Richard ‘RB’ Botto, founder and CEO of Stage 32. Photo Courtesy of Stage 32
Richard “RB” Botto, CEO and founder of Stage 32, chatted about his latest endeavors.
He discussed being a CEO in the digital age, and he shared how Stage 32 is trying to support the workers that have been affected by the SAG-AFTRA strike. He addressed his thoughts on artificial intelligence (AI) on the future of the entertainment industry.
Background on Stage 32
Stage 32 is the world’s largest online film and television creative talent incubator with over one million members worldwide, who engage with the platform’s global job boards, supportive networking community and industry-leading 3,000 hours of educational content.
Supporting entertainment industry professionals in over 185 countries and counting, Stage 32 is dedicated to providing an oasis of community and educational resources such as webinars, classes, and labs to help creators connect and develop their artistic gifts, and access new opportunities in TV and film.
Stage 32 members include all professions, above the line, below the line, creative and professional across countries including the U.S., Canada, U.K., France, South Africa, India, Saudi Arabia, Germany, Netherlands, and Australia
Stage 32 educational workshops, webinars and events are led by some of the most influential voices across the entertainment industry spectrum, including award-winning directors, writers, producers, showrunners, composers, and documentarians among others.
How did Stage 32 come about?
Stage 32 originated out of a need. As an actor, screenwriter and producer myself, I certainly understood the importance and the value of social media. But in talking to so many of my colleagues in the industry and asking them what they were getting out of the broad-based social media platforms from a professional standpoint I kept hearing time and time again that the results weren’t worth the time invested.
When I asked the same people if they would find it more valuable and to have a niche social network dedicated to people working in film and television which included an educational element and a marketplace element, the answer was a resounding yes. That’s where the embryonic idea of Stage 32 came from.
Once we built the first iteration, the people I queried not only became members, but were happy to stress how much they were getting out of their time investment in being a member.
There was more to that original vision. At the time, there was a serious dearth in online education for people working in film and TV. And what was available was being taught by people who weren’t necessarily qualified.
I am a big believer in continuing education and in a business that moves as quickly as this one, being informed and current on how the business operates is a must.
So, my goal was always to create the world’s largest education library taught by leaders within their chosen craft and in the industry itself. And we’ve accomplished that. We now have over 3,000 hours of education which is by far the largest anywhere in the world.
Finally, I also understood the value of access. So much of navigating this industry is trying to get by the gatekeepers. We wanted to eliminate that step by getting people direct access to decision makers.
With our marketplace, we’ve done just that. We’ve connected tens of thousands of content creators with the content makers, financiers and distributors.
Obviously, there’s been a massive evolution over the last 12 years but the core idea of democratizing the film and television industry to level the playing field for creatives and professionals worldwide was the mission from Day One and remains the mission today.
What does your job description involve as CEO of Stage 32?
It’s a little bit of everything. The entire team lives by a “Member First” philosophy. Much of my day revolves around making sure that that with all of our initiatives, that philosophy permeates. Without our members, we’re nothing.
It’s paramount that we make sure we’re servicing all aspects, from networking possibilities to educational offerings to meaningful access to executives – toward what they need to be successful.
It is also about being plugged in and seeing around the curve of everything happening in this industry. This business changes at the speed of sound and we always want to make sure, especially when it comes to our education and our marketplace, that we are presenting the timeliest information, actionable advice, and access to people around the world who are making and distributing content.
What do your day-to-day responsibilities include?
In the day-to-day my responsibilities include communicating and strategizing with the management teams of Stage 32 and working with our technical team, which plays a gigantic part in everything we do.
They’re the engine that makes everything run. The behind-the-scenes heroes that the members don’t get to see but assure that they have the greatest experience possible.
I don’t expect many users to understand this, but a platform as large and robust as Stage 32 has a massive code base. So, I’m constantly neck deep not only in creating new initiatives for Stage 32, but working with my tech team to discuss how we’re going to make it all run.
And of course, it’s overseeing the health and vitality of the business in the day-to-day and, really at times, in the hour to hour. It’s all-encompassing, but incredibly rewarding.
