310 285 9000 phone
Nashville, TN 37203
United Talent Agency (UTA) - https://www.unitedtalent.com/about/
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Jorge G. Castro (00:00):
If you're a director, you've got to find a good cast, a good crew. Like we were saying, have some departments and just package it the best way possible so when you go to a Netflix or you go to any studio, they really respond to the package. They're like, “Oh, we love this filmmaker. We love this actor. They have a lot of value. Let's go do something.”
Tanya Musgrave (00:18):
Welcome to There to Here, an educational podcast where industry professionals talk nuts and bolts on how they got from there to here. On today's show, Jorge Garcia Castro shows us the ins and outs of Netflix distribution and where to start if you have a film but nowhere to take it. As this is a new podcast, we're really wanting feedback, so go to media.collabinc.org, fill out the feedback survey and you'll be entered to win a $25 Amazon gift card. Congratulations to this week's winner, Nicholas Cueto.
Tanya Musgrave (00:44):
From CoLab Inc, I'm Tanya Musgrave, and today I have the multi-talented Jorge Garcia Castro, a Netflix producer, visual effects pro and industry entrepreneur. Jorge undoubtedly uses his Harvard master's degree in finance and strategy. He's also done VFX and consulting for Sony and Disney projects, such as Tron Legacy and Netflix projects such as Bird Box. Welcome to the show.
Jorge G. Castro (01:07):
Thank you. Happy to be here.
Tanya Musgrave (01:10):
From Harvard to Hollywood, I'm extremely interested, what's your there to here story?
Jorge G. Castro (01:15):
I actually started as a strategy consultant at Price Waterhouse Coopers, so I always wanted to be in the industry. I knew I didn't want to be an actor or anything like that, but I didn't know much about the industry, so I thought the best way to understand it was to go into consulting. I went into consulting mainly in the media and entertainment sector. My main clients were like Viacom, Sony, NBC, Universal. That's where I started to learn how the industry worked and where I could fit in, and that eventually led me to work for Sony in a similar capacity, in a similar strategy in New York.
Jorge G. Castro (01:52):
But they were having issues with some of their productions in terms of process, like they were going over budget on certain things that they shouldn't be going over budget because there were no controls in there. They asked me, “Can you go in there and see what you can do?” That was like my first on-location production involvement and I had no idea what I was doing right, so I was just asking questions, learning. Eventually that led me to move to L.A. to work for Disney.
Jorge G. Castro (02:19):
A colleague of mine at Price Waterhouse Coopers had started to work at Disney and he thought I could be a good fit to move there because they were looking for someone to do Spanish language productions. We moved to L.A. and I started working for Disney, working on the visual effects side in terms of similar things where let's figure out how we can be more efficient on visual effects, how can we use the creative in a way where maybe we don't necessarily need to do what visual effect in a certain scene that was planned for, or maybe we could do it better or different.
Jorge G. Castro (02:51):
I started working on that and then eventually I was able to get the job to lead Spanish language productions for Latin America, so I started really developing Disney branded content that was tailored for the Latin American audience. And it was really hard because it was just to have presence there. Nobody was ever going to see them basically because there was not a lot of marketing for them, but it was a great experience for me and I made a ton of relationships. I learned a lot. It was great.
Jorge G. Castro (03:21):
Eventually, that went away and I started working on the bigger movies. That's when I started working on The Tron and Alice in the Wonderland, Pirates of Caribbean, et cetera. At one point I thought it was, for me, time to move on and start my own thing. That's when I decided to leave and I started my own company, which was a new venture which I didn't know once you don't have the Disney name behind you or the financing behind you it's a whole new world.
Tanya Musgrave (03:50):
Yeah. Yeah. When people think of Hollywood they think, “Oh, you're going to be a director. You're going to be an actor. You're going to be something super, super, ooh, flashy.” That kind of thing. But the reality is that all of that stands on the shoulders of the foundational things like finances, knowing the business behind things. For the majority of our listeners, that's probably our weakest point. It's the production and the development, the development side, the market research, anything having to do with that and then also distribution.
Tanya Musgrave (04:20):
I'm very interested because you seem to have hands in both of those sides. You had mentioned a company that you had started. You were involved with entrepreneurship. Tell us about some of the companies that you started.
Jorge G. Castro (04:34):
When I left, I started a company called Altered L.A. with that partner of mine whose name is Marcus Klein. He is very seasonal in the commercial space, so he represents directors for commercials mainly for the U.S.-Hispanic market. He had been doing that a lot. He had been producing a lot of commercials, a lot of short form content, and he had a really good roster of directors. I had the development background, so we decided to join forces where I could work with his directors and we could use the commercial space as part of their revenue stream and then we could start features and TV.
