Stage32 and Rich Botto - Where Are You in Your Career?



When you come across a problem you have two choices.  You can either sit with it and wait for something to happen, or you can go after it and find a solution…or at least the start of a solution.   The latter refers to New York born Richard Botto, who yearned to write his whole life.  "A life spent creating was something that was always appealing to me, even at a young age."

Rich Botto photo by Scott Cronin

Starting an elite men's magazine, Razor, which competed against such other titles as GQ Band Esquire, Rich built his publication from the ground up into a 1.5 million readership.  Working with such entertainment and writing greats as Paul Haggis and David Mamet, Rich surrounded himself with immense talent, but something still seemed missing in his life.  This good-looking dude missed the creativity that acting had brought him from his pre-Razor days in New York.  After closing RAZOR (“Sustaining ad dollars was impossible for a single title publisher”) in 2006, he began networking in earnest and returned to his film roots, serving as a producer on Sam Levinson’s first film, Another Happy Day, which premiered at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival.


Rich understood early on, the importance of networking and the fact that the film business, more so than publishing even, is a relationship based industry.  He'd frequented the broad based social sites such as Facebook, My Space, and LinkedIn, but didn't find them helping his career as much as he'd hoped they would.  There had to be something more…something that would provide concentrated networking strictly with people who were in the entertainment world.  He asked his industry friends if they were getting anything out of the broad based networks.  He found that they too were struggling.  And when it come to finding online educational opportunities he desired to help him hone his crafts, the people who said they were experts were anything but.


 Rich realized there needed to be a concentrated platform for film, television and theater creatives to not only network, but to find the support so necessary for a creative to thrive. There was a huge hole there.  There needed to be something that would connect the entertainment world and not just the major cities of Los Angeles, London, and New York.  After all, there were writers, directors, actors and other talent scattered all over the globe.  How did they get jobs? Get together?  Learn from one another?

Stage 32

"As creatives the thing that keeps you going is the collaborate spirit, the access to quality education to help hone our chosen craft, and the knowledge of what is happening within the industry." 


So in 2009, the idea for Stage 32 began to sprout.  He knew it would take a great deal of work, and, at first, he hesitated. But the more he spoke with his creative peers, and the more he saw many of them leaving the game due to the lack of support and contacts in their lives, the more the desire for such a site blossomed in him.  As sole founder and financial bootstrapper, Rich began the process with a few devoted individuals who saw the potential for his vision, like Derek Ontiveros – the site’s first developer, who is now CTO of the company.


Writing scripts, himself, he found himself fancying the character driven independent stories where the characters have relationships and learn.  They were deep stories, different genres, and diverse.   "I'm not a studio Hollywood guy." 


In beta in April of 2011, Rich invited 100 of his industry friends to join Stage 32 and, if they saw the benefit of the platform, to invite 5 fellow peers (a request that stands for all new members, even today).  The site flourished.  Within 3 months, the site had 5,000 members.  Today the handful has grown from the few to over half a million subscribers worldwide.  The site, itself, is free to join and helps you if you are a novice or an established personality – the members range from film students to Academy Award winners. (Author note: I, myself, have both an agent and manager, but am on the site often because this is a relationship industry and you cannot just sit by and expect your agent to do everything.) 

Stage 32 staff - photo by Scott Cronin

On the site, you can post your bio, your reels, your screenplays, your IMDB credits, awards and even show your personal side by listing your 10 favorite movies of all time.  In addition, you can find jobs, network and talk to others, get your questions answered, and find Stage 32’s industry leading education taught by industry experts (Stage 32 works with over 450 industry execs worldwide).  In the Stage 32 Lounge (the site’s version of forums) there are over a dozen categories listed by discipline - you can find almost any information you want.  Even by checking out someone's reel or script, you are lending support and making the industry a win-win situation is one of the goals of Stage32.


Rich has also been active in acquiring other companies which fit the Stage 32 brand and mission of offering support, access, opportunity and education for all creatives.  Meeting Joey Tuccio, who then headed a group called Happy Writers, in Los Angeles in 2013, Rich, as a screenwriter himself, saw that Joey’s work with writers was unparalleled.  Rich acquired the Happy Writers (now the Stage 32 Happy Writers) in late 2013 naming Joey as President of the division.  The Stage 32 Happy Writers allows you to pitch directly to executives that are personally vetted by Joey.  The execs here give direct feedback.  To date, the Stage 32 Happy Writers has helped over 200 writers sell their work, find representation or get staffed.


