Dealing with the aftermath of a merger between two of the largest studios in Hollywood is challenging enough, but add in a pandemic, and you are looking at the most tumultuous few years that any department head could face. Luckily, William Sevilla’s leadership, particularly his focus on open communication, was enough to guide his team through one such period of transition.
Sevilla discovered his passion for the film and television industry after taking an introductory course in the subject at California State University, Fullerton. The class inspired him to switch majors from economics to radio/TV/film, and after graduating, Sevilla secured a temp position at 20th Century Fox, one of the “big six” film studios in Hollywood.
Over the course of his next twelve years with the studio, Sevilla proved his skills several times over, gaining progressive roles as manager, associate director, and now executive director of TV mastering. Today, Sevilla and his team are responsible for preparing all new content for release in various languages and formats, from streaming platforms and broadcast networks to DVDs.
Sevilla takes the work—particularly the ongoing self-education it requires—very seriously. “It’s important for me to learn more about the technology that’s driving our supply chain,” he says. “Ever since we’ve been stuck at home dealing with COVID-19, it’s become very apparent to me that all the different ways we receive our entertainment are going to be powered by technology—and that technology is evolving rapidly.”
“I had an open-door policy during that time. If anybody felt that they needed to talk, they were free to come to my office.”
And it’s not just changing technology that Sevilla has had to adapt to. As early as 2017, talk of a potential acquisition began swirling around the company. Naturally, this made for an uncertain work environment, given the personnel changes that typically come with such transactions. Sevilla made it his mission to promote a highly transparent environment and open lines of communication, determined to dispel rumors and keep his team up-to-date as soon as official information became available.
“I would hear some rumor about everyone getting fired, or rumors that such and such company was taking over, so it was very important to bring everybody into our conference room and just squash those things—they were breeding a lot of fear among the team,” Sevilla explains. “It was important to focus on what we could control, which was ourselves, our communication with others, and the responsibilities that we had to uphold as employees.”
Even when it became official in March 2019 that the Walt Disney Company had completed the purchase of 20th Century Fox, the fate of Sevilla’s department was not decided for several months. The executive director did his utmost to boost morale and communicate honestly with his colleagues. “I had an open-door policy during that time,” Sevilla recalls. “If anybody felt that they needed to talk, they were free to come to my office.”
Eventually, of course, the effects of Disney’s acquisition of Fox became clear: Sevilla’s department was reorganized, with some teams transitioning to work under different leaders and others deciding to move to different companies. Sevilla praises Disney for their commitment to supporting erstwhile Fox employees during that period. “One great thing that the company did was provide resources to help people refine their résumés and give workshops for people to practice their interviewing skills,” Sevilla says.
Sevilla’s leadership skills were put to the test again during the COVID-19 pandemic. As soon as the possibility of working from home entered the conversation in February 2020, Sevilla and his team began preparing for all the technical implications of that transition. “We put together a document with all the important contact information, the system links that we needed to do our jobs, and the server that we could access from home,” Sevilla explains. “The next thing we knew, we got the news that we would be working from home, so it was good that we were prepared.”
Of course, there were a number of hurdles in the beginning as Sevilla’s entire department shifted to the remote setup. But through efficient and frequent communication, Sevilla helped his team settle into their new workflow. Sevilla continues to prioritize his employees’ peace of mind and well-being as they all grapple with the inevitable challenges that come with the new work dynamic.
“It’s been important for me to make sure that everybody is taking time for their own mental health during this period,” the executive director says. “Everyone is human and has different personal challenges, so it’s crucial for me to stay open and honest and to encourage that within the team at large.”
Roundabout Entertainment congratulates William Sevilla for this well-deserved recognition of his leadership role during the Twentieth Century Fox and Walt Disney Company merger. We greatly value our long-standing partnership and will continue to always provide William and his team with superior post production services.