Attention binge watchers: This is your dream job

I'm like a garbage disposal for watching stuff. I'm open to anything because you never know.
Josh Garrell, Netflix tagger
Source: Josh Garrell

Attention binge watchers: This is your dream job. Watching hours of movies and shows is actually a paying job at Netflix. Just ask Josh Garrell and Kipp Scholl.

Netflix taggers watch the company's new content and help put a human touch on it—beyond the algorithms. You know the viewing suggestions Netflix recommends when you sign in? You can thank the taggers for them.

So, how does it work? Netflix sends taggers three to eight titles a week. They are then responsible for entering a myriad of data about the show or movie. First they categorize, then they tag and subtag the story line. They flag caution and controversy.

Garrell has a process. "I use a projector and a 110-inch screen. I close the shades, get light down, grab snacks, soda or beer and get to work."

He said a two-hour movie can take about an hour to tag once he's watched it. Taggers provide information like genre and subgenre suggestions, such as "thriller" or "horror" all the way to character traits like "diabolical" or "truthful."

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Todd Yellin, vice president of product innovation at Netflix, hired the first taggers in 2007. "Our taggers have been an integral part of the team which focuses on making it easy for our members to always find something great to watch," he said. "The tags are a key component of how we personalize the Netflix experience."

Taggers don't pick and choose the content they watch. That doesn't bother Garrell. "I'm like a garbage disposal for watching stuff. I'm open to anything because you never know. You could come across something brilliant you would have never tracked down," he said.

Garrell said the first thing almost everyone asks is, "How can I get that job?" Unfortunately, it's a tough gig to land. There are only 40 Netflix taggers in the world right now and there are no openings.

"We are very selective in the hiring process. A tagger is someone with an analytical mind; someone who can deconstruct a movie or TV show into its core elements; and someone who has a deep passion for video entertainment," Yellin said. "Many of our taggers have studied film in college and have experience as screenwriters, film critics or script supervisors."

Scholl landed the job thanks to his language skills. As Netflix expands around the globe, cultural consultants are needed to aid in properly categorizing content from different countries. Scholl speaks fluent Danish.

Garrell was interviewing for a different job at Netflix. When he didn't land that one, he was offered the tagger job—and he was thrilled.

The bad news? It's only part time. Scholl is a commercial actor and theater director. Garrell's day job is a freelance TV and film producer.

Kiff Scholl, Netflix Tagger
Source: Kiff Scholl

Each tagger employs their own individual method to the craft.

"Immediately I focus on the main character and what they do for a living," Scholl said. Main characters require tags for: actor playing the role, occupation, age, characteristics and character type.

Yes, there are wrong answers. Scholl once designated a movie about love in the animal kingdom as "high" on the romantic scale. According to his supervisor, that's no good because it could land a movie about sharks in the same suggestion list as a romantic comedy.

"You can't just settle down and relax. You have to start focusing and processing immediately. I take notes and watch alone mostly," Scholl said.

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And taggers don't just watch at home. Occasionally Netflix sends them to the theater to get a jump on titles they anticipate offering on Netflix.

According to Nielsen, households with subscriptions to streaming services spend about two hours and 45 minutes a day watching television.

"It literally is a dream job. I get paid to do what I'm doing in my leisure time anyway," Garrell said.

Scholl said the hardest part is turning it off. "When you constantly analyze films for a living you have trouble just watching and enjoying them. I loved 'Her' but I spent the first hour tagging it in my head."