Interview: Netflix Tagger reveals what it’s like being paid to watch films
Ivan Radford | On 17, Jul 2014Reading time: 6 mins
Wish you could get paid to watch TV all day? Now you can. Last week, Netflix advertised your dream job: a Netflix Tagger, someone who goes through the Internet TV service’s catalogue and tags each title with every genre, plot type and characteristic you could think of. Ever wondered how Netflix knows what to recommend? They’re your answer – and there are only 40 of them worldwide.
As Netflix recruits its first ever Tagger for the UK, we tracked down one of those 40 and quizzed them about being a professional binge-watcher. What’s it like being paid to watch Netflix for a living? How do you become a Tagger?
Here’s everything you need to know:
Thanks for taking time to answer our questions. We hope we’re not getting in the way of an episode of The Killing Season 4…
Hi, no problem. Not getting in the way at all – I cranked Season 4 out before lunch…
Many people think being a Tagger would be their dream job. Is it yours?
It’s one of them. I’ve been lucky enough to get paid to do some fun stuff, and it’s definitely at the top of that list. I get to watch movies and TV for a living, that’s exactly as great/ridiculous as it sounds, and on top of that I pretty much make my own schedule, which allows me to pursue of few of my other dreams like writing, and film and TV production.
The kid in me is still holding out hope that I’ll get a chance to be a space pirate.
How did you first hear about a Tagger vacancy with Netflix?
A friend of a friend at Netflix was asking around about movie geeks. My friend referred me.
What did you have to do for an interview?
It was a different process then, still kind of an experiment, as far as I know. The interview was basically talking about movies for an hour! I’m sure the interviewer gave me an overview of the project, but what I recall most about the conversation was the range of the discussion from classics to movies from our childhood to newer stuff. It was the kind of conversation you have at dinner with your movie geek friends (and there’s always that one miserable significant other at the table who’d rather talk politics, and just hates everyone involved).
It was good fun.
What’s your average working day like? How many hours, roughly, do you spend watching movies and TV shows?
It varies. Some days I have no assignments, others two or three titles a day. Assignments depend on your availability, and how many titles are coming in at the time. The flexibility of my schedule is one of the best parts of the job, I’m given assignments well in advance of most deadlines, so I can plan my days/week accordingly. I’m in control of the number hours of Netflix work I do per day.
How does tagging work, exactly? Do you note down actors and directors or just genres? What about locations? Or plots? How many tags do you give to an average movie?
We track most of what you can think of, pretty much everything you like about a movie, but maybe didn’t know you like about it.
Are they all yes/no qualities, or do you rank them on a scale? (e.g. Is it “happy/unhappy” or “1 very happy, 2 quite happy”, etc?)
There are both “Yes/No” and scaled tags. There are also some multiple choice questions, so it’s like a test you take in school, only instead of solving math problems, you’re keeping track of how often Brad Pitt curses, knocks off a bad guy, or drops his trousers.
Is it hard to remember at times that this is a job and not just watching movies/TV shows for fun?
Not really. You occasionally get immersed in something and may have to go back through it again because you know you were paying attention to the movie and not the content, but for the most part I can enjoy it and do my job at the same time. It’s also a situation where I realise how lucky I am to be doing this, so I want to do a good job and keep doing it.
Do you binge-watch TV series, or tag each episode individually?
For work, I watch a few episodes. Tagging series is slightly different than standalones; you want to get a feel for the series as a whole. And since a series can range from 6 hours to 60+, you can’t really binge-watch – you have to do some research and pick and choose.
In my own time, I’m a whole-hearted binge-watcher.
Do you find yourself tagging things in your spare time by accident?
It happens, but it’s kind of a different skill set, a left/right brain thing, so it’s easier to turn on/off. Tagging is stepping outside the natural “I’m enjoying this because…” and going to the cold, objective stuff, I may not find a comedy funny at all, but I will tag its level of comedy as high because I realise the scenes are all being played for laughs.
When not at work, do you get asked to recommend movies or TV shows to people?
Are you good at it?
If I know someone’s tastes well, I’m better at recommending a movie for them, but I’m a professional, I get paid for this, so I always demand payment in the form of beer and/or coffee.
More and more just refer people to Netflix, there’s a lot more brain power behind it.
Ok. Let’s say we want to watch a romantic comedy with a slightly bitter sense of humour, perhaps one made a while ago rather than recently. What would you suggest?
Beer or coffee!!!
Have you checked www.netflix.com? Solid site, great recommendations.
“A while ago” and “slightly bitter” are relative terms. That’s what makes it difficult. Are you over 70 and a pleasant person? Or under 30 and really horrible to be around? Recommendations will vary.
The Atlantic did research and found that there are 76,897 unique ways to describe types of movies on Netflix. What’s the weirdest, or longest, genre/sub-genre you’ve come across? We quite like “emotional independent drama for hopeless romantics” and “Latin American forbidden-love movie”.
I’m behind the curtain on that and my tastes run pretty “meat and potatoes” so I don’t see many off the wall genres myself, but the seeming idol worship of Raymond Burr by the algorithm mentioned in that article tickles me.
I picture the computer fighting the urge to talk about Burr every time it makes a recommendation “This customer loves civil war documentaries and TED talks, we should probably tell them about Raymond Burr. No, not yet. Someday…”
What recommendations do you get in the first row on your Netflix account?
In the Loop, Coffee and Cigarettes, Black Forest, and the third season of Luther. [Note: The third season of Luther will be added to Netflix UK on Wednesday 23rd July. For more, click here.]
If your life were a movie on Netflix, what sub-genre would you tag it in?
Biographies about lucky schlubs.
And finally, what tips would you give to someone planning to apply to become a Tagger?
Be ready to show you can be just as objective and analytical about film and TV as you are passionate.
Thanks! We’ll let you get back to watching everything on Netflix now.
You’re welcome! *queues up In the Loop*