Netflix is looking to make up for the lack of home video releases for its original films by releasing a series of robust looks at the making of some of this year’s major Oscar contenders online. Aside from the lack of a significant theatrical release for its films, another one of the major drawbacks to a “Netflix Original Film” is the fact that Netflix doesn’t release its movies on Blu-ray or DVD. That means no audio commentaries, no feature-length making-of documentaries, and no robust bonus features. Which is a shame, because as a young film-lover growing up in Oklahoma, it was the ability to dig into bonus features and audio commentaries that greatly expanded my understanding of film.
Roma will be the first significant home video release of a Netflix original film, but that’s happening with the Criterion Collection and likely has to do with the fact that Roma was produced independently before Netflix bought it. So that means unless Criterion jumps for The Irishman, or unless Netflix changes tactics, Martin Scorsese’s latest film will be unavailable to own outright.
However, the streaming service is actually taking great steps to fill the void left by a lack of bonus materials by crafting some fascinating and thankfully substantial featurettes and roundtable discussions for some of its films that are being released online—including The Irishman.
Indeed, right now on Netflix, you can watch The Irishman In Conversation, which is a 23-minute roundtable discussion between Scorsese, Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, and Al Pacino. And it’s genuinely insightful! They discuss everything from how they worked together to how the de-aging technology affected their acting technique to how Scorsese’s directorial acumen has shifted over the years. This isn’t your standard throwaway EPK segment that’s 4 minutes long with 2 minutes spent recapping the plot of the movie. It’s a genuine conversation with the filmmaker and his cast, and it’s something I would love to see Netflix do more often.
Additionally, the streaming service has been dropping featurettes on YouTube, like the below conversation with cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto:
Or this short interview with Anna Paquin about working with Scorsese:
Or these interviews with fellow cast members Ray Romano, Bobby Cannavale, and Stephen Graham:
Or these featurettes on the sound and costumes of the movie:
Of course, there’s an ulterior motive here. Netflix wants to win Oscars, and these featurettes double as promotional material for the overall The Irishman Oscar campaign. But if a side product of that is we get to hear from the filmmakers about how this masterpiece was made, I’m all for it. Especially if we get stuff like that conversational roundtable. And while we’re at it, Netflix let David Fincher record an audio commentary for the first two episodes of House of Cards. Maybe bring that back please?
It should be noted that The Irishman isn’t the only Netflix movie benefitting from these kinds of online bonus features. Noah Baumbach’s masterful Marriage Story has its own making-of videos and one can only hope we get a similar “in conversation” after that movie hits Netflix on December 6th. Even the delightful Christmas YA romcom Let It Snow got a roundtable supplemental conversation, so clearly this isn’t entirely about winning Oscars.
There’s still a long way to go, and wide theatrical distribution is the ultimate goal here, but I have to say I’m mighty impressed with these supplemental featurettes being released thus far for movies like The Irishman. I just hope this is merely the beginning of additional, more substantial looks at how these movies are made—especially if filmmakers like Scorsese and Baumbach are going to keep making movies for Netflix.