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Podcast – How to pitch to Netflix ANZ

The Netflix ANZ team on what they’re looking for, seeing too much of, what you need before you pitch, and how they want the next global hit to come from Australia.

Que Minh Luu and Nakul Legha headshots

Que Minh Luu, Nakul Legha

Find this episode of the Screen Australia Podcast on iTunes, SpotifyStitcher or Pocket Casts

In early 2015, Netflix arrived in Australia with much fanfare, but the most Australian thing about the platform were some of the stars that featured in US dramas like Orange is the New Black and Marco Polo.

Over time, Australian acquisitions began popping up on the service, including documentaries Tyke Elephant Outlaw, Barbecue, and Casting JonBenet and the first Australian Netflix Original feature film in Cargo.

Que Minh Luu, Netflix’s Director of Content for ANZ, says initially the approach saw Australia folded into the other English-language territories. If the Netflix team saw a project they thought would work for the English-language market, they snapped it up, irrespective of where it came from.

“As the company's become more global, it's recognised the importance of local audiences and being able to speak to local audiences with local stories,” Luu says on the latest episode of the Screen Australia podcast. “So that's where we come in.”

The team of three that represents Australian and New Zealand content has been in existence for less than a year, with Luu the first appointment, followed by Nakul Legha and Hannah Pembroke.

Throughout the latest episode of the Screen Australia podcast, Que Minh Luu and Nakul Legha talk to their programming strategy for both commissions and licencing, things to keep in mind before pitching and what they’re looking for, as well as their upcoming slate and the addressing the controversy around docusoap Byron Baes. The slate so far includes two titles: the Heartbreak High reboot and Byron Baes, which made news following its announcement on April 8 when it promptly received backlash from Byron Bay locals, who launched a petition and a paddle-out protest to attempt to stop production.

“We knew that there was going to be a reaction. We didn't realise the extent of the reaction,” Luu says, adding that they stand by the show 150%.

Legha says in Australia, the docusoap is the most-watched format behind live sports for a reason.

“You get to see a heightened version of yourself and your lives play out on screen with real people, real experiences and universality of emotions,” he says. “The same people who watch that also watch heightened dramas, premium dramas. There is no distinction between the two.”

The pair say there are more titles to be announced in the coming months.

“To be continued,” Legha says. “We've got Heartbreak High and Byron Baes - they couldn't be further from each other in terms of genre and what it is. And we've got a lot more of that up our sleeve…

“Consider this your Netflix cliff-hanger ending.”

Subscribe to Screen Australia Podcast on iTunes, SpotifyStitcher or Pocket Casts

Audio Transcript

[00:00:03] Caris Bizzaca Welcome to the Screen Australia podcast, I'm Caris Bizzaca, a journalist with Screen Australia's online publication Screen News. On this episode of the podcast we are talking all things Netflix. We're joined by Que Minh Luu and Nakul Legha, who make up two thirds of the Netflix ANZ team along with Hannah Pembroke. Together the trio, led by Que, are responsible for the Australian slate, both from a commissioning and licencing point of view. Throughout the episode, Que and Nakul discuss their strategy for Australia, things to keep in mind before pitching, what they are and aren't looking for, and what's different about working for - or with - a global company like Netflix. The pair detail the upcoming slate and address the ongoing controversy around new docu soap Byron Baes. Que and Nakul also talk about why Netflix originals hold significance, how the company's approach in Australia has changed (most notably in the past 10 months) and advice for getting noticed and making forward steps in your career. If you're keen to hear the latest episodes of the Screen Australia podcast, you can subscribe through Spotify and iTunes, where you can leave a rating and review. Any feedback. email to [email protected] . You can also subscribe to Screen Australia's fortnightly e-newsletter to get the latest updates from the local industry, including funding announcements, opportunities and more. Now here's Que Minh Luu and Nakul Legha from Netflix. 

[00:01:33] Caris Bizzaca And so, you know, a bit of background first - can you tell me about your previous roles in the industry and your role at Netflix. So Que we'll start with you. 

[00:01:46] Que Minh Luu Well, I was at the ABC before Netflix and I was an executive producer in the scripted team working across drama and comedy. And I've been at Netflix for about 10 months now. I'm the director of - well I started off as the director of local originals and now I'm the director of content. So that's really, you know, all of content, not just our original commissions. Nakul? 

[00:02:09] Nakul Legha So I started my career as an intellectual property and media lawyer, and that was kind of the acceptable way for me to get into television because I didn't know anyone. And I need to make my parents feel justified. 

[00:02:19] Que Minh Luu Que Minh Luu I feel you. I was an editor for ages because it was with computers. Yeah. 

[00:02:24] Caris Bizzaca That was your way in. 

[00:02:26] Que Minh Luu Yes. I was like, 'I work with computers, Mum'. 

[00:02:28] Nakul Legha Yeah. Yeah. It makes sense to them, right? And then after a few years of doing that, I worked with media and tech companies kind of navigating the new landscape that we all find ourselves in about 6-10 years ago. And then after that, I came across to the ABC where I was in business affairs. So I worked with the entertainment team and the scripted comedy team, structuring and negotiating production deals.

[00:02:48] Que Minh Luu That's where we met. 

[00:02:49] Nakul Legha Yeah. 

[00:02:49] Caris Bizzaca  ABC-ABC?

[00:02:50] Nakul Legha Yes. And that was, again, a period of, there was a lot of challenges, right? Working with streamers, a changing landscape in terms of rights, third party financing, international co-production. So it was really fun navigating all of those challenges. And it was a mix of commercial, strategic and legal roles. And then I've been at Netflix for the last six months in the content team. So I look after licencing and co-productions and also work with Que and Hannah, who's the third member of our content team on our commissioned originals. 

[00:03:17] Caris Bizzaca Yeah, brilliant. And what are some of the kind of differences then of working with Netflix compared to some of the other places that you've worked in the Australian industry? 