Jorge G. Castro (05:07):
We started that. It still exists. We're still doing great. We have a great roster of directors that we still work with, and most of the content that we do is through Altered. I also started, recently, a company called Inclusion Management with other partners which are mass media, and that came from my company consulting on the U.S.-Hispanic market for studios. I was noticing that a lot of people don't understand who the talent is in the U.S.-Hispanic market. A lot of the time I was recommending all these directors and writers for jobs and actors and they were getting the jobs and I wasn't taking any…
Jorge G. Castro (05:44):
Not that I wanted credit, but I wasn't getting anything out of it except, obviously, getting those people out there, which is very important. But I thought nobody was representing them the right way. I thought there was an opportunity for us that we understand the U.S.-Hispanic market so well coming from the production space. The commercial space, sorry, and coming from Disney Latin-America. And so I thought that nobody understands this talent and how they should be represented more than us, and we should be representing them.
Jorge G. Castro (06:16):
We started inclusion management about… I think it's almost two years now. We worked on writers, directors and actors and it's been great. It's been great. We have a great roster of talent. Some are seasoned, some are not, and we're helping build that. And the truth is that in the U.S.-Hispanic market there's not a lot of talent. We need to grow that pool.
Tanya Musgrave (06:41):
That's a market right there, and we'll get to foreign markets definitely. But one question, did we cover how you got into Netflix?
Jorge G. Castro (06:52):
No, I don't think we did.
Tanya Musgrave (06:55):
I want to hear that story. How did you get into Netflix?
Jorge G. Castro (06:59):
Like I mentioned, I do a lot of consulting for studios on the U.S-Hispanic content side of it. Well, I actually got into Netflix two different ways. One was because they had a project that needed someone to… they needed some help because it was going to be shot in Mexico and it had some Hispanic elements that they wanted to get right. They wanted to have the right partners with who they were going to shoot with in Mexico, so they called me in to consultant and help them with that.
Jorge G. Castro (07:26):
Then through that, so the head of VFX at Netflix was a person that I worked with at Disney so we connected again and he asked me to go help him do some things on the VFX side. That's about how I got into that.
Tanya Musgrave (07:43):
It's like a brick and mortar Netflix, like there's an actual building or is it just…?
Jorge G. Castro (07:48):
The headquarters are in Los Gatos, but the other content is done out of Hollywood, so there's an office in Hollywood. Right now, because of COVID, it's closed so everybody's working from home. It's a great place. I'm really enjoying working there and hopefully I'll get to do a lot more stuff there.
Tanya Musgrave (08:06):
We actually did have a listener question on your personal journey on what role or detriment did privilege and/or prejudice play.
Jorge G. Castro (08:17):
It's always tougher when you're a minority. You have to work harder. You have to prove yourself harder. You're always fighting for something more than the average white folk, I would say. I've always had that challenge but I think, us as minorities, we know that we have the challenge and then we just have to not make that an excuse and just do what we need to do.
Tanya Musgrave (08:41):
Of course. And I feel like your inclusion management really does kind of… I don't know, that's the perfect rebuttal in my book. I mean, that's a perfect way to deal with it.
Jorge G. Castro (08:50):
Yes. The U.S.-Hispanic market is the biggest minority market by far, bigger than the African-American market or the Asian market or any minority.
Tanya Musgrave (08:59):
Jorge G. Castro (09:00):
Yeah. It's huge that the buying power is over a trillion dollars. They represent over 25% of the Box Office tickets sales. The sad part about it is that we, the U.S-Hispanic market, is the least represented out of all so it's a very underserved audience.
Tanya Musgrave (09:19):
Very untapped well there too, for anybody who's in business.
Jorge G. Castro (09:23):
Yes. But the problem is that they don't know the market and they don't know how to attack it. And they're afraid, because they just don't know the talent or what they're looking for. The few attempts that have been done have not been done properly, with a lot of stereotypes that nobody wants to see the illegal immigrants or the things always portrayed in a very stereotypical way that nobody wants to see. It's an untapped to market, for sure.
Tanya Musgrave (09:49):
I'm curious what the stories would be. I mean, I remember you saying nobody really wants to see another border movie. They don't want to see this kind of immigrant story anyway and then they're going towards escapism. What is something that that market would go for?
Jorge G. Castro (10:07):
It's really like any other type of content. The more eyes you can get to see it, the more successful you're going to be as a filmmaker. Right?
