Mark Hirzberger-Taylor is CEO of international repertory distributor Park Circus, which has offices in Glasgow, London and Los Angeles.
Park Circus licenses over 20,000 theatrical screenings per year in 113 countries, and represents over 25,000 titles including US, UK and independent back catalogue titles. The company was acquired by the UK’s Arts Alliance in 2013.
Hirzberger-Taylor, who is based between Glasgow and Austria and has been in the latter since the coronavirus lockdown began, previously worked for Universal Pictures in territories including Indonesia, Turkey, and Austria. He joined Park Circus as CEO in 2019.
Is it business as usual for yourself and your team?
In order to support our industry friends and our studio partners to the standards they rightly expect from us, Park Circus is keeping it very much business as usual internally – sticking to our regular meeting routines, checking in with each other numerous times a day (I don’t think I’m annoying anyone yet?!) and keeping our spirits up as much as possible, mainly through sharing what films we’ve been watching to keep us going. I’ve been enjoying reading the heated debate on weekend watches from my team on a Monday morning.
What new initiatives have you been working on during the lockdown?
Until we are back together with audiences in cinemas, we’ll be celebrating everything there is to love about films in a way we can all share today – as an online community. Highlights on our digital channels so far include our first interview in a series with the programmers whose voices we believe are so key at a time like this – with Paul Vickery of the Prince Charles Cinema. More to come each week, including Andrew Simpson at Tyneside Cinema, Julie Pearce at BFI, Gina Duncan at BAM Brooklyn and Didi Wu at Broadway Cinematheque Hong Kong.
We’re also creating some video content using our catalogue, which we’re calling Cinemoments. First up will be a series of short uplifting clips; I’ve picked my own favourite clip that’s on our YouTube channel – Monsoon Wedding. More to follow from the rest of the team.
How are you maintaining an office routine at home?
Even before the lockdown I always worked to a very tight routine to manage my time across three different Park Circus locations without it invading my private life too much. Every day I “go to the office” as early as possible to make use of the extra time before our other remote “offices” open. I also try to be disciplined in taking a lunch break – 30 minutes workout and 30 minutes power lunch! One advantage of the current situation is that at least coffee breaks can be combined with a walk in the garden.
Which systems are you using to stay in touch with your team?
The Park Circus team are used to a little bit of remote communication, so we’re not as shocked by the change as some might be, but it definitely feels like we’ve taken it to another level. We love Microsoft Teams, where I’m trying my best to keep up with the film-related GIFs flying around, and we’ve fully embraced Zoom. I’m sticking with the old-fashioned phone too – I am a big one for hearing people’s voices to feel truly connected.
How are you all keeping up morale?
It’s been a joy to see my team keep each other’s morale up with compassion and good humour, and that keeps my morale up too. These situations definitely do show everyone for who they are and I’ve been delighted to see the very best of my colleagues, peers and friends across the industry over the last few weeks. I’m finding focusing on the positive stories that I see day to day is really helping.
What advice would you give to distributors who are worried about the future?
In almost 30 years in this business, I have lived through a few very troublesome times – the most difficult and formative of which was in the late 1990s when I was in Indonesia during the time when President Suharto was ousted with severe civil unrest. This wonderful industry of ours is robust, creative, resourceful and adaptable and it has always come out of crisis periods stronger and wiser.
If you have children, how are you managing to keep them entertained/educated?
We are thrilled that our nine-year-old goddaughter Coco has been staying with us during this period. Apart from the challenges of homeschooling – which she is coping with very well – there are advantages to being able to experience this crazy time from a child’s perspective. Our daily game of Ludo is a real stress buster.
What advice do you have for home working?
Nothing revolutionary – have your own space that you can shut your door on, maintain regular routines, take a break, and keep communicating.
What are you watching, and reading, and listening to, to get you through this time?
Lockdown is a great opportunity to revisit all our favourite films. I am also trying to work through that pile of books I have been meaning to read. And not to forget my online Turkish course – with which I will be surprising my dear ex-colleagues at UIP Turkey (but don’t tell them).
What positive change might this crisis bring to the industry?
I have been heartened to see how this crisis has helped to accelerate creativity, innovation, and big ideas. I heard author Yuval Noah Harari, the author of Sapiens, talk about how history is accelerating and that processes that usually takes years or decades are now just taking a couple of days. In an industry like ours that requires bold and creative thinking, I sincerely hope that we can remember what we have achieved so quickly and collaboratively in the last few weeks so we can make even more exciting things happen for audiences worldwide once we have ridden this all out.