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Dec 18, 2019

12 Production Freelancers Whose First In-House Job Was Netflix

After ten years spent freelancing across the Hollywood Production industry, joining and recruiting for Netflix has fundamentally changed the way I value myself and the work that I do. However, it certainly hasn’t been without its challenges. I am grateful for the growth I have accomplished, but have found great reprieve in shared experiences and the empathy I’ve exchanged with other freelancers who are now full-time employees at Netflix. I thought it would be helpful for new candidates to understand our pain points and successes and things we wished we had known while embarking on our applicant journey - so please join me in celebrating all of our unique trajectories into Netflix! Below are 12 stories of freelancers whose first in-house job was with Netflix.

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1. Mamen Diaz - Post Production Coordinator, Spain - 2 months at Netflix

Since I can remember, I’ve always been a freelancer in both my personal and professional life. For me, being a freelancer means not belonging to any one group and managing things by myself. Having the capacity to decide as many aspects of my life as I can: choosing the project, when I go on vacation, etc… This is why I was so surprised when Netflix asks me to join their team. Could I fit in? Since this adventure began, some weeks ago, I am clarifying my mind and I am sure the answer is YES. The key of Netflix’s Culture is “freedom and responsibility”. Exactly as I used to manage my life and job before. I am lucky because I am not alone, I am surrounded by great colleagues who are taking care of me, being patient with my training and leaving me to act with the same freedom and responsibility as I used to do.

My advice? Be yourself. And at the same time, don’t be afraid of giving yourself time to watch, to observe. Don’t hurry, focus on the step by step, and give yourself the time you need to be yourself.

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2. Ramprasad Sundar, Post Production Coordinator, Mumbai - 1 year at Netflix

I started off back in India where I was part of a small band, eventually moving to the US to pursue education on Music and Audio. Freelancer life was what I lived and breathed for more than a decade, and I am very grateful since those are the days that shaped who I am today. The struggles and anxiety of finding what is next and the rush to complete the one in hand were the fuel that anyone who has been a freelancer would connect with.

Though I truly loved that phase of my life, there was a part of me that craved something more but in doing what I have been doing all those years. When presented at the opportunity at Netflix, to move to Mumbai and work in Post management, I was like “This is it! This is what I always wanted”. Life sometimes presents you with the best opportunities which are remote, and whenever asked, “you moved for this job? From LA?” my answer always is and will be, “why wouldn’t I?”.

Being in Netflix has been the best journey of my life, both professionally and personally. The space to grow and catalyze yourself has been something I have never experienced elsewhere. The freedom that one has to innovate and improvise on the job is no way different from what you had in the freelancer’s world. The team, environment, energy, colleagues, the culture, to sum up, are some things I am excited to wake up every day and walk in the office for.

Never hesitate to explore remote opportunities, because you never know what you will find that makes you better. The world is too big to stay in just one place.

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3. Brandy Leigh Scott - Post Production Coordinator, Los Angeles, 2 years at Netflix

I was a freelance post supervisor for 17 years before getting the golden ticket of Netflix. When you first start working here, there are all of the “Netflix” things that you learn and get used to: our meeting schedules, our apps, lunch at 11:30, and more. But the biggest challenge for me was the transition to being a full-time employee. Insurance papers, 401K forms, stock options, and a lot of other paperwork that I was not used to dealing with. These are amazing problems to have, but when have never dealt with them all before, it can be overwhelming. The realization that I did not have to be constantly searching for another job, took me a really long time to get used to. I am coming up on my third Christmas season here at Netflix and this might be the first year that I don’t feel uneasy.

The best piece of advice I could give new colleagues is to breathe. Every decision does not have to be the final one, things can be changed later on, and there is a whole team of people that you can ask. Take some more time to go over everything and always be confident in the decision.

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4. Kiara Harris - Production Assistant, Los Angeles - 6 months at Netflix

I began my career in freelance working as a Production Assistant on the TV show Shark Tank. The job was tough! I learned that this industry was NOT for the faint of heart. It was a lot of driving around the city running various errands meeting deadlines, as well as 12-14 hour days, and coordinating with high level execs and top tier talent. You pretty much learn as you go, earn your stripes and hope to work your way up. Fortunately, I did just that! I became a Showrunner’s Assistant and then an Associate Producer! I then took my talents to Disney+ as a field coordinator before landing an in-house role at Netflix.

