Last week I sat down with the lovely Tania Sarra. Tania has worked as an executive in the film industry for over 12 years. As a distribution and film business expert, she has held leading roles on sales teams for UK based indies and Executive Produced their original productions. Most recently she spearheaded all the feature film buying for MGM Studios across Europe, Middle East and Africa.In 2020 she founded Hot Sauce – a boutique consulting firm specialising in Producing, Executive Production and Creative Direction for major film and television projects. Hot Sauce also operates an educational arm that builds workshops, resources and mentorship programs for film commissions and producing bodies. I’m a huge fan of Tania and I was keen to get her thoughts on what the future of film distribution looks like for 2023.
1. Welcome Tania, tell us more about the Hot Sauce For Film and how you can help filmmakers?
Thanks Rebekah! It’s so great to be featured alongside the amazing work you do to help filmmakers achieve a smart and solid festival strategy. Similarly, here at Hot Sauce we work with writers, filmmakers and producers to help them navigate every element of the business side of the film business. Utilizing 13 years of experience in distribution, our wealth of knowledge and expansive network assists creatives of all levels achieve their goals and scale their career.
By providing reliable information and dedicated services rooted in studio-level experience, our clients benefit by having access to proven expertise and credible business management. In essence, we help others leverage the realities of the global marketplace so that their ideas attract the eyes of financiers and distributors around the world.
We do this in a variety of ways. We craft monthly newsletters packed with insider information and analysis of the current distribution landscape. Offer free resources to help guide creatives and producers through different processes. We also provide free consultations so that everyone can access our expertise and be given a guided hand.
We realized it’s impossible to find trusted information about the film business, so making what we do accessible to all is an integral part of what Hot Sauce offers.
On a deeper level we provide private one on one consulting with different tiers of services depending on what each individual/project needs. Everything from development work to distribution strategy and executive production.
We work with filmmakers all over the world, through every genre and language – no film or idea is too big or too small. We really are here to help. We’ve had great traction so far with all of our clients and it’s been so rewarding to discover new and exciting voices and help champion their success.
We also have an educational arm that works with film commissions and producing bodies to create mentorship programs and workshops to help develop regional talent through their organizations. We just wrapped an MBA program with the Erich Pommer Insitut in Germany, a business masterclass with WIFT-Toronto and are working on some cool projects for the Berlin Film Festival.
Next year we’ll be launching some new offers directly for the public, including free quarterly advice sessions and a distribution masterclass that will dive deep into the ins and outs of where commerce meets art – revealing information about the inner mechanisms of the industry only veteran film execs who spend years working in the industry have access to. It’s exciting!
2. I love your Instagram feed. It’s so educational and informative, do you find Instagram is a useful platform to connect with your target audience?
What a lovely compliment, thank you!
Social Media is a great way to connect with any target audience, but to be honest it’s also a lot of work! It’s a space I definitely want to do more in, but it definitely feels overwhelming at times. I find engaging with our community through the newsletters, holistically through the programs we run and via great client experiences, has been the most impactful way to develop relationships. It’s certainly an area we can grow in and I look forward to finding more ways to work with platforms like Instagram to provide a larger audience more access to what we do.
3. Do you think there will be a big change in the film distribution market during 2023?
I think the distribution landscape is currently in a state of flux. With the rise of streaming, it’s become harder than ever to find solid traction with a film project. It seems ironic seeing as content is needed more than ever, but what it boils down to is audience and right now audiences are more spoiled for choice.
We also have an industry where the post-pandemic dust hasn’t fully settled. Distributors large and small, studios and streamers, are trying to find the balance between theatrical and direct to consumer whilst balancing that against the decline of television. There’s a lot that’s still working itself out. We also have a lot going on in the world in a cultural and economic context – two important factors that effect all businesses.
So, I’d like to say it will all bring big change in 2023, but so much of what impacts that change is out of our hands. For the world, in a general sense, I hope it does.
4. If so, what will this mean for independent films?
I actually just answered this exact question in my latest newsletter, but I’ll try and summarize some of the major points here.
Despite the uncertain state of things there are real trends emerging for the independent side of the business. Clear audience paths have become more important, so talent packages and genres that reach a broad audience are being highly prioritized.
Quality films that deliver on execution have become even more important as well. It’s not as easy as it used to be to find traction with a film that’s good, but slightly misses its mark. It now needs to be good – period. Again, it all comes down to audiences and with all their subscriptions and content choices there has to be a good reason for them to select your film over the thousands of others. Let alone leave the comfort of their sofa to go to the cinema to watch it.
More than ever, planning in the development stage to consider all these factors is important. Less films are going theatrical, so knowing how to structure your budget and finance plan to incorporate these realities – a core value at Hot Sauce – will ensure a project is better placed to weather the best and worst outcomes.
5. Do you think that more and more audiences will continue to go back to movie theatres during 2023, or will on-line streaming platforms take over?
I definitely think there’s more space for the theatrical market to grow. The box office numbers coming out these days are proving that. It also depends where in the world we’re speaking as some parts are still grappling with lockdowns, others with vast economic crises, so while there’s uptick in major markets like the US and Canada, there’s slumps in others like the UK and a mixed bag in China, for example. Everything is relative – as it is with any business.
For streaming, that will be an interesting space to watch as so much of their business is based on how pleased the board of directors are. Some companies like Apple and Amazon, who have deep pockets with much more lucrative products in other sectors, are well-positioned, but there’s other platforms and other studios who aren’t seeing the same growth with their recent VOD launches. A lot of investment has gone into creating all these new platforms and a lot more into making product that will draw a subscriber base which we’re seeing isn’t incredibly loyal, nor paying off. It’s inevitable that they’re not all going to make it through and that we might start seeing some consolidation. Whether that happens next year is to be seen, but at the moment the ingredients are being added to the pot to head it in that direction at some point in the future.
6. And finally, what do you think the key independent film distribution trends during 2023 will look like?
That’s a good question. I would definitely say that for the first half of 2023 things as they are now will remain the same. Everyone in the independent space is figuring out how to manage the current landscape, so I think innovation will start seeping its way into the sector simply due to the need to do so.
I also think that, at the moment, the industry hasn’t seen enough post-pandemic data to reliably predict trends and that, that is part of the problem. I think 2023 will start to make some of these things clear and as they become more clear we’ll see the indie sector pivot around it.
Commerciality will continue to be a key factor for distribution. Risk will continue to be a key influencer for decision-making. Talent and attachments will be increasingly important and films that can make their mark culturally will be most relevant. As for the rest – I’ll be watching, observing and analyzing just like everyone else!
Follow Tania on Instagram at @hotsauceforfilm
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