Andy Leyshon is chief executive of the UK’s Film Distributors’ Association (FDA). The organisation’s activities range from lobbying relevant government bodies on behalf of the distribution sector to training the next generation of distribution executives and helping to steer industry-wide initiatives such as Meerkat Movies and National Lottery Cinema Day.
Before joining the FDA last year, Leyshon was managing director for UK and Ireland at STX Entertainment, and was previously sales director at Universal Pictures International Entertainment. He had various roles including sales director at Momentum Pictures prior to its acquisition by eOne.
Is it business as usual for you and your team as you all work remotely home?
It is very much business as usual, albeit in very unusual times, and wherever possible we’ve been looking to adapt our workstreams. For instance, we’ve converted our member training and development courses to online methods, widened the number of participants, and are focussing on important areas to best fit the current circumstances like mental health and resilience. We’ve also launched our latest online film distribution course with a record take-up, and are developing key educational materials on the sector, in order to engage children off school.
How are you maintaining an office routine?
We’ve got a small, tightknit team at FDA and have all been working from home for the last three weeks now. The key has been to try and maintain a sense of normalcy wherever possible. Team members are split between London, Glasgow, Llandudno and Brighton and we are in very regular contact with each other and all FDA members.
Which systems are you using to talk to one another and clients?
We’re operating with a mix of calls, emails, Zoom, Whereby and the odd dose of Microsoft Teams. Whatever works best in each circumstance and everything is fluid at present.
How are you and your colleagues keeping up team morale?
Everyone seems upbeat at present and there’s a good attitude to just getting on with things until we all get through to happier, healthier times. Pastoral care is more important now than ever and aside from the regular tales of my home-schooling failures, we’ve been sharing thoughts on safely distanced shopping adventures, cookery tips and musical wisdom.
What advice would you give to people in the business who are worried about the future?
Hang in there and know that we will come out of this. Keep talking to as many people as possible, see what you can do to help others in need and start planning now for the future, when the industry does return to full health. When we are back to strength, there will be an even greater public need for escapism and entertainment, so let’s make the offer the very best that it can be.
How are you managing to keep any young children you may have at home entertained/educated while you work?
My admiration for teachers was already high, but it has risen tenfold when faced with the joys of home-schooling two kids – an 11-year old, who is missing classroom banter and his mates; and a 16-year old, who now has no final school exams and possibly no prom!
My wife has bravely borne the brunt of the home classroom activity, the school have been good in setting work, and we’re trying to maintain some semblance of a daily lesson timetable.
We’ve also been doing a lot more cooking together, watching films and hanging out in the sunny back garden, plus our cats – Percy and Disco – have never had so much attention.
What advice do you have for home working?
Definitely get up in the morning as if you were headed to the office. Try to keep to your routine, find a good productive spot to work in, though also be flexible and aware that everybody needs their own space at times when confined to the house.
I would normally commute up from Brighton to London, so I’m actually finding more hours in the day, though a combo of work and DIY tasks are amply filling that bonus time.
What are you watching and reading and listening to get you through this time?
A range of classic movies with the kids – screwball comedies, ‘50s musicals, Chevy Chase’s finest works, a glut of superhero offerings and cookery programmes in the main. We’re listening to the same eclectic mix of music, except now the kids can’t escape it! I am also hoping to read the pile of books that have been building up for a while now, though not quite there yet with the free time.
What about home life at the weekend?
I think it is useful to maintain the sense of weekend, otherwise the days could all blend into one. So far, we’ve painted the front of the house, washed the – now stationary – car, sorted the garden, hung a few extra pictures on walls and re-alphabetised the vinyl collection. All things that were long overdue and likely wouldn’t have been done in a hurry without a need to keep more active.
What positive change might this bring to the industry?
It is difficult to predict specific industry changes or paradigm shifts, but I do think the current crisis will make everyone appreciate each other and the great working relationships that exist out there. If there is one positive to take from a horrible situation, it is that everyone seems fully united in their desire to get through this and move on to a better place. It could also be that the greater flexibility and adaptability displayed at present may well lead many towards an improved work-life balance in the future.