Tanya Musgrave (10:17):
Jorge G. Castro (10:18):
You got to try to figure out a way where not only you're going to hit the U.S.-Hispanic audience in this case, but it can be something broader that anybody can actually see. I think the idea is to do commercial stuff that just has Latin leads that are not necessarily poor, or the illegal, or the maid, or the gardener.
Tanya Musgrave (10:40):
Or the drug Lord.
Jorge G. Castro (10:43):
Or the drug Lord, exactly. I think there's a lot of opportunities just to do really compelling, broad, commercial content but that ties to Hispanics. Also, something like Shonda Rhimes who does Scandal and How to Get Away with Murder and those things, she has African-American leads in those shows but it's not about having being a slave or with brutality all the time.
Tanya Musgrave (11:07):
Yeah. Just for the sake of having a character and who's the character.
Jorge G. Castro (11:12):
Tanya Musgrave (11:13):
Yeah. No, I remember the very first time that it occurred to me. For instance, it was a Netflix. It was just one of those summer teen Rom-Com things. It was To All the Boys I've Loved Before, I think; and there was an Asian lead and there was nothing really drawn to the fact that she was an Asian other than the fact that she was just an Asian lead. That was it. And I remember looking her up later and she was actually adopted and raised by Caucasian parents, just like me. It was the first time that I had ever come across a character who was just a character in a movie and a lead just because she was a lead. That was it. There was nothing drawing attention to-
Jorge G. Castro (11:56):
Yeah. That's a great example. Yeah, that's a really good example.
Tanya Musgrave (11:59):
It was a common thread in our conversation before. I think you had talked about how people were tired of hearing about projects having to do with the wall or immigration and stuff. But you had come across a really good project that had come from the direction of a thriller, just a completely different approachable angle that can still talk about important thing but it doesn't necessarily have a flag to wave.
Jorge G. Castro (12:23):
Yes. Yes. Yeah. I was telling you about this immigration story which right now an immigration story, especially for Hispanics, is like a monologue. Nobody wants to see that. It's so stereotypical, and everybody's trying to… A lot of the content that I get and a lot of the pressure that I get are very, like you said, like the flag or specific purpose. I think it's great that people want to tell these stories because they're important, but it's going to be very hard to get them made today. Hopefully in the future it won't.
Jorge G. Castro (13:00):
But this guy wrote it. He found an angle into make it into like a mystery thriller about this kidnapper taking Hispanic kids. Who's the kidnapper and why is he doing it, or she? And he found a way to make it very like, “I want to know what's going to happen next.”
Tanya Musgrave (13:20):
Yeah, for the sake of the story.
Jorge G. Castro (13:23):
For the sake of the story. But throughout the story you're hitting on immigration issues, and racism, and discrimination and all those things but the way he does it, it's not in your face and it's not that. He tells the message that he wants to tell, but he's also doing it in a very compelling way.
Tanya Musgrave (13:41):
Yeah. Yeah, I remember reading an article. It was a while ago. It was about how there's been a death of the ‘90s movies and the ‘80s movies where it was just entertainment for the sake of entertainment. Like, where are your Sandlots and the Back to the Futures where it was just fun? You know? Everything seems to just have a message these days. Not that it's necessarily a bad thing, it's just that it can be exhausting to consume constantly.
Jorge G. Castro (14:11):
I agree. People, especially in this industry, when they ask you what your favorite movie is they expect you to say something like The Godfather or Citizen Kane or Casablanca. When I always say Back to the Future people think I'm crazy. It's really such a good movie. That's what got me interested in the industry when I was looking at the end credits. I was watching it with an uncle of mine and he was like, “Well, those are the people who made the movie." I was like, “Oh, you can work to make?” To me, it has a lot of value because of those things.
Jorge G. Castro (14:45):
That's what I want to do as a producer. I want to entertain people. I want to tell stories that are fun and you can just escape from the world, especially today, for a little bit and just have fun or laugh and cry. Whatever it is. If you can tell a nice message alongside that, that's great. But I don't think every single time it has to be about having an agenda. Sometimes it's just you want to have fun and you want to escape, here's something fun.
Tanya Musgrave (15:12):
Yeah. I think at the root of a lot of the guests that we've had in this kind of thing, whether or not they're an agent or whether or not they're in casting, or if they're a producer, or a first AD, the common thread is they're just passionate about it. They don't necessarily have some grand all-encompassing thing that they want to… like, agenda to push. They're just passionate. We had chatted earlier just about the foreign market and how that works into distribution in general. Can you tell us a little bit more about that?
Tanya Musgrave (15:47):
This is something where, distribution, it's like this nebulous impenetrable cloud of fight club folklore. It exists, but everybody who's part of it seems to be secretive and flashing soap bars out of their trench coats on street corners or something like that. We have no idea how it works. How does it work?
Jorge G. Castro (16:10):
Yeah. There's two types of, in this case, movies. Right? Let's focus on feature films and not necessarily series. But there's two ways of approaching how you're going to finance a movie. One is through a studio and one is independent route. Right? At the end of the day, the distributors are the studios. If you go and you get a chance to actually sell something to a Disney or a Fox or any of those studios, well, then you don't have to worry about financing or distribution because they'll do it through their platform and you're all set.
Jorge G. Castro (16:40):
That's everybody's dream in a way, but there's other caveats that come from that, right? Because you got to go through development and maybe you won't get [inaudible 00:16:50], and maybe you get the writers to do it and you might lose some of the creative access for that. But that's a good problem to have. The other approach is through the independent model. What you and I were talking about is just a few years ago the independent model was very standard in terms of, I have a movie that I'm going to make, let's say, $10 million, just for purposes sake. I need to presale the distribution, the foreign distribution to, use that money to make the movie.
Jorge G. Castro (17:23):
Then I'll sell the USA and Canada, which is North America after I've finished the movie, and that's where I make my money. That was a very standard process. I mean, it sounds easy but it's not that simple. The idea is to get to presale that distribution, you got to have package. You got to have a good script with a director attached and with a talent that's right, like who's the cast, who's your DP, all of that. Once you have that then you go to sales companies who will partner with you and they get a commission out of it and they get credits and they do well.
Jorge G. Castro (18:02):
They will go to all these local distributors in each country or in each region at the markets, at the town film festival or at Berlin or all of these major markets. And they'll go and they'll try to presale that distribution. Then when you've got a commitment from one of these companies, you can go to the bank, get a loan out of that paper, and go make that movie. It doesn't necessarily work, oh, it works like that all the time. You sometimes have to get some equities or you might need to bring in a financier that is willing to take some risks and just put some money down and they'll recoup from the unsold territories, and eventually you'll make your money.
Jorge G. Castro (18:41):
But now because of Netflix and Apple TV Plus and Amazon and Hulu, Disney Plus, these are all companies that want to buy the world. They want to make it a Netflix original, or they want to make an Apple TV Plus original or an Amazon original. What they're looking for is to buy the whole world. If you go to that old model, which is not so old, but if you go to that model and you start selling some of those territories, then you could potentially lose on making more money on your features or having those studios or those streamers pass on a project because you're not having the entire rights.
Jorge G. Castro (19:19):
Then instead of having them buy it, they might do a licensing deal where they'll just buy certain territories for a certain amount of years and then you can get it back. Which is not always a bad thing, but it's harder now because you want to control the whole world so that you can sell it to all these buyers because they pay you much better.
Tanya Musgrave (19:39):
Okay, so just to recap, you would presale the foreign rights, keep the domestic rights, make the film with the funds that you got with the pre-sold rights. Now they're wanting worldwide rights, what do sales companies see happening? Are sales companies still going to be used?
Jorge G. Castro (19:58):
That's a good question. I think so because a lot of these sales companies also have financiers, so they also represent investors. Not all of them, but some of them have financiers or some have very good relationships with certain territories in some countries, like China. There's somebody that could be very good for China that... Netflix is not in China, so you can sell those stories. And so I think it's a good question, because I don't know what's going to happen in three to five years.
Tanya Musgrave (20:28):
Jorge G. Castro (20:30):
I don't know. But that model's still happening, you know?
Tanya Musgrave (20:32):
Yeah. Yeah, so it's still an action.
Jorge G. Castro (20:35):
[crosstalk 00:20:35] space. Yes. I don't think it's going away anytime soon because, honestly, it's really hard to get a movie financed and you might just have to do it that way. There's companies that are still doing it, and a lot of independent producers still do it that way. You have to go in either before you make your movie to some of these studios and hope that they'd buy it or you've just got to find someone with a lot of money that is willing to pay for your whole budget.
Tanya Musgrave (21:04):
Would they buy you out?
Jorge G. Castro (21:05):
Sometimes they do.
Tanya Musgrave (21:07):
Is that something that you should run away from, or is that something that… I mean, is it just in the terms of minutia or is it something in general that, well, it's going this way you're going to have to be bought out?
Jorge G. Castro (21:20):
I think it depends. I think the buyouts are usually paid really well. I think if you are recovering most of your investment or all of your investment with a buyout it might not be a bad idea. But if you still need to recoup some money and there's a buyout, then, you're going to lose money on that movie, which happens a lot also. I think it's just case by case. But ideally, as a production company, you want to have a library of projects, produced films, so once the rights revert to you then you have a library of five, 10, whatever many movies that you can go and actually sell it as a catalog to one of the distributors and then make more money.