How does it feel to be a CEO in the digital age? (at a time when streaming and technology are so prevalent)
I love it. I love all the challenges that come with it. It’s a fascinating time. Advances in technology are occurring at a more rapid pace than ever and the entertainment industry is changing in myriad ways. You have to be dialed in, focused, and on point at all times.
I think it’s the fact that we’ve been so dialed in over the last decade, have embraced new technology and have been able to see five steps ahead on what’s happening with the global entertainment business that’s allowed us to be so successful, gain respect in the industry and secure partnerships with such companies and organizations as Netflix, Cannon, the American Film market, Cannes and many more.
The validation comes not only in the success of the company, but in the fact that I’m often sought out to speak as an expert on technology and entertainment and as a mentor.
How are you trying to support the workers that have been affected by the SAG-AFTRA strike?
We fully support the WGA and Sag-AFTRA. Almost everyone on the stage 32 staff either works or has worked in entertainment on the creative or business side. We’re extremely sensitive to what’s happening not only to the writers and the actors, but to crew members and everyone else impacted by these strikes.
From the very beginning we let our stance be known and went to work to find ways to help. We’ve already given away well over $100,000 in free education and Stage 32 Writers’ Room memberships.
Recently, we pledged another 100,000 not only to support those who might not be able to afford to take a webinar or a class right now, but also to keep people motivated and inspired during what is a very difficult and trying time.
At Stage 32, we truly believe regardless of your experience or level of success, that we’re all in this together. This is one of the most collaborative industries on the planet and we hope by offering this free education we’re not only helping people during a time of need, but also showing our support in a collaborative way.
What are your thoughts on AI on the future of the entertainment industry?
It absolutely needs to be regulated. The concerns are real. What the guilds are asking for is not unreasonable and in many ways is entirely essential.
I also like to say that if you stand in front of emerging technology, you’re going to get run over. My hope is that we can get the regulation we need to protect artists, and that AI will ultimately just be another tool in the shed.
How do you use technology in your daily routine as a CEO?
Well, we’re a technology company that exists online, so technology is a huge part of my day-to-day. Be it various frameworks, multiple stats suites and other software that allows us not only in the function, but to be able to handle and optimize the user experience for over one million members worldwide, my days are filled with using and utilizing a plethora of technological programs and software.
What do your plans for the future include for Stage 32?
We have many. Sometimes it feels like we have more plans than we do hours in the day, but I like it that way. We already have the world’s largest library of film and television education at over 3,000 hours. We’ve been called and in many ways have become a replacement for film school, which we’re extremely proud of. Unlike film school, we are heavy into teaching people about how to navigate the business. Most film schools are all craft, craft, craft.
We’re able to offer a fully rounded way to understand and learn any craft or profession within film or TV and then teach you the business education you need to get your talents out into the world in a meaningful, accelerated fashion. All at a fraction of the cost of traditional film school.
So first and foremost, we’re planning a major expansion of our education We’ll have a new announcement and launch this fall That will help creatives and professionals worldwide to secure more work.
We’ve been in discussions with over 100 film commissions worldwide on one particular initiative near and dear to my heart. This is something that will make an impact on creatives and professionals across the globe, not only in people finding work, but in assisting in the global expansion of the business and influencing productions around the world. It’s a game-changer during a time where the game needs to change.
We’re also going to be expanding our marketplace which will allow creatives worldwide even more access to decision makers. And we will be expanding all aspects of the social media arena to give our members more tools to make meaningful connections, expand their horizons, and take advantage of the ongoing global expansion happening in film and TV.
What does the word success mean to you?
Success to me means seeing a goal through to its conclusion. It’s being able to see the entire playing field, gather information, parse that information, and put an actionable plan into work toward an overall goal.
So many people want to run before they can walk. That’s a recipe for failure. You must set reasonable micro goals toward the overall final goal. You can’t finish a marathon in mile one, but you can certainly set a plan toward how you’re going to complete the first mile.
That’s the micro goal. But if the major goal is to finish the race, you need to have a plan on how you get there. It’s about setting yourself up for success. And that’s why to me the ultimate success is seeing the overall goal to its conclusion.
To learn more about CEO Richard “RB” Botto, follow him on Instagram.
For more information on Stage 32, check it out on Instagram.