First, Netflix used technology to reinvent the way movies and TV shows are being watched. Now, it wants to do the same thing with the way they’re being made.
To that end, Netflix has been working on several experimental apps designed to simplify some key parts of the production process, including the management of a crew, the scheduling of a shoot, and the budgeting to pay for it all. One of those apps, dubbed Move, has been in testing with select Netflix productions since November.
“Ultimately, we are competing with pen and paper,” explained Netflix director of studio technology Chris Gross during a press briefing on Tuesday. Crews have traditionally relied on a lot of paperwork to organize their schedule on set, distribute the script to everyone involved in each and every scene, and generate a wrap report at the end of each day.
Move does all of this for them in an app, and integrates with email and SMS to notify crew members of schedule changes. The company even decided to build Move as a progressive web app to take away the need to visit an app store before crew members are able to use it.
The Move app was first tested for the shoot of the second season of “Glow” this past November, and has since been used on 10 different shoots. Which sounds a lot, until you remember that Netflix has plans for 700 original shows in 2018.
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Amie Tornincasa, Netflix’s manager of studio technology, explained that the company wants to slowly roll out Move, and other apps her group is working on, starting with a few select productions. “There is a reason why this industry hasn’t adopted technology like the way other industries have,” she said.
For one thing, pen and paper has actually served Hollywood well. Many of previous attempts to go digital failed because they either tried to force new solutions down everyone’s throats, or relied on closed silos, making studios buy into end-to-end platforms from one single vendor.
Netflix is instead looking to build smaller pieces that can gradually replace old workflows over time, and is also tapping into existing solutions, including Google Drive. And the company isn’t looking as these apps as a way to save some money, but to actually help crews do their job.
That’s not to say that Netflix doesn’t have big ambitions for this push to bring tech to the set. The company currently has 30 to 35 people working on the project, who are often getting help from colleagues tasked with building Netflix’s consumer apps. That in itself is remarkable, given that many other companies in this space have fewer people working on their consumer apps.
Ultimately, Netflix envisions that these apps will be used by tens of thousands of people, both employed by the company as well as third-party vendors working on Netflix productions around the world.
Could the company one day make apps like Move available to competitors as well? “It’s a big question mark for us right now,” Gross said.