“The American series are so predictable”

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We spoke with Netflix’s co-founder of European cinema, the future of the industry and why he thinks the Monaco Streaming Festival is a sign of the times.

The industry had come a long way since Netflix sent DVDs to its customers. Yet twenty years later, Mitch Lowe is still at the forefront of innovation. “I think this is a Renaissance period for the arts,” he says when we meet before the start of the Monaco Streaming Film Festival, of which he is the co-director. The festival is all about streaming content – a first for the industry. “Because the tools for creating art, media, literature are all so easily accessible.”

A high school dropout, after leaving Netflix, Mitch Lowe continued his career as the founder of a film start-up, developing Redbox and MoviePass, a cinema subscription service.

I find it very surprising that no one has done this before.

Tell us about the new Monaco Film Festival. Do you think it’s been a long time coming?

In fact, I find it very surprising that no one has done this before, that no one has understood this acceleration in the way we consume entertainment. So, yes, I think a festival like ours is something that is long overdue.

Would you say you are a rival of Cannes?

Not exactly. I think the entertainment industry is slow to adapt. What we are doing here in Monaco is really the future. Trying to get people to Cannes is a bit overwhelmed. But rather than a rival, the Monaco Streaming Festival could be a complement to the Croisette. Our festival is ideally organized a week before Cannes, so I think it will be a great complement and a leader for the future.

Personally, I am more interested in foreign stories. I think they are much more original.

How do you think the movie industry will change?

We have to recognize that as our attention span decreases there are other ways to create stories than through a two hour movie or even a series of 30 minute episodes. Stories can be told through a sequence of TikTok clips or YouTube clips. Snapchat already does 5 minute episodes. I also know that TikTok wants to teach their content creators how to tell stories. There is definitely a change in the industry.

What will the stories of the future look like?

I think over time we’ll always build long stories that make you fall in love with the characters, but the stories will be told in segments – almost like the clips you watch on Facebook. This is precisely why I was delighted to work with Tony and Carmen (co-founders of the festival, editor’s note). The Monaco Streaming Festival is a recognition that there is a whole range of streaming content that will dominate in the future.

We created a culture at Netflix that made people innovative and comfortable with failure, which allowed people to experiment and innovate against the competition.

Now that the UK is no longer part of the EU, European streaming platforms will have to adapt to European laws, which require 30-60% of their content to be European. Do you think we are seeing a cultural shift away from English language content?

Personally, I am more interested in foreign stories. I think they are much more original. American series are so predictable. European stories that I find incredibly fascinating. As for the streaming platforms, I’m no longer at Netflix so I can’t speak for them. But there has been a huge trend at Netflix for diversity. There has been a big change in the executive over the past few years, which is now focused on adding local content to its department. They have supported filmmaking in Latin America, Europe and Asia and are going to do a lot more. I don’t think they needed the new European rules to get them to do this. That’s what they wanted to do anyway because having more locally produced content is a way to better serve the community.

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, the author of The Little Prince, was, believe it or not, a formidable business advisor. He once said, “If you want your team to build a ship, get them sucked off.”

Starting a business can be very intimidating. Why do you think you succeeded?

I think we created a culture at Netflix that made people innovate and be comfortable with failure, which allowed people to experiment and innovate against the competition. And focus is the key. The co-CEO always told us to do the one thing we do better than anyone else. If we had done three or four different things, I don’t think we would have been as successful. Take the publicity. We had people offering us millions of dollars to advertise, but we always refused because we wanted to stay focused on the customer and the product.

How to promote this creativity?

You don’t tell people how to do something, you tell them what you want to accomplish. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, the author of The Little Prince, was, believe it or not, a formidable business advisor. He once said, “if you want your team to build a ship, get them sucked off.” In other words, inspire your team to do what you want to do, rather than telling them how to do it. Get them excited about the idea and they will find out how to build the most amazing ship. If you can inspire your team and never micro-manage it, then it will produce incredible innovation.

>> READ ALSO: Four takeaways from the Monaco Streaming Film Festival


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