Joey Tuccioi- Head of Happy Writers - Stage 32 photo by Scott Cronin

In addition, Rich was able to realize his dream of bringing education to the site.  In late 2013, he introduced Stage 32 Next Level Education, offering webinars, classes and labs to the community.  There are offerings for all disciplines – writing, acting, composing, directing, line producing, filmmaking, and distribution – as well as education on how to navigate the industry. (Again, they vet all their educators to be REAL execs who work with these topics on a daily basis.)  Stage 32 now have over 1,000 hours of education on the site, and has been recognized by IndieWire, Variety, and Forbes, among other places as the leading online platform for educating film, television and theater creatives.


Stage 32 - an internet community for the serious entertainment artist

“It’s been enormously rewarding,” Rich says.  “Executives are now coming to us and asking to teach.  They don’t want to go anywhere else.”

Quite a number of members have successfully made contacts and sold their material in these webinars, pitches, developed their films, found writing partners and mentors, etc.  A writer in his 50's who had a script languishing just landed a job at ABC as a staff writer!


 But Stage 32 also makes the world smaller, which in this DIY landscape gives all creatives a huge advantage.  A composer from Florida has landed 13 gigs through the site, one scoring a film for a filmmaker in India who sent her the film through the platform.


To make sure you get the most out of the site not only visit on a regular basis, but be sure all your info is updated and correct.  "The worst thing you can do is not have your bio filled out. So many opportunities on Stage 32 have been lost because people have not filled out their bio or uploaded their reels, loglines, headshots or other pertinent content.  You only have one chance at a first impression.”

Rich Botto - CEO of Stage 32 photo by Scott Cronin

He suggests that members try to put in a percentage of each day in networking.  It's as crucial as your writing.  (Something that I often forget to do enough.)  "I look at networking as a job.  It’s something I need to do every day.  Building social currency, cultivating relationships, finding champions of you and your work, in my mind, is as important as honing or practicing your craft.  Every day, I see people land jobs or projects that get moving simply from people networking and cultivating relationships.”


How has Stage32 helped him?  "I landed my screenwriting manager through connections I made on the site.  The next two films I am producing have been through connections I made on the site.  I have been offered three acting gigs through connections I made on the site.  Like I said, I work this platform every single day and have reaped the rewards.  I may be the CEO, but I’m scratching and clawing like everyone else." 


Rich travels the world speaking at various conferences and festivals on subjects such as social media, networking, crowdsourcing, crowdfunding, screenwriting and producing.  He often uses such occasions to schedule Stage 32 Meetups so he can meet members from across the globe.  Recently, he was invited to Cannes to present next to such illustrious and respected tech companies as Amazon and Netflix at the festivals Next Pavilion highlighting companies that are bridging the gap between tech and entertainment.


Does he have time for himself and his own writing? Actually, he does.  His new book coming out next year from Focal Press will be the first ever on Film Crowdsourcing.


"You have to make the time.  It's a job and you have to treat it as such." He instructs his members to "write and pursue their craft as often as they can.  "If it's something in your blood, you have to devote time to it. Running Stage 32 is beyond a full time, 40 hour a week job, but I promised myself that I would not let it hamper my creativity.  I make time, not excuses." 


I have heard people complain about having to pay money for certain perks.  But if it is something you want, you save for it and the costs here are far cheaper than other places while the education is often much better. (After all, they have to pay their teachers, as well.) And there are many free webinars that they offer on their YouTube channel and in the Education section on the site itself (Rich runs a free 3-hour webinar every month attended by over 2000 members where he interviews industry insiders and takes questions from the community called On Stage With RB.)


If you are serious about a creative career, you find a way. 


Balance is, however, a delicate effort that most creatives deal with.  "You need to be aware of others, of the landscape in your life, and make time for the things you enjoy.  You also have to surround yourself with positive-minded people. You need the psychological support and to know that your dream is not outlandish.  This is the magic of Stage 32 – no matter where you live in the world, no matter what your skill level, you can find encouragement and support from this amazing community of a half million like-minded creatives.”


The beauty is that you can log in on Stage32 at anytime and connect with other creatives anywhere in the world.  The platform is positively minded for community and support.  If you are looking for a make-up artist, a cameraman, a composer, an editor, etc., you can connect with one here.


Rich sums it up perfectly.  "At the end of the day, the most important investment you can make n your life is to yourself."


If you are serious about your career, check out Stage32!

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