Nakul Legha may have only been a member of the Netflix ANZ content team for just under 12 months, but his enthusiasm for Australian storytelling goes well beyond that.
Having moved to Australia from Bhutan with his family at the age of nine, the streamer’s licensing and co-productions lead credited Aussie television with helping him settle into his new home.
“I didn’t speak any English and we didn’t have any family here, so it was really through TV that I got to understand my place in the community and understand Australia,” he said.
“Shows such as Playschool and The Dream with Roy and HG really helped me find my feet, so I personally know the power of TV and film to change lives because it is seeing those stories that gave me an entry into the community.
“I’ve been looking for opportunities to be around that kind of storytelling all my life, and then balancing that with the classic need to deliver on the migrant sacrifice of my parents and find financial stability.
“That’s what led me to media law, the ABC, and now to Netflix.”
Legha was the second appointment to Netflix ANZ’s content team following Que Minh Luu as director for local originals in July.
Like Luu, he joined from the ABC, where he started as business and legal affairs executive, before becoming the business and legal affairs lead for acquisitions.
Prior to this, Legha was an intellectual property and media lawyer for Clayton Utz.
He is now firmly focused on leading Netflix ANZ’s licensing and co-production arrangements, while also acting as a creative executive on a slate of original commissions.
Legha said the role has allowed him to interact with various elements of the Netflix catalogue.
“On the licensing side, it’s building a library of iconic films and series that we all resonate and relate to, such as Puberty Blues, Secret Life of Us, and Round the Twist, as well as new content that might be a co-production, like Irreverent,” he said.
“I also creative exec on shows such as Byron Baes, so it’s the full breadth of pitches coming in, developing projects, commissioning and overseeing productions, and licensing films and TV series.”
Controversy has surrounded the production of Byron Baes since its announcement in April.
The reality show about a group of Instagrammers creating content in the Northern Rivers has sparked fierce discussion among locals, many of whom feel the town may be misrepresented in the Eureka Productions project.
A petition calling on authorities to block the show’s producers from acquiring filming permits has garnered nearly 10,000 signatures, and members of the Byron Shire Council have also voiced their disapproval of the project.
Legha was philosophical about the response to the docu-soap, which he said reflected the sometimes divisive nature of reality.
“People can have strong opinions, but we also know reality is an area and a genre that is really meaningful to a lot of members,” he said.
“It’s a chance to go into worlds and spaces that audiences don’t usually get a chance to and you find some of the most relatable and memorable characters on TV come from reality.
“Our focus is on creating a really compelling, interesting, and fun show, and I think the proof will be in the pudding.”
The reaction has been decidedly more positive to some of the other community activity from the company.
In June, Netflix announced an investment of more than $500,000 towards training initiatives to support First Nations communities and storytellers as part of a partnership with AFTRS.
The streamer has also announced two entry-level post-production attachments for Heartbreak High reboot, as well as a Regional Crew Development Program with Screenworks to provide free training for up-and-coming practitioners in northern NSW.
Legha said it was all part of making sure the recent Australian production boom was sustained.
“We’re committed to a long-term investment in Australia beyond this COVID boom and part of that is ensuring emerging practitioners – both below and above the line – have a pathway to our productions and continue to be embedded in our slate of shows,” he said.
As to what the slate will consist of going forward, Legha said the local content team wanted to be led by creators and their “unique vision”.
“What is always great to see is when a creator has thought a lot about what the propulsive story engine is that will drive that narrative forward across a season to bring in a large audience and keep them hooked through the surprises, twists, and turns that come through in the story,” he said.
“[Japanese animation director] Hayao Miyazaki talked about the best films having very few barriers to entry, where you have big wide open doors to bring a large audience in, and then having the work be done to find the exit through emotional complexity and heart.”