[00:03:28] Que Minh Luu Oh, look, I've never worked for a global company before, so there is a huge culture difference with working for a company that has eight thousand people in it across the world. And it's like any other broadcaster, but on lots and lots and lots of steroids. So, you know, for us, I mean, even though it's a big company, the content team is, a scrappy team of three. So that's myself, Nicole and Hannah. We work across original content and licenced content. Nakul actually leads all of our licenced programming and acquisitions and also works on the original content side with myself and Hannah as well. So it's small, but it means that we can be scrappy and agile and pretty fluid. So despite there being a very big company behind us, we are really building all this infrastructure from scratch and, working out the ways we want to work, working out what an Australian show is in the context of Netflix's values and our own cultural values as well. And it's really exciting. So we really get our hands dirty. We can move fast. That's probably the big key difference. Do you see any other differences? 

[00:04:42] Nakul Legha I think the producers that we work with often are surprised how dirty we want to get our hands. The three of us, we want to be in the muck with it all. I look after licencing, but we figure it out together because ultimately the end goal is for the service, for Netflix, for Australians to feel seen and heard and see themselves in the service. So the best of Australian content both licenced, both original commissions and from around the world. And so we can rely pretty well on our colleagues all around the world: the UK, the US, Spain, France, to bring to Australian shores, the best Netflix series from there. And then here we are bringing to Australian screens stuff that makes Aussies just feel like, 'oh, Netflix gets it'. And that is an incredible privilege and an honour for people - I think Que and I, we're not people who are typically in the television industry, I think, would be fair to say. And I think I feel yeah, I feel it's such an exciting place to be. And the fact that it's scrappy I think is also very true to the ethos of Netflix, although it is a big company, at every level everyone feels really empowered to make decisions, if you believe in something, people will back you no matter how junior or senior year might be. 

[00:05:49] Que Minh Luu They hire you on the basis of you being what they call 'the local expert': using local expertise to programme for the market that you're in. And so getting to be part of that team is a huge privilege, because what we get to do is we get to find all this incredible Australian content that is done for us by us and is about us. And it doesn't have to kind of service an international audience. We get to lean way, way far into what it means to be Australian. And we know that if we get it right, something that is just unabashedly ours and Australian is going to travel as well, so getting to work for a place that sets you this challenge to really own that sense of Australian-ness. And when they say to you, 'well, you're the local market expert, you tell us'. That's incredibly empowering. So that's a really big difference, that level of creative freedom. You get to set the terms of what Netflix will see from the Australian team is really, really exciting. 

[00:06:59] Caris Bizzaca That's also so interesting because I feel like that, you know, several years ago it would be that something was too Australian, you know, let's tone down the accents. Or like, if something's airing in the US, like, let's dub it so that it's not too Australian or something like that, whereas now people are looking for that content that will service that country but go further. 

[00:07:19] Que Minh Luu Yeah, I think when things get global, there is.. and, you know, SBS has been banging this drum for years, right? There's this sense of being able to access international content and knowing that there are stories there that still resonate with us, even if they're about other cultures and we're, as Australians, very, very good at watching international content. Because, you know, what's been hard about the Australian industry is that there are very few slots and very few opportunities to get shows off the ground. And so, you know, we've become very good as audiences at watching international content and kind of projecting and imprinting ourselves onto it. The key to that, we think, particularly now that we're at Netflix, is that stories are universal, the human condition is universal. But the world and the setting and the context, that's what's unique. That's the Australian part that we can bring. But if we get the stories right and we get, you know, the drama and the tension, and the propulsion right, anyone can watch it. That's why we can all watch Lupin. We can all watch, you know, Money Heist and find something in it, or we can watch Unorthodox, which is about such a community that is so completely different. And so hyper specific and hyper local is the term that we often use - being able to lean into that hyper locality while having a really, really compelling story. That's the thing that makes it travel.

[00:08:42] Caris Bizzaca OK, and so, you know, a little bit of background about Netflix in Australia, so launched in Australia in 2015. And then looking at some of those early acquisitions, there were quite a lot of documentaries, Tyke Elephant Outlaw, Barbecue, Casting JonBenet. And I think in terms of drama, the first Australian Netflix original was an acquisition Cargo, the feature Cargo. When do you think that Netflix started looking at commissions in Australia more closely? 

[00:09:13] Que Minh Luu Look, Australia's English language, right? So it was folded into the other English language teams. And it started off as a US company. And so that is kind of a natural thing for us to be fitting into. I think as the as the company's become more global, it's recognised the importance of local audiences and being able to speak to local audiences with local stories. So that's where we come in. And the team has been in existence for 10 months, which is when I started, and so anything prior to that point has been more out of this like, you know, you see something great and you go for it, right? Now that where around where our remit is to really go 'okay, what does the what does the overall Australian slate look like, both from an originals and a licencing point of view? What do we want to say? What do we want it to do?' So it's much more targeted now. So all the movements up until now have been, you know, we're an English language market. It doesn't matter where content comes from. That is still true, but now we get to be a lot more targeted about it. 

[00:10:18] Caris Bizzaca OK, and do you want to talk through the kind of strategy, the content programming strategy at Netflix at all? 

[00:10:27] Que Minh Luu Look, I'll tell you, I'll throw it in a call to talk about our licencing. It's a little there's a lot of blurred lines. So we talk to each other all the time. 

[00:10:36] Caris Bizzaca It is a team of three. It is a team of three. 

