Carl Erik Rinsch speaking at New Directors' Showcase

Netflix Doesn’t Want To Pay Its Workers but Gave $55 Million to Carl Rinsch To Blow

Netflix is among the many streamers who contributed to the SAG-AFTRA and WGA strikes as part of the greedy AMPTP. While it has frequently been engaging in cost-cutting measures, it was oddly loose with the $55 million it gave to Carl Rinsch, who squandered part of it on cryptocurrency and Rolls-Royces.

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Like many streamers, Netflix has been partaking in numerous cost-cutting measures. Layoffs, show cancelations, and subscription price raises are some of the tactics Netflix has partaken in since experiencing subscriber losses in 2022. Even though its revenue and subscribers have recently gone back up, it has continued raising its prices. It has also alienated some viewers with its crackdown on password sharing. The streamer’s emphasis on cost-cutting makes the strange saga of Rinsch even more confounding.

Netflix paid a staggering sum of $55 million to Rinsch to create a sci-fi show. However, the big-budget sci-fi series never happened. Rinsch spent the money, and Netflix is out $55 million with not a single episode to show for it. The streamer has a lot of questions to answer about why it gave Rinsch so much money in the first place and why it didn’t pay close enough attention to how he spent it.

Netflix paid millions for a show from a risky director

Keanu Reeves as Kai in 47 Ronin
(Universal Pictures)

According to an investigative report by The New York Times, Netflix’s Rinsch saga started in 2018. At this time, Rinsch and his then-wife Gabriela Rosés Bentancor were working on a sci-fi series. In need of funds, they began pitching the idea to studios in hopes of getting picked up for a season. The show was about the creation of a race of humanlike beings called the Organic Intelligent. At this time, streaming was on the rise, and these platforms were desperate for content.

Hence, Rinsch’s project started a bidding war, with numerous streamers trying to nab the project. Ultimately, Netflix won after it agreed to pay $61.2 million for the rights to the series. However, why these streamers were clamoring for Rinsch’s project is still unclear. He had a few achievements in commercials and short films, but his feature film directorial debut, 47 Ronin, was a massive failure. Critics panned the film, and it cost Universal millions as one of the most devastating box office flops of 2013. Additionally, reports arose that the production was troubled due to Rinsch’s clashing with the studio executives.

Not only did Netflix spend millions to get Rinsch’s series, but it gave him total control of the creative process and budget. It even gave him a final cut, meaning any edits or changes had to be explicitly approved by him. Rinsch was essentially handed the opportunity and rights to create his exact vision, something even established and award-winning directors don’t often get. This was a major risk, given his past. Still, the show was officially titled Conquest and headed to Brazil for filming. Then, everything crumbled.

Soon, allegations arose about Rinsch’s erratic behavior on set and mistreatment of his cast and crew. By 2020, his wife had filed for divorce due to his behavior allegedly turning aggressive toward her. His mental health deteriorated so badly an intervention was staged at one point to bring him to rehab, though he left just days after entering. Meanwhile, he never even had a final script for Conquest and missed multiple production milestones. Netflix had sent him $44.3 million to spend on the budget, which quickly dwindled and led to Rinsch demanding more money from Netflix.

Despite all the issues and lack of progress, Netflix still wired him an additional $11 million. Of that sum, he transferred $10.5 million to his brokerage account and blew most of it on risky bets on stocks and cryptocurrency. He also bought a whole “fleet of Rolls-Royces,” a Ferrari, and millions of dollars worth of clothes and furniture. However, he somehow actually turned a profit from his cryptocurrency bets. Netflix didn’t get any of that $55 million back, though, when it officially abandoned Conquest in 2021 after Rinsch failed to produce even one episode. In another bizarre turn of events, Netflix is in arbitration with Rinsch, who claims the streamer still owes him another $14 million.

How does something like this happen?

The saga is bound to leave everyone scratching their heads and wondering how on earth something like this even happens. With all the barriers to entry, it’s not necessarily wrong for studios to take a chance on talents that aren’t as well-established. However, why spend $55 million on a director with a concerning history for a show that didn’t even have a script? Something is very wrong in Hollywood when studios are willing to make these kinds of wagers in misguided attempts to earn a profit but balk at paying the hardworking writers and actors who actually keep them afloat.

Additionally, one must ask just how little $55 million is to Netflix. It sure sounds like a lot, but Netflix seemingly didn’t treat it as such. How does a studio not double-check what a production spends its budget on or outline exactly what that money is for in a contract? Although Rinsch initially claimed the Rolls-Royces and other luxury items were for the set, he later insisted that the money was “contractually” his to spend however he pleased. It’s difficult to understand how a director just runs off with at least $11 million of a movie’s production budget unless Netflix was careless with its money and contracts. Otherwise, wouldn’t the streamer be taking some kind of legal action against Rinsch rather than the other way around?

If Netflix has so much money that $55 million means so little to it that it’ll just waste that entire sum on a scriptless show and a director’s personal spending spree, it should have more than enough money to pay its workers better wages and stop raising subscription prices.

(via The New York Times, featured image: John Sciulli / Getty)

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Rachel Ulatowski
Rachel Ulatowski is a Staff Writer for The Mary Sue, who frequently covers DC, Marvel, Star Wars, literature, and celebrity news. She has over three years of experience in the digital media and entertainment industry, and her works can also be found on Screen Rant, JustWatch, and Tell-Tale TV. She enjoys running, reading, snarking on YouTube personalities, and working on her future novel when she's not writing professionally. You can find more of her writing on Twitter at @RachelUlatowski.