There is a famous saying in the entertainment industry, “It’s all about who you know”. Some would say that who you know can be even more important than how talented you are or how hard you work. So if having these relationships are so important to being successful, where do you find these people that act as gatekeepers between you and your dreams? Richard Botto, the CEO, and genius behind, Stage 32, saw the need for a link to be made between different types of creatives. For those of you who don’t know about Stage 32, you should. It is a groundbreaking social media platform that allows all different creatives from all areas of the world to connect and find the people they need to know to get their work made in this industry. Richard was generous enough to allow me to pick his brain about the idea behind Stage 32, and of course what they have in store in the coming months.
Stage 32 is such an inventive idea. How did the idea come to you and what made you start the company?
RB: Initially, the idea for Stage 32 came from a need. I certainly recognized that utilized correctly, social media could be a powerful tool. But I also believed that broad-based social media platforms such as Facebook, while terrific for staying in touch with family and friends, ultimately diluted my creative efforts for the exact same reason. What I desired was a platform that had focused networking–like-minded film and television creatives looking to network, collaborate, learn and grow together. Further, I believed that niche social networks were going to represent the next wave of connecting. Working through the entirety of this thought process, Stage 32 was born.
What was the process of starting Stage 32?
RB: The main challenge was deciding whether to tell my colleagues the idea for the platform or to just come out of pocket and build the first phase. I decided to take a risk and go for the latter plan. Once we had something to show people, I made a list of 100 industry colleagues and reached out to them explaining the mission. I asked them all to join and if they liked what they saw, to help spread the word by inviting at least 5 fellow creatives, effectively crowdsourcing the community. Within 3 months, we were 5,000 strong and today we’re over a half million worldwide.
Your company has been around since 2011, what are some of the changes and evolution the site has made over the years?
RB: Well, at the start, the main focus was on building the network and creating a welcoming, productive environment. To do that, we had to sit back and allow people to utilize the platform. When you build something like this, something that you want to give your members a feeling of ownership, you have to engage and listen. We communicated with the members as to what our future plans were and asked for their input. That helped shape the early stages of our progression.
From Day One, one of my main goals was to bring world-class education into the mix. I wanted to create a safe haven for all film and television creatives and content creators to learn. So while the network was growing and we were becoming more feature rich, we were spending our time building our relationships with potential educators from around the world. Today, we work with over 500 executives around the world and have a vast and diverse library of over 1,000 hours of education. We’ve been recognized by such prestigious organizations as IFTA-AFM as leaders in the online education space. We’re extremely proud of what we’ve accomplished in that regard.
What type of people would benefit most from joining Stage 32?
RB: Quite literally, anyone working in film, television or creating content of any kind. Our community ranges from students to Academy Award winners and we have members in just about every country in the world.
But it should be noted, those who benefit the most from the platform are serious about their craft, the business, and their pursuits. The sheer number of success stories we’ve seen since inception is staggering. The common denominator with all of them, they put in the time, they do the work, they reap the rewards.
What would you like people to know about Stage 32 who are thinking of joining?
RB: Why hesitate? The platform is free to all. You should already be treating networking as a job, and having easy access to over a half million peers around the world from the comfort of your home or while standing in line at Starbucks should be enticing and motivating.
This is a relationship business. Content creation is all about building a brand for you and your work. For those committed, Stage 32 cuts the path to success by providing access and opportunity.
Where do you see the site going or evolving into in the future?
RB: We’re committed to continuing to build out our educational and mentoring services. For us, and as mentioned before, almost everything we do has to check off the boxes of offering access and opportunity for our members. We have a passion for seeing the creatives in our community find success.
Having said that, we’ve been approached to branch out in a variety of directions which include producing and distribution. We’ll see where that, and other proposed ideas take us. But we recognize that we can’t do it all. And to that end, we’ve partnered with such companies as AT&T and Peerspace to name a couple who have launched initiatives that serve as a compliment to our mission and what truly matters to us on a daily basis. I used to joke that we wanted to be Home Depot for film and television creatives and content creators. With these strategic partnerships and some other initiatives we have planned for the future, it’s not much of a joke any longer. The brand is being recognized worldwide and we want to make sure we’re providing as many tools as possible for people to succeed.
Are there any new or upcoming features that you want people to know about?
RB: We’ve offered our members the ability to upload their content – reels, films, loglines, etc since the earliest days of the platform. That content mostly rested on a person’s profile. Recently, to give more exposure, we launched a section called Browse. Within this section, members can rate and comment on the content of their peers. Ultimately, this allows a curation process to occur, effectively ranking the highest rated content. This allows for more exposure, which means that executives, managers, agents, producers, development execs, financiers, who are in the market for talent and material can easily find content which has found an audience. It’s been a very successful feature for us and one which has led to numerous members being signed, produced, financed or put into development.
What brings you the most joy in running Stage 32?
RB: Without question, the success stories. Any time you get a heartfelt letter, and I’m pleased to say I get many, from someone who was ready to give up or was beaten down, which happens to all creatives at one point or another, who has found success through relationships made through the platform–there simply is no better feeling. Nothing makes me or my staff happier. We’re celebrating all the time. But further, it’s the positive, welcoming and creative environment we’ve nurtured since the beginning.
And the cool thing is that for all of us, it never gets old. When someone tells you that you’ve changed their life, it’s jarring. But at its’ core, it’s what we set out to do. We wanted to keep people in the game, pursuing their dreams, staying positive and finding success. Therein lies the joy.
Richard, you not only run a successful company but you are also a published author. Your book, Crowdsourcing for Filmmakers covers a topic that’s red hot right now. What can you tell us about the book?
RB: I’ve been fortunate to have been presented with the opportunity to speak all over the world on crowdsourcing. And, as mentioned, the Stage 32 community has been completely crowdsourced. As a result of this and a talk I gave at the American Film Market, I was approached by Focal Press/Routledge to write the very first book on film crowdsourcing which was just published in October (2017).
The book covers all aspects of crowdsourcing at is relates to film creatives and content creators. There are nearly a dozen chapters on various strategies toward running a successful crowdsourcing campaign. And while crowdsourcing IS different then crowdfunding, the essential part of any successful crowdfunding campaign is crowdsourcing. I have two chapters regarding how to structure a crowdsourcing campaign months ahead of launching your crowdfunding campaign. Additionally, I have 4 full chapter case studies along with a few micro case studies highlighting how the connections of some very popular independent films sourced a crowd long before their films were released.
It’s very much a book of the now. And I do truly believe that those who embrace the strategies and tenets within will give themselves a serious competitive advantage.
“We have a passion for seeing the creatives in our community find success.“
– Richard Botto
Richard Botto is the Founder and CEO of Stage 32, the world’s largest online platform connecting and educating film and television creatives and content creators worldwide. RB, as he is known to his friends, is also an actor, producer and screenwriter. His screenplay THE END GAME is currently in development at Covert Media.
To Learn more about Stage 32 and Richard Botto:
Tp purchase RB’s book CROWDSOURCING FOR FILMMAKERS: INDIE FILM AND THE POWER OF THE CROWD go here.
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(All photos are courtesy of Richard Botto.)