[00:10:38] Que Minh Luu It is team of three! You know, when I worked at the ABC in the scripted team, there were 15-16 of us working just on scripted and drama and comedy. And, now there's three of us and we're looking at scripted and unscripted, whether it's film, docos, reality shows, whatever. So, you know, you do have to move pretty quickly. In terms of the kind of creative approach or the programming approach for it. We like to call our slate 'commercial with a twist'. So, you know, as we start off making shows for the Australian market, the first question we want to answer is 'what does an Australian show on Netflix look like?' One that's really made for us by us about us etc.. So we're making a few targeted plays around this 'commercial with a twist' theme, and that really means, we want to be appealing to a broad audience with shows that are mainstream, but in a way that we haven't seen before. So, IRL in real life, all the stuff that feels really ubiquitous to us as Australians that we haven't really seen on free to air up until now, that's what we want to put on screen. What does that mean? Well, look around you, I suppose, but it's the age old thing of 'we know it when we say it'. But 'commercial with a twist' for us means that, it is important to get as many eyeballs on our programmes as possible. And so we want to lean into formats and ideas that we know that Australians like. And we want to look at what the Australian version of that is. Yeah. So that's broadly where we're going with the creative approach in the first couple of years. But of course, we're always looking for that, like really massive hit. Like I would love in the next three, four years for the next global hit in that time to be Australian. From a licencing point of view like that's obviously a little bit different when we're acquiring. 

[00:12:35] Nakul Legha I want to say on the on the Originals, I think, and I'm going to butcher a quote by Miyazaki here, but the idea that certainly I see is the best stories and the best pieces of content, they have really wide, big open doors to entry. So they're really accessible. They bring everyone in and then you have really narrow exits that require an emotional investment and a real kind of engagement from the audience or learning from the audience to kind of find your way through. And that's what we're doing with all our shows, including shows like Byron Baes, which there's complexity, there's nuance, there's layers to it. You come into it thinking it's one thing and you leave actually being changed for the better, hopefully. 

[00:13:12] Que Minh Luu We're super, super proud of it. Like we're like, this is going to be such a great show! 

[00:13:18] Nakul Legha And on the licencing side, you know, part of it is so our audience, Australians are adventurous and they love new content and we will challenge them and we'll bring that to them. At the same time, there's also an affinity for the familiar - for iconic classics or for faces that have been around on film and television that we love and adore. And so it's about curating: bringing the best of that stuff, making the service feel culturally resonant. And so recently we just dropped a huge collection of iconic Australian films like Breaker Morant, like Puberty Blues, Malcolm. And it's been really great to see the audience and our members' response to that. Some of them are remastered and hadn't been available before anywhere else. So we want to bring that to the service. And for me, I've been going through a process of rediscovering and learning a lot about our screen culture through that. And it was heartening to see even shows like Gallipoli that only came out five, six years ago. 

[00:14:10] Que Minh Luu The remake. 

[00:14:10] Nakul Legha The remake from Channel Nine, finding a whole new audience on the service. At the same time, licencing is also a great way for us to compliment our commission slate where rights might be limited just to ANZ. We might not have the full capacity to invest for a global original, but we might do that for an Australian audience. So, for example, films like 2067, which was a sci fi piece, we were able to licence that as finished tape and release that as a Netflix original. And for Australians, it was one of the few times they'd seen an Australian approach to sci fi. And there was a really positive response to that. 

[00:14:43] Caris Bizzaca Yeah, and another example would be I Am Mother, which was also kind of a sci fi, but Australian film that was a Netflix original previously. OK, and so is there more weight then put on commissions or acquisitions?

[00:15:00] Que Minh Luu It's a mix. And really until we, we drop the first few programmes, we're going to remain in a sort of test phase to just see what is out there and see what hits. Now, we have some pretty strong hunches around what will hit. You know, we're leaning into our expertise in being Australians for that. So that's going to be really exciting. And then once we get some learnings, we'll iterate from that. So, you know, we aren't as much as, you know, Netflix is this giant global company like we're this small Australian team, we really are so invested in getting it right. So we're going to try a few things and then keep building on that. And we're going to take measured risks. Right. We want to we don't want to be coming in and just like throwing our weight around and, you know, spending a hundred million dollars on one show, because we also recognise that there is a local ecosystem here that Nakul and I have both come from as well. We're both passionate, passionate, public broadcaster advocates. So we want to make sure that the local ecosystem remains robust and is able to do their thing while we do our thing. So, you know, we're moving carefully, but with intent. 

[00:16:06] Caris Bizzaca OK, and just in in your own words, why do you think original programming is important to a company like Netflix, when, you know, it perhaps could have just continued down the road of doing lots of acquisitions and things like that for an Australian market? 

[00:16:23] Que Minh Luu Because at some point people want to see themselves reflected on screen. I mean, I mentioned earlier we're very good as an audience with watching international content, but at some point. 

[00:16:37] Caris Bizzaca Projecting ourselves. 

[00:16:38] Que Minh Luu Projecting ourselves and but at some point, you know, as this content arms race continues and more and more people are making shows, particularly English language shows, at some point we want something that speaks to us. 

[00:16:54] Nakul Legha I think what's exciting about Original commissions is you get to see an approach to storytelling that perhaps hasn't really been done before or been afforded the chance to. So the stuff that I love at Netflix and I think what has been amazing is you can cover things that are challenging and complex, but they can also be incredibly commercial and mainstream. And you can marry the two up in a way that the way the storytelling is addictive and compulsive, it's propelling, but it's also really enriching. And that's the kind of storytelling that we want to bring to Australian screens. And I think that's something that our members will absolutely be stoked by. 

[00:17:24] Que Minh Luu Yeah. And one of the amazing things about working for Netflix has been it's it's prioritisation of being inclusive and bringing an inclusion lens over how we work both internally and externally with our partners and our grand boss, you know, our boss's boss, like Bela Bajaria, who is the global VP of content, and, our biggest boss of all, Ted Sarandos. 

[00:17:49] Nakul Legha Does that make you my baby boss? 

[00:17:53] Que Minh Luu Suuuure! (Laughs) But, they've both talked about inclusive content in a way that has been really, really heartening and galvanising. We talk a lot about, you know, being diverse or finding diversity on our shows. And, you know, they've always been quick to make clear that being inclusive doesn't mean that you can't be commercial, like in an era where the quote-unquote inclusive show or the diverse show is one that no one watches, right? Here you can have an inclusive show with your other stuff. Everything should be inclusive from day one. And for someone like Bela Bajaria, who's worked at NBC and has had like huge commercial broadcast network experience, why can't commercial shows be inclusive? That is so galvanising and activating to hear.

[00:18:41] Caris Bizzaca And in terms of like the reverse with licencing. So if it's like an Australian show that hasn't been made for Netflix, but it then is goes on Netflix worldwide except for ANZ. So I'm going to say something like Love on the Spectrum. Is that then outside of your remit, is that the kind of global arm of Netflix looking at that or because it's an Australian show, does it go through you? 

[00:19:09] Nakul Legha Yeah, so shows like that, you know, that was before there was a team on the ground and so as Que said, where someone identified a really good piece of storytelling, good content, we would pick it up. But now that we're here, we want to be the place, the first stop shop for any Aussie creators with any Australian stories to tell and for us, what we want to do is we want to put that on the service for Australians first and foremost. Our desire is for our work to be really successful at home. And then if we can take it to the world, that's amazing, that's the cherry on top. So what we would look to do for shows like that in the future is to bring that to Australians first.

[00:19:46] Caris Bizzaca OK, and if someone thinks that they have an idea that's perfect for Netflix, how do they go about pitching that? And, you know, what are some of the things that they need to keep in mind?

[00:20:00] Que Minh Luu They should get a producer attached. Like, look, no doubt it is a complicated process, right? Netflix has up until this point and probably still feels like a little bit mystifying, but it was always really hard to figure out who to talk to. You know, is it a global thing, is it in Australia, blah, blah, blah. It was complicated to know who to pick up the phone and call. Now we want to be the one stop shop. So just come to us - make that very, very simple. Now, in terms of how to get to us, there is a lot of interest. So there is no denying that it is a little bit complicated or just, labour intensive, because there's just a lot.

[00:20:34] Nakul Legha Sorry to anyone we haven't replied to yet. We will get back to you.

[00:20:36] Que Minh Luu We are trying to do it very quickly, as quickly as we can. 

[00:20:42] Caris Bizzaca But there's only so many hours in the day. 

[00:20:43] Que Minh Luu And we also we have a slate of programmes at the moment that we're getting off the ground. So first, on a practical note, get an established producer attached, an established producer with screen credits. You need someone who can advocate for you. That is what every other free to air broadcaster will expect. It's not different in this respect for purely practical reasons. If you have an agent that also helps. So if you have an idea, you should have a producer attached to it. And then you work on your project, your proposal together. We're asking for five to ten pages for a few reasons. One being we don't know what an Australian Netflix show looks like. So we don't want people to have to go too far down the road before sending it to us. We know that it takes time and resources and money to write a script. It's not easy to put things into development in Australia, so we want to be cognisant of that. Five to ten pages also gives us a very, very clear idea of what the show is or it should anyway. The only exception being if you are, you know, Michaela Coel or Phoebe Waller-Bridge. Right. If it's heavily voice driven, it may not be as hard to get it into ten pages. You might have to pitch it in person. But by and large, we really feel strongly that if you can get your idea across in those 10 pages, you will be able to write the script. So if we are able to see that, it also helps us talk about it internally, if we understand very, very clearly the foundations of that idea. Once that happens, we'll have a meeting to discuss it in person. Then the three of us kind of discuss with our various partners inside the company to talk about whether or not this is a good idea. And at its heart, it's about the creative and how good the creative is and what's on our slate and what we want the slate to do. That's the basic idea.  Do you have anything to add? 

[00:22:35] Nakul Legha I would say if you and if you don't have an agent or you don't know any producers, get in touch with your friendly local screen agency. Connect with them, but also go out there and do your work, make your work, because we're out there, we're always scouting, always looking for stuff. And we've reached out to creators before who haven't been attached. But we've seen something. They've got a clarity of vision and purpose where they've just put on a tiny two person stage show like at the back of a shop somewhere. We'll be there. We'll pick it up and we'll reach out to you to find out what your vision is. 

[00:23:02] Que Minh Luu Yep. Send us an invite to the show. And just to be clear, we will will pay for those tickets, like it is very hard to stage those shows. I mean, we'll also take comps. But, you know, like we also really appreciate that, you know, it's important to see the work in situ. So, you know, I was talking earlier about if you have a brand new idea, but if what you want to do is get your work in front of us, we're looking for things to watch, see, attend, take in, see your samples, because there are - it's not just about getting your idea up. It's about how do you get a foothold in the industry. How do you get into a writers' room. If we see people who we think are amazing storytellers, but have never written a script before, we can help by putting them in rooms if there's the right room and, you know, giving them opportunities in other ways on other productions. So there are a multitude of ways to grow your experience in the industry, and we're really cognisant of that. So we're trying to see as many things as possible. If you've made like a digital short or like a web series, send us a link. You know, it may take us a while to see it, but eventually one of us will. And when it comes to scouting for new talent, we're really proactive about it. If you send a pitch cold, it can be harder to get our attention for practical reasons. But also if something is so intrinsically linked with who you are as a voice and we really are looking for voices, sometimes it's just better for us to be able to see your work in person. 

[00:24:27] Caris Bizzaca And so in terms of like actually pitching, whether that is in person or it's, you know, the email or whatever it might be, do you have any advice on that?

[00:24:37] Nakul Legha So, yeah, I think one - enthusiasm and passion for the project. I think don't assume that that is something we will have when we come to the meeting. We would love to see that in you, that this is a story that you're dying to tell and it needs to be done on Netflix and needs to be done now. It is urgent. It has to happen. So some of the best pitches that we have seen, the enthusiasm is palpable. You know that they care about this. This isn't one of ten things that they're throwing against the wall and hope it sticks. So that will be one. I think we love to see a clarity of vision and an ability to execute that vision, a layer of complexity and nuance as well to what you're pitching, a sense of propulsive story. Don't pull your punches. Don't wait until season two for the big reveal to happen. Let's get that up. Let's get that happening in season one. Let's get audiences hooked for the first five minutes. Let's have a twist by the end of Episode one and let's take people through all eight, 10 episodes, whatever it might be. The thing is, don't be too attached to format or demographics either. We're not selling advertising. We don't have a time slot to fill. We truly are being led by what your vision is and how long and how much you need to tell that vision within reason, obviously. So that will be a few things that we say. And I think sometimes where things fall down a little bit is that it feels a bit episodic or slice of life, that the audience there isn't that sense that the audience is going to be addicted to it and obsessed with seeing it through. And that doesn't mean it has to be any lesser in quality or depth or complexity. I think you can have that and still be a really addictive story. 

[00:26:08] Caris Bizzaca That's that like propulsion that you're talking about. It needs like the forward motion so that you finish an episode and you're like I need to watch the next one. 

[00:26:14] Que Minh Luu It doesn't have to be Die Hard either. I mean, it's be really interesting to see what a Die Hard would look like. But but it's about that story. Propulsion isn't necessarily about explosions. It's about it's about narrative drive. And one thing I would say about the proposals that have sometimes come in that we've looked at is is Australians are very good. We're very, very good at world setting and establishing the foundations of and character. And where we can sometimes fall down is in plot. And that story propulsion, because, you know, Netflix is a binge service. Right. We we want people to keep watching the next episode or be wondering what happens next. If we don't have a clear sense of the story arc, we might have a sense of the character journey. We might have a sense of how compelling this world is. We might have a sense of the the important conversation that we want to have. But if we don't have that story and if it's not clear in the premise, then the chances of it falling over are much greater. So that story propulsion, that very clear narrative arc, that is the universal part that makes a show travel. 

[00:27:28] Caris Bizzaca And interesting how you said binge there, because Netflix is really known as being the thing that started the binge watching culture by the dropping eight 10 ep series at the once. So is that something that you keep in mind when you're looking at ideas is because there are other streamers that have done the week to week approach. But when you're looking at ideas, are you looking at what will if you drop all eight, 10, how many episodes it is, will people sit down and watch this in like a one-go binge? 

[00:28:00] Que Minh Luu Yeah, look, we will do what's right for the story, for the project that comes to us. So it doesn't always have to be a binge. However, there has to be a desire to watch the next episode. So with the Marie Kondo show, The Art of Tidying up, it's not as though that had a cliff-hanger at the end of every episode. It was a new person each episode. 

[00:28:27] Caris Bizzaca But then you go watch them out of order. 

[00:28:28] Que Minh Luu You could watch them out of order, but you wanted to keep watching it because there is a pleasure in seeing someone transform their homes into something that sparks joy, you know. But, you know, colleagues on other teams have experimented with dropping things in batches rather than all at once. But what is important is that once you get to the end of ep one, that you want to keep watching. 

[00:28:52] Caris Bizzaca So in terms of ideas, can we talk through some of the things that you're loving seeing come through and maybe some of the things that you're seeing too much of, Nakul? 

[00:29:03] Nakul Legha Okay. I think what I am loving is, is as Que said, just the complexity, the specificity and the depth to the world that we see, and the characters that are there. They're incredibly, beautifully drawn. And we have creators in this country that have such a distinctive point of view and perspective. And we are loving hearing from them. I think what we'd love to see more of is then 'what then'? So we've got that setting. And also, I think creators leaning into the distinctly Australian storytelling. There was a period where if you wanted to sell a show globally, you did have to water it down, make it accessible. There was a sense that you had to do that. But now I think increasingly creators are really proud of the distinctive tone of voice that they're bringing that is very unique. And the language is also Australian. Like Aunty Donna, that show had so many references that people- 

[00:29:52] Que Minh Luu Aquila shoes! 

[00:29:54] Caris Bizzaca Crazy Johns. 

[00:29:57] Nakul Legha Yes, but you still get it, like, you get why it's funny, even if you don't exactly know what Aquila is.

[00:30:04] Que Minh Luu Well they're shoes, Nakul. (Laughs)

[00:30:10] Nakul Legha (Laughs) That's been really heartening to see. What was the other part of your question? 

[00:30:14] Que Minh Luu Oh, what we have seen too much of. 

[00:30:16] Caris Bizzaca Too much of, yeah. 

[00:30:17] Que Minh Luu Oh I've got one. Yeah. So I think that you know, we went through a stage of lots of ‘this is going to be the next Phoebe Waller-Bridge or Michaela Coel’, like this is the next Fleabag. And I think Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Michaela Coel don't have to say this is the next Fleabag and why they are so great at what they do is because they have this distinctive point of view and voice. And so that kind of voice doesn't have to announce itself, I suppose. Now I understand why those references get made, because what you're trying to say is like it's female driven and it's like Unorthodox, et cetera. But it comes up a lot and we're trying to, not step away from it. But it's a shortcut reference that can kind of have the effect of making it seem a bit samey when you get a lot of them. 

[00:31:07] Nakul Legha And so another one, I'd say is things that are period pieces or historical pieces and appear in time in Australia's history without the contemporary resonance, without the I guess, the justification. Why is this relevant to audiences now? What is the universal story you're trying to tell here rather than just telling a story of a time and place in 50s Australia?

[00:31:27] Que Minh Luu Yeah, we need to understand why where? I mean, because period shows are very expensive. Also, I think with Australian period shows, you know, once you go further back from, you know, 60s, there is an issue that we must grapple with as Australians around Indigenous Australians. And if you are setting something in colonial Australia and you aren't dealing with that in a way that is meaningful and additive to the conversation, there isn't a strong enough reason for us to be in that time period. So I think that's one of the things we're referring to when we're talking about contemporary resonance. We have to grapple with our history as Australians and this very bloody past. And what are we trying to say out of that if we're going to go into that space? 

[00:32:14] Caris Bizzaca Yeah, makes sense. And when you were talking about when you come to Netflix and the requirement, I think was five to 10 pages, how much does an idea need to have been developed? So you were saying there can be new ideas, but are you wanting it to have been at a certain stage of development If it's coming into Netflix?