Being in the world of freelance is really exciting when you’re a 20-something who doesn’t have huge responsibilities like children, a spouse, major student loan debt, etc. You can really focus on making a name for yourself. For me, not being able to accrue paid leave, receive health benefits, save for retirement, or simply keep my head above water financially; it made the idea of switching to an in-house role really attractive. I was also looking for stability and a job that aligned with my core values so I was very fortunate to land at a company that checked all of those boxes.

When it comes to freelance vs. in-house, I think the grass will always look greener on the other side. They both have their pros and cons and I think the best piece of advice I can give to anyone considering leaving freelance is to weigh the two and understand what you want out of your career. Do you crave stability? What is your work style? Are you highly self-motivated? Do you want to be your own boss? How are you with managing financial affairs and unpredictability? These are the questions that you should ask yourself to make the best decision for you!

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5. Hillary Corbin - Production Recruiting, Los Angeles, - 1.5 years at Netflix

I started out as a Dialogue Editor, but quickly pivoted into Post Production management in 2009. I was a freelance Post Supervisor, working exclusively in Unscripted. I jumped from show to show, from Production Company to Production Company, and I always felt upended. The “carrot dangling” of renewal onto a new show was challenging, and it always compromised my ability to work confidently. The real, heavy part of job rejection was the part of Freelancing that I never successfully calibrated to, and I count my blessings every day that I can call Netflix my home.

All that said, transitioning into a corporate environment is still really tough! I didn’t think it would be as hard as it was. Obvious things like understanding benefits, retirement plans, or workday cadence was one thing, but it was the style by which I needed to communicate was the hardest challenge of them all. There’s a corporate acumen that was untested prior to starting at Netflix, but adjusting the way that I speak has adjusted the way that my brain works - A lot of the expectations are outlined in our Culture Memo, found at jobs.netflix.com/culture. Being direct and voicing dissent is not something that I was used to in the Gig Economy, because asking questions and pressing back might jeopardize renewal onto subsequent projects. But I have seen myself grow as a confident communicator, and I can’t believe how brave and strong I’ve become. I love my new home.

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6. Liz Salinas - Physical Production Coordinator, Latin America - 2 years at Netflix

I fell in love with movies when I was 12 years old through watching old movies on AMC. From that moment on, I knew my career would be in entertainment. I started as an assistant editor for a small documentary company and through circumstance made my way to the production office, working my way up through the years from PA to Production Coordinator. I worked freelance for over 11 years, on TV shows big and small, always believing the ultimate goal was to be a Producer. In 2017, my husband and I moved back to Los Angeles after working out of state for 4 years. While working on How To Get Away with Murder, I reached out to one of the Directors on the IO Production team at Netflix, hoping she could point me in the direction of a show in need of a Coordinator. She had no current shows looking for an LA based crewmember but asked if I was interested in talking to her about an in-house position. She and another director were looking for an assistant and wanted someone with production experience. I was hesitant at first, not because I didn’t see it as an opportunity, but because I had interviewed at other studios and had never found myself wanting to be tied down in that way. We met for coffee and after hearing about her experience and her move from NBC to Netflix, I left the meeting with some homework, including reading their culture memo. I was already a big Netflix fan, having been a member since early 2001 and continued into the beginning of their streaming days. And now I understood why it had been so successful. It’s culture was about innovation, passion, allowing creativity to take flight, questioning, working collaboratively but not being tied down by process. It was basically the antithesis of most of my production experience. And suddenly I found myself thinking that I could grow in this company, affect real change in the industry, help minority filmmakers like myself have a voice and share a different point of view on a global scale. I didn’t hesitate to email her and let her know I was extremely interested in the opportunity, knowing that if I could work my way up in freelance, I could certainly do so at Netflix. A few months later, I left freelance production when I wrapped the show I was on, excited to be joining the Netflix Production Team.

