I I have to admit that Netflix terrified me. As a spectator, of course, I was hooked. As a filmmaker, I was pretending to be at ease with the fact that I hadn’t been asked to join the party. He had only directed movies for theaters, never anything for a streaming platform. I am aware of the endless debates. Is Netflix a force for good? Are you for or against the motion? Vote yes or no.
The point is, there is no “yes” in movies. You may find a Y in the pocket of your wet weather kit on day three when you are already a full day behind. Or an E under your pillow when you wake up the morning after the hangover and flu farewell party you’ve been waiting to start. And there’s the S that ranks high above the bad reviews from opening weekend. (Somehow, you only see the negative reviews.) The result never meets expectations, possibly because the expectation is rooted in the blind faith necessary to keep getting out of bed every morning at 5 a.m. There is no “yes” in movies. Your life is a series of disappointments.
I had a strange career. I’ve made some very wrong decisions. I have turned down some blockbuster movies. I have been pigeonholed. I have been “uncategorizable”. I’ve had blockbusters. And I’ve had, well … disappointments.
In the summer of 2018, a studio movie in which I had invested a year of my life collapsed. Desperation is a wonderful motivator. Suddenly, I long for my roots. Europe. Somewhere I wouldn’t have to keep saying “just kidding”. I call producer Marco Cohen, an old friend, in Milan. Send me the american novel Safety by Stephen Amidon. Marco has already succeeded in transporting an Amidon novel to an Italian setting: Human Capital. My co-writer, Tinker Lindsay, and I love it. We adapt it. I name every character in the story after royal citizens of Fivizzano, the city where I was once made an honorary citizen. I ask everyone to be extras, even small parts. Stefano, the local architect, submits an impressive audition for a two-line role as a policeman. The architect can act. Who knows?
I make a movie in the year of Covid, for crying out loud! We finished four days before the first closing. Edito remotely from Los Angeles. I finish my post-production in Rome in the fall of 2020. I deliver the film four days before the second blockade of Italy. It is a sad moment. Social distancing is not a good look for Italians. It is not who they are. Return to Los Angeles. Theaters are closing. I put forward the idea of broadcasting the film with Sky Cinema Italia. After all, I made this film in Italian, with Italian actors, for the Italian audience, without looking at the rest of the world.
Then comes the news that Netflix has bought it for the rest of the world outside of Italy. I hope. There is no advertising anywhere. They tell me that Netflix knows exactly what they are doing. But dark thoughts kick in. Hello, disappointment, my old friend. It opens as Sky Original in Italy. Very good numbers. The best numbers for any thriller in 18 months in which Italy has been watching a lot of television.
Still no Netflix. I am beyond depressed.
So … Suddenly, this little movie appears at number 3 in the world on Netflix’s movie list. The irony. No one can point out why. It never happens. It is not an action movie. But it is a success. Now I have a “common touch”. I am a “Hollywood director” who knows how to push the commercial button. But that’s wrong. The “common touch” (as they call it) is because I’m from Blackpool. Nothing to do with Hollywood. I went back to my roots.
But now I finally understand the machine that is Netflix. Yes, they give people what they want. But it seems they also give people what they didn’t know they wanted. I am in shock. It is a “yes”.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism