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A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes: Netflix Pays People To Watch Movies All Day

Audience Participation

It’s 2 PM on a Sunday, you’re 10 episodes into Battlestar Galactica and you’re trying your damnedest to suppress the knowledge that you must go into work tomorrow: “Jesus, can’t someone just pay me to watch Netflix?” We’ve all been there. As it turns out, Netflix does pay a select group of film nerds to watch, “tag,” and eventually help the entertainment company categorize its films. Is this the excuse to quit our day jobs and gloriously stuff our faces with popcorn that we’ve all been looking for?

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When Jordan Canning was failing to make ends meet with her catering job, the aspiring filmmaker turned to Netflix to work as a part-time film tagger. Every week, Netflix sends her a list of films to watch, which range from low-key children’s flicks to gross-out slasher films. As she watches each film, she takes extremely detailed notes on her laptop: “It covers everything from big picture stuff like storyline, scene and tone, to details of whether there is a lot of smoking in the movie,” she said.

Each film in the Netflix library is tagged with upward of 100 data points, which can include the tone of the movie, the gender of its characters, or how violent it is. These tags are the magical engine behind the movie recommendation algorithm we all know and love — why yes, Netflix, I would love to watch more foreign violent suspenseful supernatural movies! Before Netflix began to hire taggers, it tried to use the descriptions by external companies, with disappointing results — nothing can beat the impressions of an actual human film knowledge database.

Unfortunately, Netflix’s employment qualifications aren’t limited to “marathons Breaking Bad instead of being a functional member of society.” “We’re looking for people who have knowledge of movies and TV shows,” said Todd Yellin, vice-president of product innovation at Netflix. “[Taggers are] very detail oriented because they’re watching every detail of a movie, saying, ‘Hey! You were wearing glasses at the end of that scene.” Before you can make a living watching movies all day, Netflix has you take a tagging test. Yellin likes to use Fantastic Mr. Fox, a Wes Anderson film, because it flits between many genres, and could easily trip up a wannabe-tagger. Currently, Netflix employs about 40 taggers in the United States.

Do you think you’re up to Netflix tagging snuff? Is this a dream job, or would movie-watching not feel so excellent when removed from the realm of procrastination? What would you procrastinate with?


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