Anais Lebrun is the international director of content for the UK-based online streaming platform Mubi.
She leads the acquisitions and programming for all 190 territories, excluding the UK and US. Lebrun led on the international launches of Mubi on Apple and Amazon and was pivotal to securing the rights and launching Pablo Larrain’s Ema in over 50 markets.
Lebrun lives in London with her husband and has been working at home since the UK lockdown came into force in late March.
How has your role had to change during this time?
I would not say that my role has changed but I can certainly say for sure that we’ve never been so creative and effective than during these times. It’s been incredible to see how the whole team, from the product department to the content team, marketing team and encoding team have been able to pull out projects such as the virtual preview of Pablo Larrain’s Ema or the library launch.
In these hard times we’ve seen the desire to access great cinema radically increase, not only because it’s not accessible in theaters but also to preserve people’s mind from the instability happening outside of their home.
In what ways do you think MUBI benefited from the lockdown?
My inbox literally exploded with submissions. Before the lockdown we were in a position which was already well established, where we could easily receive access to films. The difference is it seems the situation really spotlighted online offers.
How have you and your team managed to create a sense of ‘business as usual’ from home?
When we started to realise we would have to work from home my first priority was to make sure the encoding team which I am managing would be equipped to continue to function “normally” because if you’re not able to ingest the material then you have a big problem. We found a system efficient enough for them to be able to work in these conditions for the long term two weeks before the lockdown.
Do you manage to have a daily routine as you work from home?
When you work in a constantly changing environment it’s important to set a solid framework. In a way this did not change from how things were working in the office. I might have had a few more calls with the team, it’s important to create a warm atmosphere and stay close to each other despite the physical distance.
What advice do you have for home working?
I have a funny anecdote.Last month I was having a late call with someone based at the other corner of the world after an intense day. The camera was on but one of the interlocutors did not know about it apparently and simply was walking around in underwear in front of the camera. And none of their colleagues connected to the call said anything. So my position is you can dress however you feel comfortable in especially if you have an intense day ahead but please check your webcam before joining a video call.
So you advocate ‘video on’ in calls?
Always video on. Communication is not only verbal but also physical and your face is an incredible tool to express your opinion, position, emotion etc. It makes calls warmer and more intuitive to be able to see your colleagues and partners in the eyes even if it’s through a screen. In the company we’ve been using Google Meet for years to make our calls and this has been working very well since the beginning of the confinement.
How are you and your colleagues keeping up team morale?
Humour is really useful in these times. We put in place team catch-ups, so on top of the regular 1:1 meetings we also regroup for 30 minutes and try to talk about anything else but work. We also have these communication channels where we discuss what we are cooking or what we will be watching tonight.
How are you juggling family life and the demands of work?
I am lucky enough that my husband shares the same passion, works in the same industry, even leads some of our acquisition efforts in India at MUBI! Since the beginning of the lockdown working hours have extended and he has been taking care of everything. If he was not there I think I would have been eating cereal for the past three months.
What have you been watching, reading or listening to during this time?
Is it bad if I admit I watched the Bad Boys trilogy for the first time? That’s something I never watched because it seemed a bit too ‘masculine’. My intuition was correct…
I have been spending quite some time playing Animal Crossing on the Nintendo Switch. I was already hooked on the mobile version. In the absence of access to nature and peaceful environments this game is a good alternative.
I also have been reading a lot about ecology which is something that I have been interested in for a long time but seems to be more than ever essential today.
Have you been learning any new skills or rekindling any hobbies?
I tried yoga for the first time in my life. I started to take tap dance lessons but sadly this had to stop while we are all at home so I was looking for something to be able to exercise but also something that would not be too annoying for my neighbour in the flat below. Yoga seemed to be a good answer. I must say I am not yet converted.
If we can’t travel abroad this summer which I think might happen I am planning to do the Capital Ring. Walking has always been my favorite way to discover the world around us while being extremely efficient in activating new ideas as well.
Do you think you have learned anything about yourself during this period?
That I miss the team dearly and work would not be the same without them.
What’s the first thing you’re planning to do when you can get out and about again properly?
I am going to go to my favorite Turkish restaurant on Green Lanes.
What advice would you give to people in the business who are worried about the future of the industry?
The film industry started a century ago and look at all the changes that happened. Staying positive and open-minded is key. I know it might seem easy to say from my position but I am really optimistic about the fact that passion and care for great cinema won’t disappear.