The transition wasn’t always easy but it was certainly a great learning opportunity. I was on-boarded, but had to figure out a lot on my own. The team was just forming and our classes to teach our internal applications were still in the early stages of conception. This forced me to learn a lot on my own, play with the apps and figure things out as they came. I also had to shift my mindset from the micro to the macro. I was no longer responsible for a lot of tiny details on only one show, I was now responsible for two very busy calendars and duties for multiple shows. I had to reprogram my brain to be able to shift from one production, to many. Time management became key. It was no longer the stop and go rhythm of Production. Now I was in a constant stage of go, go, go on multiple shows. I had to block work time in between meetings and allow myself enough prep time beforehand. Learning to funnel information was also key. I remember in my first two weeks, I would end the day with multiple browser windows open, each with over 20 tabs from reading memos that linked other memos. I realized I had to prioritize my reading time as well. I talked to my direct supervisors and colleagues, asked what they felt was a priority for me to read, which memos were key to the company strategy, our team and our slate. I learned Chrome and Google Suite, figuring out tricks to stay better organized and on task. It can be overwhelming coming here at first. It’s a new company, with a very different way of doing things but at the end of the day, it’s important to remember what drew you to Netflix in the first place. For me, it’s the values. I have a copy of them on my desk. They are there to remind me of their importance in my day to day work, but also to stress what inspired me to come work for Netflix in the first place.

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7. Adam Folk - Physical Production Manager, Los Angeles - 1 year at Netflix

I was a freelance independent film producer for 15 years. I loved the flexibility and excitement of being freelance, working on many different types of projects with new people and shooting in different locations. After many years as a freelancer I felt I was ready for a new challenge and I was looking for the right fit at a studio. I also have a family now, and going “in-house” was a better fit for me. A friend told me about an opportunity at Netflix and I was excited by the prospect of working for the studio that has completely changed the way entertainment is distributed and consumed. I started in December 2018, and as I now approach my one year anniversary at Netflix I’m more grateful every day that I get to work here. The culture of freedom & responsibility at Netflix is a great fit for a former freelancer. I’m trusted to work and make an impact in my own way and I feel valued for the experience that I bring to the table.

As a freelancer you are able to gain a breadth of experience that you wouldn’t necessarily get as an in-house employee. Having that varied experience makes you an even better candidate, so find a way to highlight that if and when you decide to interview for in-house roles.

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8. Alex Villarete - Integrated Post Specialist, Los Angeles - 6 months at Netflix

I began freelancing to gain quick and relevant experience in my field of Post Production. I enjoyed the fast pace and consistent creative challenges that came with on-the-fly producing on different types of projects in the reality/ unscripted space. Working on multiple projects a year kept my life exciting, but certainly had its drawbacks: having to constantly network , plan for “my next move” , and deal with inconsistent pay. Ultimately, this became somewhat exhausting. I learned so much and wore many hats that I took to each job thereafter. After a few years, I began to crave the consistency of working in one place in order to maximize my impact and evolve my own personal development plan long-term. Luckily, I’m now able to do that at Netflix and work with a tremendous team that changes the face of storytelling everyday.

If you’re looking for a way to “get rich (in knowledge) quick” - freelancing is the way to go. Developing the social skills needed to work with all different types of people (some nice and some not so nice) is a major key to success in the Entertainment field. Always keep your eye out for gaps in efficiencies no matter where you wind up. Identifying and carving out a place for yourself to improve your surroundings allows you to not only find value in the work that you do, but allows you improve the team you’re on - which then renders you and your work invaluable. Walking into a new company with an entitled attitude and expectation to go full time also won’t help your chances, put your head down, stay focused, and be engaged!

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9. Ennis Alhashimi - Associate, Production Finance, Amsterdam - 1 year at Netflix

Ten months ago, I left the freelance world in the UK behind and moved to Amsterdam joining the International Originals Production Finance team covering the EMEA region. This was a really tough decision for me.

For half a decade my life has followed a similar pattern of taking a job, working there for 8 months, panicking because the job is finishing, questioning everything about my career, and then finding a new project just in time. Aaaand repeat. The comfort we freelancers find in this cycle is a hard one to break out of, but nearly a year into my adventure, I’m glad I took the plunge!

The main driving force for me was trying to break out of the monotony that came with the cycle of repetition on those shows. Your scope to make an impact is limited to one show at a time. In my fairly short stint at Netflix which has lasted about the time of one freelance gig, I’ve managed to be across over 20 unique shows spread across 7 different countries. To say I’ve managed to mix things up and take on new challenges would be an understatement. Being able to shape how Netflix goes into these new emerging markets and working with experienced local producers on the ground is some of the most interesting and rewarding work I’ve done.