[00:32:37] Que Minh Luu You just have to know the show. You need to know the project. There are obviously things that will be part of the development process. But if you know what the show is trying to say through its story, then it gives us enough to work with. Now, we don't want to be rigid with these things. We have people come in with pilots. We need to get through the five to 10 pages before we read the pilot because we don't have any time. But it just has to be developed enough as an idea that we're able to dial into in terms of the creative passion and what they're trying to say. 

[00:33:12] Caris Bizzaca But so things can be then developed in-house at Netflix to go towards production. 

[00:33:19] Que Minh Luu Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, absolutely.

[00:33:19] Nakul Legha What were trying to do is we know that the development stage is the part where I think creators and producers can hit some frustrations where you're sitting on these never ending options and, you know, might be 18 months, 24 months and it just gets dragged out over a long time. For us, we know that's a real pain point for writers, especially, who have to work multiple jobs to just keep going. So we are trying to make sure that if we do take something into development, we are making sure that you can work full time on that project, dedicate your energy to that, because we want you to bring your best work to us and we will support that financially if that's the case. 

[00:33:53] Que Minh Luu Yeah, it's not like a let's do a stage of development, we'll do a Bible, then we'll think about it for three months. Like we can go straight to ordering all scripts, because having that consistency of that journey is really important so that you're not stop starting, you're not needing to concentrate on three other projects at the same time as your schedule permits. We want you to be able to commit to it fully and we want to be able to commit to it with you. So when it comes to the partnership between creator, producer and Netflix, we see it as a very close one. Now, some production companies are like, you know, the big four or the really massive ones that are able to go off and, you know, do things kind of self-contained that might be slightly different. Even so, what's so important to us is that we're all aligned on that creative vision from day one. If we ever deviate from that, then we know that things are going off the rails. So for us, having that close relationship and continually checking in as to the creative vision, where the makers want to go with it and making sure that we're aligned with that is like part of the reason why we want to work so closely with people and be really consistent about just dedicating time to it as opposed to like a stop and start approach. 

[00:35:13] Caris Bizzaca And so what is it actually like to work with Netflix as a creator? 

[00:35:18] Que Minh Luu a culture of openness and transparency. It's about partnership. It's not about deference. Like Nakul said earlier on, we want to get in amongst the dirt as much as the creatives are. And that's not in a way that, like, is getting in the way. It's about all being aligned on the creative vision and working in service of that vision. So we want to know what the problems are, because the thing that is the most important is that creative alignment. And if people say something's perfect and we're like, 'this isn't perfect'. If we feel like we're not seeing living in the same shared reality, that becomes a problem. So we really want to have these creative relationships with people where we're working together. It's not 'service us'. It's not like 'we've bought this. Make sure it's perfect'. We want to figure out those problems together. And that means it's that collaborative-ness. It's no deference at all. It's being completely honest with the problems. It's having the courage to push back on us. If we are saying, because we will have the courage to push back on you, the creative, and we would expect the creatives to be courageous in pushing back to us if they disagree, like robust disagreement is something that is really important so long as there is mutual respect. Those values are really, really important to us to try and embody within our creative relationships with producers.

[00:36:59] Caris Bizzaca And, you know, Netflix being a global company, is there any aspect where co-production, whether that's an official treaty co-production or not, are they more appealing in any way?

[00:37:12] Que Minh Luu It doesn't matter. The focus first and foremost is what does the story need. 

[00:37:19] Nakul Legha No, I think that's precisely [it] and how it comes to us and the deal structure that sits behind it is secondary to us making sure that our members, especially in Australia, New Zealand, get to see that first and foremost. So we are open to any way of working. We've got shows that we're commissioning as global originals that we will take to the world. There are some shows that are co-productions in the typical way, and maybe there's a broadcaster in another territory that's premiering it and we're taking other rights. And that might be because of the stage that we came into the project or just because we think the core audience for the show or the movie is ANZ. So we are incredibly open. What we care about is making sure that we're bringing the best Australian stories to Australian members. 

[00:37:58] Caris Bizzaca OK, and for someone that thinks that they have a show that would be good for an acquisition for Netflix, it already has been made or it's a movie that has been made, can they approach Netflix about that? Or as Netflix more likely to approach the rights holders of something that has already existed, like around the twist or something like that? 

[00:38:17] Nakul Legha So we've got relationships with all the distributors here in Australia and they're constantly pitching shows to us whether the library shows like classics like Round the Twist, which our members are absolutely loving to see on the service. 

[00:38:30] Que Minh Luu The conversation has been extremely excited, which is great, like we knew it, but we love being able to be part of that cultural kind of touchpoint. And anyway, so slight digression- 

[00:38:41] Nakul Legha And for some shows, it's the first time an audience is coming to them. Certainly for me, I never watched the original Puberty Blues film. I knew the series, but not the film. And I've just started watching that. And I'm blown away by how bold and visionary it was. Like for me, television is how I, so I moved to Australia when I was ten and that's how I learnt English and how I learnt about Australia culture was TV - watching Playschool till I was too old. I should have stopped watching Playschool, but I was deep into high school as I was watching it. So, you know, it means something to us. And we know how important television is in your understanding of where you fit in. In a society, in a community, especially in Australia, where we are made up of people from all around the world and people who've had to figure out themselves. As a culture, we've had to figure out who it is that we are and reconcile with a bloody past and a future that hopefully is one that now I'm getting- 

[00:39:33] Que Minh Luu Like sometimes we go into like it's Mabo, it's the vibe talk at work. We're just like, it's got to be like this, these are our values, etcetera, etcetera. 

