January 31, 2023

SCA Alum Transforms Family Chat into Film/TV Frenzy Newsletter 

By Desa Philadelphia

Alex Petrosian ’22 is a banker who can’t kick his passion for filmmaking. “My actual professional experience has been in traditional finance,” he says. “I’m at a private bank now where we do real estate loans.” Petrosian, who grew up in Orange County, describes himself as a “math guy” and “movie nerd.” As an MBA student at the USC Marshall School of Business, he was thrilled to be accepted to the Business of Entertainment graduate certificate program offered at the USC School of Cinematic Arts. “I think going into SCA I was wondering if I should stick to the banking.” While he wasn’t interested in a c-suite studio or agency job, he couldn’t help but wonder if there was some way he could, as he put it, “use both sides of the brain.” He adds: “A lot of my teachers at SC told me I should go into producing, and content strategy.”
Petrosian has always been the person his family and friends ask to recommend the next film or tv show they should watch. This heightened during the pandemic as everyone was stuck at home in front of their screens. He was getting about 30 texts a day about movie recommendations, so Petrosian started sending out a monthly list of recommendations, and the RECROOM newsletter was born.
RECROOM is a free subscription service that tells you what films and tv shows are worth catching on streamers, and sometimes in theatres. (“I’m a big proponent of ‘people should still go to the movie theatre.’”) Petrosian makes comparisons to other available projects worth catching—“if you like that, you’ll like this”—then writes a little review, tells you where to watch (Netflix, Hulu, Paid Rental, etc.), and even links to the YouTube trailer. His recommendations showcase the breadth of his movie interests, covering all genres and budget tiers. His subscribers were initially just a couple dozen family and friends who he sent a list he created using excel, but now a few hundred people get the list in a beautifully designed, mobile-friendly format.
What makes RECROOM special is Petrosian’s efforts to find the gems behind the algorithms. “There’s no reason for me to recommend Avatar because everyone knows what it is. They have either seen it or if they haven’t, they are not interested. Plus, it’s on the front page of recommendations from the streamers,” he says. He also loves to hear from readers that they loved a recommendation they had never even heard of. “People my age don’t even watch movies from the 90s anymore. So, there are many films from current actors and directors they love, but they don’t know about these older movies.” He says his list could also save you from the half an hour of just scrolling and scrolling hoping to find something surprising and good.
Petrosian may end up turning RECROOM into that “both sides of the brain” project. He says as it grows it will need its own algorithm and analytics, so Math. (“I can’t ignore math.”) These days he gets his Math kicks by interning on the side for Cinelytics, an AI startup that uses data about thousands of past films to predict if a future movie will be successful. He says it’s a fun tool, but cautions it’s not just about Math. “You need to be passionate about the art and creative side because it’s not just a numbers game. Sometimes people love the move for a reason you couldn’t have predicted.”
Petrosian can’t predict how big RECROOM will get, but he’s being optimistic. “It’s a hobby but I do want to expand it,” he says. That would make both sides of his brain happy.