One piece of advice that I would give, and that really tipped the balance for me when it was given to me; you will learn more in a year at Netflix as you would in 5 years in the field. If you decide to go back to the field, you’ll be all the better equipped to crush it there.

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10. Andrew Hauser - Post Production Manager, Los Angeles - 3 months at Netflix

The cliche of being a freelancer is that you get to be your own boss, you can make your own schedule, and the work will constantly be challenging as it’s always new. In comparison, working for a company was too regulated, too similar and too boring. Working as a freelance post supervisor for the entirety of my working career until now, I saw each of the myths toppled. My time was constantly at the whim of the films I was working on. It was impossible to plan holidays as schedules were always in flux. And lastly, after 8 years, the job had become monotonous, resetting with each film, with the same questions and issues coming up every time.

Instead, coming to Netflix has provided me with the lifestyle I’ve always craved. The work is constantly stimulating and changing. We’re encouraged to push ourselves out of our comfort zone. I’m surrounded by colleagues who are completely supportive. And lastly, we’re encouraged to create our own schedules, taking the time we need in order to feel refreshed and push us to be better.

So my advice to those considering it, dispel all your preconceived notions about what it might mean, as you’ll likely be surprised.

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11. Debbi Bossi - Director of Post Production, Los Angeles - 2 months at Netflix

For the past 30 years I have been working in the Industry as a free-lance person primarily in the area of film post production. Upon arriving in LA after college and having absolutely no Hollywood connections, I grabbed whatever job I could in order to get started in this Industry I love. First came an internship on a Network TV show which led to coordinating commercials, assisting film Producers, handling International film delivery and eventually to overseeing post production on major Studio films as an Associate Producer & Post Production Supervisor. While free-lancing for many years, both in the US & abroad, I worked with a diverse array of professionals and learned to pivot quickly to handle the ebb & flow of demanding Productions.

I had always been interested in seeing what Netflix was doing over the years from the early DVD delivery service to streaming and finally to the makers of original content. However, it was not until they started the Original Film division that I saw a place where I might fit and realized being a free-lance person over the years aptly prepared me for my new role working In-House at Netflix. Although I am relatively new to the company, the advice I would give someone transitioning to Netflix from free-lance is to come in with eyes wide open and never stop being curious as you’ll be on an amazing journey with wonderfully passionate people!

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12. Lizzie Brizzell - Production Finance Manager EMEA, Amsterdam, 2 years at Netflix

Many people have asked what my motivation was for leaving the freelance world. For me the answer was easy- I wanted to learn more about production, faster. When I was approached by Netflix, there wasn’t a second of doubt in my mind about making the move. The opportunity to work for the most unique and revolutionary company in global entertainment was a dream come true. I had spent ten years working on productions across the world, but as the budgets got bigger, I found the diversity of the role became smaller. Since I joined Netflix, I have had many conversations with freelance production crew across Europe. They all share the same concerns about such a move in-house: loss of freedom to make choices; becoming bored working from the same desk every day and having to tolerate working in a corporate environment.

In the past two years I have worked on more than 20+ shows across nine different countries, reusing my French and Spanish language skills daily. As Netflix grows in Europe, so have our inhouse teams. I am now working with the most incredible cross-functional production partners from across the world in Creative Content, Physical Production, VFX, Post, Legal and Localization amongst many others. I no longer have to drive out of the lot at the end of a show and say goodbye to everyone and hope we cross paths again. At Netflix the cross functional teams support each other daily. We really strive to educate one another on what we do and how we can be the best help for our production partners. Freedom and Responsibility are key to our culture; I plan my working day and week so that I get my job done in the most effective way possible, no one has to tell me what to do.

The Netflix learning curve is steeper and faster than I could ever have hoped for. Curve? It’s more like a rollercoaster. Every day is filled with new challenges and no one day is the same. The volume and diversity can be a little overwhelming at the beginning, but due to the investment in onboarding and training at Netflix, I felt supported from day one. If you are searching for diversity and the ultimate learning opportunity, Netflix is the place for you. My piece of advice for anyone looking to transition in-house would be to think about the team and how can you be the best for all your cross functional partners.

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