But You put Round the Twist on. And I suddenly was transported to being a latchkey kid, going to school, coming home in the afternoons, making my own snacks and then watching that show. And I think that sort of nostalgia is really lovely. And, you know, on that point of cultural pride, like, we have so much talent in Australia who have gone overseas to, like, make some waves and do Australia proud. And like, when they do really well over there, we're like, 'yes, Chris Hemsworth ours' and all of that. But there's this other kind of cultural pride that comes with the shows that we watched. And sometimes they're not even Australian, but like the shows that we watch that make us remember what it was like in a positive way of what it was like growing up in Australia at a particular time. But anyway, there was a question- 

[00:40:31] Nakul Legha Sorry, I got carried away. I started feeling thing. So, yes, we are connected to distributors. They will pitch up content, they will pitch us films, for example. It's not just old. It's not just library content that we'd be looking to licence. So we do licence new content that hasn't seen the light of day. And so that might be a case of certain territories or, you know, might be only ANZ that's available. That's fine. It's an Australian story. That's who we here to service. We'll also have creators pitch documentaries and shows that have seen the light of day at other of the broadcasters. But we think that there's a new audience for them. That's the beauty of Netflix is that especially unscripted content. So I'm thinking of a documentary like China Love. Documentaries like that, they're really compelling, they have a beautiful story behind them. They sit on the service alongside the scripted content. You know, it's not hidden away under 'oh this is the documentary corner. It's kind of dusty.' It's sitting there alongside your dramas, your comedies. And you do find that a whole new group of audiences will come to that content. So licencing is certainly important. And I'll I get pitched stuff all the time and I'll be reaching out to people as well. 

[00:41:33] Que Minh Luu And sometimes it's upstream, like when it's at pitch stage or when it's at, you know, final cut stage as well. It comes at all points of the process.

[00:41:43] Caris Bizzaca And can you talk through some of your upcoming slate? Like what are some of the things that you're excited about working on that's coming out? 

[00:41:52] Que Minh Luu We've only announced two so far, so Heartbreak High and Byron Baes. So Heartbreak High, we are so happy with it. Working with Fremantle is awesome. We pushed Fremantle quite hard on like putting a lot of new voices in the room and they have been so great with just really bringing those voices up to speed and giving them the support they need to set them up for success and write great stories. We have begun very early casting with Highbreak High, but we can't announce anyone yet. But it is going to be amazing. Our main goal with that show was we wanted to recreate that feeling that you got with the original of 'oh, I feel seen. Oh, a show understands me. They understand what my life is like to a certain extent'. We want to recreate that feeling for today's teenagers, but we recognise they don't know what Heartbreak High is, they were barely born. So there's a nostalgic element to it, but we are reinventing all of Heartbreak High for this new generation. What is the feeling for today's generation that makes them feel understood and seen and heard. What is key to that personality? Now, the original Heartbreak High had a sort of edgy, darker vibe to it. And we don't necessarily think that that is going to be relevant for today's teen to feel seen. I know I say today's teen and they're going to be like, 'OK, Boomer', but, you know, whatever. Go with me, guys! So we're really, really, really excited about that one. And yeah when with Byron Baes. 

[00:43:30] Nakul Legha Yeah have you heard of it? I'm not sure. (joking) 

[00:43:34] Caris Bizzaca Yeah, I feel like I might have seen it on the news. (joking) 

[00:43:36] Que Minh Luu We thought it was going to be a small announcement, but it turns out when you do a Netflix show, everyone gets really excited about it. 

[00:43:41] Nakul Legha So working with Eureka on that one.

[00:43:42] Que Minh Luu We're working with Eureka and what we love about Byron Baes is that, yes, it is a reality show. Yes, it is a docu soap. But like we've been banging on about this whole conversation with you so far, we see this show as a mainstream show that gives you a little bit more. And what is so fascinating about this concept is this idea of influencer culture, which is so ubiquitous now. It gets a pretty bad rap at times. You know, people can write it off as being trashy, much like the genre of reality TV docu soaps. But if you go a little bit further behind the posts of the people who are influencers they're, people, right? So that whole influencer culture idea, like, don't be quick to just assume that they are one thing. There's a story behind all of that. And that is so in parallel to what Byron is. Byron is a place that is symbolic of this Australian-ness and this, you know, perfection. It's a place that is desired. It is a place that has this perfect image of itself exported on Instagram. And it has a very complex relationship with that influencer status, so to speak. It's a backdrop. It's beautiful. It's desired. People flock to it. If you go underneath that surface, there is a town that's struggling. You know, there is wealth disparity, there is increasing homelessness. There are all of these things that it grapples with around its history, its cultural history and its community, that is incredibly interesting. And we're going to do it in a docu soap, because that's how those personal stories, that drama, all of those hallmarks of that genre are the things that people and audiences are drawn to. And when you watch the show, you're going to get this layered storytelling around what influencer culture is, what drives people to it, the skill involved in being an actual influencer and forging these connections with people that you have never met. It's the same way as what Byron the town has for people who've never been to it. You see it as this particular symbolic thing that is desirable and beautiful and perfect, but it's actually not. It's in danger of being loved to death, right? So when we saw it and we've been developing over months with Eureka, we were like, ‘this is so good’. 

[00:46:10] Nakul Legha And there is a there's a real craft to the reality format. And we've seen this day-in, day-out with Eureka. They are incredible at this craft.

[00:46:16] Que Minh Luu Nakul and I have never made reality before. Watching how Eureka work and the craft and the resilience, you know, particularly at the moment like of how you craft a reality show together. You know, it's a genre that is easy to hate, but everyone watches it. 

[00:46:32] Nakul Legha Absolutely. And that's the thing I think is, is it is the most watched format behind live sports in Australia for a reason. And you get to see a heightened version of yourself and your lives, play out on screen with real people, with real experiences and universality of emotion. So I think for me for me, docu soaps and reality is what I probably watch the most of - the algorithm definitely says I watch it. But you know what? The same people who watch that also watch heightened dramas, premium dramas. There is no distinction between the two. One is not less than the other. And I think that's a really important thing that I want to make sure our audiences. I mean, our audiences get it. And I think it's other people-

[00:47:12] Que Minh Luu I mean I totally understand. Like, look, well, the press release was not like the best thing that we did because, you know, we were naive in thinking that, like, 'oh, it's you know, it's a docu soap. It'll be fine'. We knew that there was going to be a reaction. We didn't realise the extent of the reaction. 

