Cathie Trotta, managing director, Penny Black Media

What We’re Made Of is a Q&A series that looks at how companies in the aviation industry are tackling challenges brought on by the COVID–19 pandemic. We’ve had to adapt to changes in where, when and how we work, but we are resilient. If you would like to share your experience, e-mail editor@apex.aero.

Full Name:  Cathie Trotta
Managing Director, Penny Black Media
Location: Newport Beach, California
Day 3000+ of working from home
Date of writing:  June 6, 2020

Are you in lockdown right now?
Like many places, we’ve been in lockdown in Southern California since early March, but things are now opening up bit by bit. Face masks are, of course, still de rigueur when going out in public.

Where are you writing from?
I’ve been working from a home office for several years now, so that aspect of the COVID-19 fallout hasn’t really affected me, though the work itself has taken a major detour from the usual. I have a dedicated room here at home that serves as my office – it has taken on many derivations over those years in terms of “look,” but the one constant is the greenery and sunshine that are visible through the big glass doors, so I can’t complain!

How are you trying to maintain “business as usual” or communicating with your team?
Since the PBM team has worked remotely over the last few years, not a lot has changed in that respect. Skype has always been the go-to app when communicating with my colleague in London for lengthy discussions, but I’ve now added the Zoom and Teams apps to my desktop to cover myself for all the other online meetings with airline clients and film companies.

What’s your new office attire or go-to comforts at home during this time?
I’ve got a home office uniform, which consists of respectable but comfortable leisure wear and UGG boots for when the temperature dips!

Have you or anyone you know been directly affected by COVID-19?
Amazingly, and thankfully, no.

“Compromises are clearly going to have to be made, expectations adjusted, and in our particular specialty – that of film – perhaps a rethink on the selection criteria.”

How are you passing time?
Like many, I’ve been streaming a lot of movies and TV. I have mostly been doing a deep-dive into Netflix and Amazon Prime programming – I caught up with Ozark season three; got hooked on Better Call Saul; made my way through Succession; dabbled in a bit of Never Have I Ever; and sundry other one-offs, primarily stand-up comedy.

Describe where your business was at the end of 2019. What were your goals/projections for 2020?
We were pleased with our 2019 results. It’s clear that our 2020 projections won’t be met, but we’re looking to 2021 when we can get things going again and move towards a healthy business for all involved.

Can you share some specific challenges your business has faced as a result of the outbreak? How did you overcome them and how can the industry learn from your experiences?
Like all of us whose sole business depends upon the single market of airlines, when they hurt, we hurt. Our key goal is to work together with airlines and their programmers to get us all back to some sense of normalcy.

How can we, as an industry, work together and rebound from this unprecedented crisis?
While it sounds a bit pat, it really is important that we support one another as we all dig our way out. Compromises are clearly going to have to be made, expectations adjusted, and in our particular specialty – that of film – perhaps a rethink on the selection criteria.

Can you give an example of generosity or kindness displayed by your company or one of your colleagues during this crisis?
While this response might not fit the mold of the question here, I want to give a big shout-out to all those parents that have juggled full-time work with home-schooling during the lockdown. They all get an A+ and big gold stars (and a spa day when this is all over!)

Where do you see your company or the industry in six months from now? One year?
We plan to continue to provide our quality films to airlines, recognizing that it will be a challenging road back to sound businesses for all of us.

Read more about the coronavirus impact on the air travel industry, including APEX’s position on the matter, and subscribe to the APEX Daily Experience newsletter to stay up to date.