Tanya Musgrave (22:00):
Oh, wow. Okay. Okay.
Jorge G. Castro (22:03):
But that's harder and harder because, like you said, they're doing buy outs and they'll pay you for it. “All right, we estimate you're going to make X amount of royalties over the life span of this movie so we're just going to pay you right now.”
Tanya Musgrave (22:18):
How do they decide that? How do they estimate that?
Jorge G. Castro (22:21):
I have no idea. They have some algorithms that they go through. I don't know.
Tanya Musgrave (22:26):
Yeah. Because you had mentioned, I think, some sort of formula models where they could predict within like 95% accuracy.
Jorge G. Castro (22:34):
Oh, that's at the Box Office.
Tanya Musgrave (22:37):
Oh. Oh, okay. Okay.
Jorge G. Castro (22:39):
If you have a movie that goes into theaters after the first week and whatever that number is, they can predict how much it's going to do throughout the entire lifespan of that movie, not only at the Box Office but when they sell it to different windows, which another window is streaming, VOD, HBO, TV, et cetera, et cetera. They can predict that to 98% accuracy, or something like that, what that movie's going to make just based on the first weekend.
Tanya Musgrave (23:10):
Jorge G. Castro (23:10):
I don't know how they do it.
Tanya Musgrave (23:11):
Jorge G. Castro (23:12):
But they probably have so much data from the past.
Tanya Musgrave (23:13):
Most likely. I mean, for the majority of our audience, we're still getting started in the Indie film phase. For those not being made by large studios and stuff, what are the marketing possibilities? For foreign market presales, like for somebody who for instance they are making their first feature, what are the marketing possibilities? Do you still try to go and find a sales company? What if they've already made it? It's a low, low budget film. They've already made it. They have it in the can and it's sitting there, but they don't know what to do with it.
Jorge G. Castro (23:51):
Yeah. I think you'd go in and you find one of these sales companies. You show it to them, hopefully they like it and then you can rep it. It's better for sales companies to have revenge product, to be honest; because now they know what it is and they can tell you they can sell it or not, and they can give you estimates. If you have something sitting there, there's a lot of sales companies, big, small, and medium. You were asking how do you find these companies. I don't know. I think you can Google ‘foreign sales companies' or ‘movie sales companies'. There may be.
Jorge G. Castro (24:17):
But there's a lot on IMDB. You can find them. The talent agencies like CAA and William Morris and all of them, they also do that. They also do the same type of service as well. But there's all sorts of companies. There's many of them, so it's just a matter of researching it, finding them and contacting them, and sending them an email. They're always looking for content, so they're going to welcome it.
Tanya Musgrave (24:40):
How much of a percentage do you give up typically when you go to a sales company?
Jorge G. Castro (24:45):
It varies. It'd be anywhere from 10% what they make on commission to 35%. It really varies by company and by your content; and how desperate you are, I think.
Tanya Musgrave (24:58):
Yeah. Are there any specific words or phrases to raise the antennas of alarm if you see it and you're just like, “Oh, I'm about to get screwed over.”
Jorge G. Castro (25:09):
I think there's a lot that…
Tanya Musgrave (25:13):
Welcome to the minefield.
Jorge G. Castro (25:14):
Exactly. I think, sales companies, they want to be the producers of that project. They're going to want to get credits, like their company to be in the first position, their reps being credited for executive producing. I think if you see fees like 35%, that's a red flag although it happens. They also have a clause, and this is standard, but I always try to fight it. They also have a marketing clause. They will say, “Hey, we got to spend $75,000 because we need to go to Canada or we need to go to this and we need to screen it. And whatever we sell, we recoup that first and then we pay you.”
Jorge G. Castro (25:55):
You can negotiate it down. And then you can also say, “Well, why don't you nail half of it goes to you half of it goes to me?” You can do those things, but it's pretty standard that they have a marketing budget for it that they need to recoup first. At the end of the day, you want to go to someone that believes in your movie and that is willing to fight for it.
Tanya Musgrave (26:11):
You had already talked about the changes on the horizon with content wars and stuff like that. What along the lines of new media coming up, like for instance there is a doc that was shot on 360 that would go to a dome. It hasn't really been done much before, and so for a new market there's always a huge risk, number one. But number two, I mean, we had talked a little bit about these new ventures. What are the options for new media, say like Queevy?
