Directing by Algorithm for Netflix: Cary Fukunaga

This interview excerpt with award-winning director Cary Fukunaga (Beasts of No Nation, True Detective, Maniac, Bond 25) is yet another example of how valuable our collective viewing data is to Netflix, and why other studios are looking to create their own streaming channels (the only way that they can obtain such valuable data).

Like BeastsManiac will stream on Netflix, which has its own surreal development process. “Because Netflix is a data company, they know exactly how their viewers watch things,” Fukunaga says. “So they can look at something you’re writing and say, We know based on our data that if you do this, we will lose this many viewers. So it’s a different kind of note-giving. It’s not like, Let’s discuss this and maybe I’m gonna win. The algorithm’s argument is gonna win at the end of the day. So the question is do we want to make a creative decision at the risk of losing people.”

What’s an example of that?

“There was one episode we wrote that was just layer upon layer peeled back, and then reversed again. Which was a lot of fun to write and think of executing, but, like, halfway through the season, we’re just losing a bunch of people on that kind of binging momentum. That’s probably not a good move, you know? So it’s a decision that was made 100 percent based on audience participation.”

Fukunaga treated the process as one more thing to learn from, he says. “It was an amazing exercise. It will be even more amazing to see people’s reaction to the show. I have no doubt the algorithm will be right.” But it also made him want to do what, contrary to popular belief, he hadn’t done yet. “I just kind of want to make something that’s idiosyncratically all mine,” Fukunaga says. He says he realized the other day that he hadn’t had a film in wide theatrical release since Jane Eyre. “It’s crazy,” he says. “I could be a complete failure in the box office. I have no idea.”



Netflix mapped connections between what people watch to help scope out new shows

Add your comment