[00:47:28] Caris Bizzaca But is that also because you've been in development mode on this and so you kind of, you know the story, the layers underneath it- 

[00:47:38] Que Minh Luu We're like 'there's going to be more! There's going to be more!' And so we understand, we know that the layers are there and I think perhaps some people find it hard to believe that there can be any layers at all in a reality show and any layers in influencers. And sometimes, you know, that assumption of what an influencer is, is quite a gendered stereotype of an understanding. But Greta Thunberg I maintain is an influencer. She uses social media and her ability to craft a message in a way that is so compelling and gets to people. And we all, anyone of us now who are not influencers but have social media accounts, we all think about what we post online. Some people are just better at it than we are. Right. But we think about what kind of a message it's going to send about us to the people we know and who we're trying to reach with our profiles. I think it's just such an interesting conversation to have. And I think it is one that is so purpose-built for this format. And so we're really, you know, we stand by it one hundred and fifty per cent and really believe that it will say, you know, for all of the trappings of what people think reality shows are, it's going to say something that is really, truly authentic about who we are as people. And that's what every single one of our shows is going to say. That's why we commissioned them. What is it saying about us? And I think the conversation says a lot about us. 

[00:49:06] Caris Bizzaca And is there much of a, do you have much of a timeline with, you know, Heartbreak High that you can talk about and with Byron Baes. Do you have a timeline for like, is there more things to be announced?

[00:49:19] Que Minh Luu We've got a bunch of projects that we will announce in due course. Of course, we are going to be careful with how we announce them after what happened. But we're working a lot on things- 

[00:49:33] Nakul Legha To be continued, but certainly a lot of exciting things in the works. Consider this your Netflix cliff-hanger ending.

[00:49:37] Caris Bizzaca This is your forward propulsion into the next episode?  

[00:49:42] Nakul Legha It's a really diverse slate as well. We've got Heartbreak High and Byron Baes - they couldn't be further from each other in how you see them in terms of genre and what it is. And we've got a lot more of that up our sleeve. 

[00:49:54] Caris Bizzaca And then just lastly, an advice question. Do you have any advice for any Australian creatives who might be listening to this just based on, you know, working at Netflix and some of the things you want?

[00:50:07] Que Minh Luu some people grapple a lot with trying to get to Netflix or get to broadcasters. And often that is not the first step. The first step is get to know yourself, get to know what kind of things that you want to say and work on that. Find like-minded people. If I can do it just a bit of a plug for people who work as executives in the industry. I think we don't have enough people working more strategically around the industry and what what changes need to be made in the industry in a way that is proactive, not reactive. We often look at the problems we have and try to fix them. But what can we anticipate 40 years from now? You know, that's that's I mean, this is not like this is not going to make your career tomorrow, but I think starting to think about the industry that way is really important. I mean, I started off just wanting to work on shows and then I wanted to make shows. And then now I'm like, what does a slate look like? Oh, my God, what does the industry look like? Oh my god what does the world look like? You know, and just being able to zoom out outside of yourself, I think is really helpful.

[00:51:15] Nakul Legha Find collaborators, build a community, work in that community. Don't think too much about the end goal as Que said. Don't start a project thinking, 'this has to be a Netflix'. Start by just making really cool stuff and I think certainly for me, I didn't think I'd be doing what I am doing now, I feel incredibly privileged to be doing this, but I just took steps. I knew I couldn't enter - I didn't know anyone on television. I didn't know how to get into it. And I was like well, I've done a law degree. I'll start with that. And then from that, one thing led to another. 

[00:51:47] Que Minh Luu I was talking to Nakul at the ABC and I was like, 'you're a story head'.

[00:51:52] Nakul Legha Yeah, you made me do something that actually wasn't paid to do at the ABC. It was something creative.

[00:51:57] Que Minh Luu Yeah, I was working on Wakefield and I was the executive on Wakefield. And I just asked Nakul's opinion on something. And Nakul did all of this like extra work and research and very proactively was like, 'this is what I think'. Like, he wasn't encroaching on anything. He was doing very good work. But after that, I was like, 'my God, you're a story head', you know? So when Nakul made it to Netflix, it was like you're a creative executive. Like why would you be anything else? And I mean, I started off as an editor and how did I end up as an executive? I don't know. 

[00:52:31] Nakul Legha But that's the thing. That's the key thing for people who don't feel like they've really got a foot in the industry and it can be really intimidating place to to to enter. 

[00:52:40] Que Minh Luu I didn't have any connections and neither did you.

[00:52:43] Nakul Legha Absolutely not. So if you feel that way, just take baby steps. Just chip away, do the small things. And you just never know when you have that encounter with someone, like the encounter that Que and I had. And in a year, two years down the track, you find yourself at Netflix working on commissioning and licencing. 

[00:53:00] Que Minh Luu And you're like, how did this happen? But it's also, yeah, be nice. Like be just be good and try to do better. 

[00:53:10] Caris Bizzaca Very good advice to go on. Well thank you so much for joining us on the podcast today, really appreciate it. 

[00:53:15] Que Minh Luu Anytime. 

[00:53:16] Nakul Legha Thank you so much for having us. 

[00:53:21] Caris Bizzaca That was Que Minh Luu and Nakul Legha from Netflix and a big thanks to them for joining us on the podcast. You can, of course, find the TV series and films that they mentioned throughout the chat on that streaming service we mentioned a couple of times called Netflix. If you'd like to be up to date with all episodes of the Screen Australia podcast, subscribe through iTunes, Spotify or wherever you listen to podcasts. To hear the latest news from the local industry, including funding announcements, opportunities, videos, articles and more, you can subscribe to the fortnightly Screen Australia newsletter. Thanks for listening.