Jorge G. Castro (26:45):
I think it was just additional buyers. I don't think it's going to change. I think that if you have short form content like Queevy or YouTube, I think it's just a different format that you can go south. If you have something that, I think, the best way to tell this story is in eight to 10 minutes, that's going to Queevy. I don't think this is going to change the landscape of how we do business today in the standard formats of series and features. I just think it's an additional. Same with virtual reality and augmented reality, and I just think they're just additional formats that you can go and do content for.
Tanya Musgrave (27:20):
Yeah. Do you think that there is much of a future for those forms of content?
Jorge G. Castro (27:25):
I think there is. Personally, I don't know if people want to see eight to 10 minute series when you have all these content creators that are doing so well on YouTube. And it's just such a different type of content that their viewers are watching. I think if you want to watch something with Chris Hemsworth, you're going to go and try and see a movie, or you're going to try and binge watch. People love binge watching series, and that's five hours or more of your time. I just think it's probably going to start adjusting and adapting to whatever that's going to end up being.
Tanya Musgrave (28:03):
We have some listener questions from our Insta and Facebook stories and Twitter. If you want to ask your questions to feature guests, our handle on instant Twitter is @colabincpodcast. The burning question on everyone's minds, how do we get content on Netflix?
Jorge G. Castro (28:17):
Yes, that is the burning question. Again, I think if you contact a sales company that has contacts there you can get them to submit to Netflix, same with Italian agencies. You can get Italian agents who rep your projects. They will submit it to Netflix and Amazon and Apple and all those buyers. I think you want to get it to as many places as possible and, hopefully, you start a bidding war. That's the best case scenario where you have multiple companies bidding for your project. That's the best way to go, I think.
Jorge G. Castro (28:46):
I would say 99% of the time you have to go through a distributor or through a company, a talent agency or a management company, because they don't take submissions like if you go and knock on the door. It has to be through someone, unfortunately. But they have to have a filter somehow.
Tanya Musgrave (29:02):
Yeah. Okay. For instance, here is a real world example. This real world example is coming from one of our listeners. We are currently in the process of making a feature doc about diabetes in the South Pacific and we'll be looking for distribution, so we're wondering if Netflix is a possibility. How do we go about that, going to those sales companies and trying to make the relationship that way?
Jorge G. Castro (29:25):
I would try the Thailand agencies. I wouldn't try the CAAs, the [inaudible 00:29:30], the UTAs, those companies first. You can get their contacts through IMDB and just let them know that this is what you have. If you have a pitch deck or whatever information you have, I would send that to them and see how they respond. If not, I would go to sales companies that focus on documentaries. I don't really work on the documentary side, so I don't know who those companies are. But I'm sure a lot of them are the same companies.
Tanya Musgrave (29:57):
When did you get an unfair lucky break or unfair biased loss?
Jorge G. Castro (30:04):
I got my unfair lucky break at Sony when they asked me to go and try to figure out what to do on that movie and I had no idea what I would do. I think that was my lucky break. I was waiting for it and I was looking for it and I was trying to set myself for it but it came a lot sooner than I expected, for sure. I just took advantage of it. I was eating, living, sleeping that until I made sure I did the best job I could so that could lead to something better.
Tanya Musgrave (30:35):
Amazing. An unfair bias loss?
Jorge G. Castro (30:39):
Sometimes you just don't get the jobs that you want because of what you represent or who you are. And so I think there's been a lot of cases where we lose to other producers content because of either the size of our company or because people think that because we're Hispanic we only represent that or we only tell those voices or those stories. It's hard, but you just got to fight. You just got to fight for what you want and what you believe. One of the first movies that I optioned or scripts that I optioned was from these studio writers, that they were well known and they had done studio movies.
Jorge G. Castro (31:22):
I told them, “I want to make your movie. I love this script.” It was a blacklist script, so it was very coveted and a lot of people wanted it and they got big offers. They did go talk to everybody. Then at the end of the day they told me, “We're writers and we want to direct this,” and nobody was giving them a shot to direct. I thought, “Well, that's an opportunity for me.” And I told them, “I will do whatever you need. I will make sure you direct it, and I will protect your vision on how you want to drive it if you let me have this and I'll be your partner in this.”
Jorge G. Castro (31:51):
That's ultimately what they wanted, and they ended up giving it to me and we partnered and we actually made two movies together. But nobody was willing to give them a chance except for me, and I think that you just got to find an angle where you can outshine others. It's not necessarily a lot of money every time.
Tanya Musgrave (32:11):
One of the next question says, what effect does your job have on the rest of your life?
Jorge G. Castro (32:16):
It's a way of living. It has a big effect. I'll tell you this, I love what I do so I wake up most of the time very excited and with a lot of energy because I just like what I'm doing. I like helping people tell stories and I like finding a good project or developing a good project. But at the same time, it becomes like there's a thin line between work and life, so sometimes I don't know when to stop and I'll be working on a Saturday or Sunday. It can get exhausting as well before you realize that you're burned out. It's just the way of life, but if you love it doesn't matter.
Tanya Musgrave (33:02):
One of our guests was a really interesting conversation because he was talking about how… I mean, I think he had been in the industry for like a good 20 years. He was a first AD, Korey Pollard; and he was talking about learning, for the first time really, because he had worked in this industry which is very, very well known for being, well, if you can't stand the heat get out of the kitchen. It's just very, very cut your teeth on diamonds and here this is the life that's going to be handed to you. You have to pay your dues.
Tanya Musgrave (33:30):
But for the first time he had really started to learn boundaries and the fact that you are allowed to have a life, that you can say no where it is wrong or take that break if you need to, or that kind of thing. A lot of our listeners are at this kind of crossroads where they are either post-grads, they're getting into the industry, they're deciding whether or not they want to pursue this further seeing what the lifestyles are like. We would look around the circle and some of our post-grads and every single one of them were single.
Tanya Musgrave (34:03):
But the more that I've talked to people who have been in the industry for years and years and years, they joined a guild or unions and they're a little bit more stable. They're not necessarily on anybody's couches anymore, and they have a family and so there are possibilities for sure.
Jorge G. Castro (34:24):
Yeah. I think you have to be really passionate about it and you have to love it. But, like you say, you can say no and you can… When you're on set, it's draining but you know there's an end to it. You have to know there's an end to the craziness. Also, you don't have to work with jerks. There's a lot of bad people in the industry, I think coming from a different generation, that don't understand that everybody needs to be respected and treated well. But I think the newer generation does not think like that.
Jorge G. Castro (34:58):
I think they understand how collaborative this is, and you need every single person to be motivated and to be happy and to want to be there to get it right. I think most people understand that now, at least the people I work with. I've been lucky enough to have really, really good crews and casts on sets on my last few projects. I think that's as important as anything else. Those are the people that get them movies done.
Tanya Musgrave (35:26):
Oh, yeah. Yeah. It's a whole lot more fun too if you're surrounded by people that you just have a blast with and you can actually get stuff done.
Jorge G. Castro (35:32):
Yeah. There's no reason to treat people in a bad way.
Tanya Musgrave (35:37):
Jorge G. Castro (35:37):
There never is. I don't get why those people are like that. I do hear a lot that you got to pay your dues and you got to be a PA and do all that stuff.
Tanya Musgrave (35:47):
Yeah. I think, to an extent, that is true. I mean, I'm not saying that they shouldn't work hard or do a great job wherever they've been placed.
Jorge G. Castro (35:54):
I agree. I think most of these is because you need to gain experience, because it's not easy. I hear all the time, especially when award seasons come and everybody becomes a critic, everybody's like, “Well, he's a bad actor. She's a bad actress.” Same thing with directing. At the end of the day, yes, anybody can direct or write or act but very few people can do it right. I say that all the time, because directing is extremely hard and extremely difficult, and you need to be on all these people's shoes and you need to be part of the crew sometimes.
Jorge G. Castro (36:28):
You need to understand all that it takes, same with writing and same with acting. I think it's not easy and you got to pay your dues because you got to get that experience.
Tanya Musgrave (36:38):
Okay, next question. What is the best thing one can do to get a project picked up by Netflix or any other VODs?
Jorge G. Castro (36:46):
Do we assume it's not a finished movie, right?
Tanya Musgrave (36:50):
Let's just assume that it's not a finished one.
Jorge G. Castro (36:52):
That's fine. I think the best thing you can do is package it. I think you have to find a good filmmaker. If you're a director, you got to find a good cast, a good crew. Like we were saying, have some departments and just package it the best way possible so when you go to a Netflix or you go to any studio they really respond to the package. They're like, “Oh, we love this filmmaker. We love this actor. They have a lot of value. Let's go do something.” Either that or, if you can, just go make your movie.
Jorge G. Castro (37:22):
There are so many tools today that weren't around even a few years ago, that you can actually make a really good project even with your iPhone. And there's amazing editing tools and VFX tools, and you can do so much. I don't know if you saw these kids from Africa that they copied the Extraction trailer from Netflix. They basically copied frame by frame. You'll probably see it on social media at some point today, or something. It's kids from Africa with their iPhone and they just shot, literally, the trailer of that movie with their phone and with like Lego cars or something like that. And it's amazing.
Tanya Musgrave (38:00):
Jorge G. Castro (38:01):
It's amazing, like they can do it. I mean, they're very talented. But my point is if you're a filmmaker, if you're a director, and you're not getting any traction, go shoot something.
Tanya Musgrave (38:16):
What questions should I have asked you?
Jorge G. Castro (38:18):
I think we covered distribution. The marketing part of it is another whole world, but you really have no control over it. It's really the studio and the distributor that decides how much marketing they're going to put into it, and if it's going to theaters or not, and all that stuff. I don't think there's a lot of say once you buy it, it's up to them and what they think the value of your project is. Apart from that, I'm not sure. I think having good talent. Like if you have relationships with actors, I think those are important to get actors into your movies, same with directors and VPs. I think using your network is important, especially when you're starting out.
Tanya Musgrave (39:00):
Yeah, yeah, yeah. With COVID did you… I mean, because you seem pretty busy right now, have things started to gear back up again or…?
Jorge G. Castro (39:08):
It's very slowly ramping back up. There's really nothing going on, like shooting that I know of except like one or two things that are small. But I've been busy because I was trying to figure out anything that's in post-production that needs to be finished, finding partners around the world that could help us finish it, doing a lot of development, trying to get some commercials going because those are smaller crews. We were thinking those would ramp up faster. Just figuring out virtual production, which is a whole nother podcast. Virtual production, to me, is the future. A lot of it is the future of how we're shooting a lot of things.
Tanya Musgrave (39:49):
Virtual production, as in?
Jorge G. Castro (39:52):
It's a lot of things into one. But, for example, one of the things virtual production does is you have a soundstage with the LED panels instead of a green screen. You have a 3D tracking alert. Really, the background looks like you're there and you have all the lighting there versus green screen.
Tanya Musgrave (40:10):
What is it called again? It's ILM. Stagecraft. Stagecraft.
Jorge G. Castro (40:17):
You know the way they shot The Mandalorian and all that stuff?
Tanya Musgrave (40:19):
Jorge G. Castro (40:19):
That's like the massive all in virtual production way of doing it. But you can use those panels for driving cups, where instead of having green screens on a driving scene you are having interactive lightning, so then you have all the lighting and other reflections of the lights. It's just so much more vivid and realistic looking. Then you have the actual things that you're seeing as an actor and then you can react to them. But you also have things like end cam where you can actually see a CG character that you're interacting with live on the shoot.
Jorge G. Castro (40:56):
You have previews organization, which I think a lot of filmmakers coming out of school are using previews as part of their education; which I think is great because then it's a great tool for planning. Right now, because you can't go anywhere to do location scouting so to blog for your scenes you can do all that virtually, which is great. I've been looking a lot into that because I think that's the way to prep movies right now and just make sure you have them ready. Once you can start shooting, you can just go and shoot and you know every scene. You already blocked it, you already prepped for it and you know this is how you're going to shoot the sequence, everything.
Tanya Musgrave (41:32):
What particular jobs come out of that? For instance, if people are wanting to get into that, what should they aim for?
Jorge G. Castro (41:40):
I think there's a lot of jobs around that. Managing the LED component of it is one. It's more an engineering and different than being creative, but there's also… A lot of this goes through the unreal engine pipeline, so using unreal engine which Epic Game sounds like [inaudible 00:41:58] fortnight through it and all that stuff. It's a game changer because you do live renderings, so everything you're doing is really fast. As an artist, if you educate yourself on using unreal engine to build the assets and to build environments that could be really good.
Jorge G. Castro (42:18):
Also DPs. DPs that know how to use this and know how to track that 3D tracking and 2D tracking with the LEDs walls, that I think is important. But at the end of the day, if you are on set a lot you'll get that experience anyway, except for the artists that need to be on a real engine and ammunity, and all those tools. Yeah.
Tanya Musgrave (42:40):
Yeah. Wow. Well, thank you so much.
Jorge G. Castro (42:43):
Tanya Musgrave (42:45):
I appreciate it. I appreciate it so much.
Jorge G. Castro (42:48):
I'm happy to help.
Tanya Musgrave (42:50):
Thank you for joining us. If you enjoyed this interview, follow us right here and check out more episodes at media.collabinc.org. If you have comments or know someone who would be a great guest on our show, send in your suggestions to email@example.com. Again, we're really wanting that feedback, so go to the site, fill out the feedback survey and you'll be entered to win a $25 Amazon gift card. Jorge, thanks so much again for your time. Be well, and God bless. We'll see you next time on There to Here.