March 29, 2023
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Hannah Soto Talks People-First Production

Alyssa Maio
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Defining the role of a director is easy. A writer, even simpler. And when it comes to articulating the role of the producer, it’s met with the same apparency, shaped by that laundry list of pre-production, production, and wrap tasks that make a project possible. 

But there’s a difference between making a production possible and making it memorable. And for an industry marred by shrinking budgets and growing expectations, curating better experiences on set can be a producer’s biggest challenge. Managing a diverse group of people—each with different priorities— demands emotional intelligence, a requirement as relevant as any hard skill a producer can hope to hone.

Luckily, this comes easier to some.  

Cue: The Arridia Group 

The Arridia Group is a full-service production company with a unique focus on experience and hospitality. While they’re passionate about delivering great results, they’re also committed to humanizing how the industry produces content—and in doing so, paving the way for a more empathetic and authentic media landscape. 

In 2014, the company's CEO and founder, Hannah Soto, kicked off the venture as a one-person operation under a different name. Initially focused on small-scale photo shoots, she adapted to the demand of the industry and steadily built up a team. As the business grew, the team began to work directly with top Fortune 100 brands, offering a wide range of services, including broadcast, social media content, EPKs, entertainment, advertising campaigns, and commercials. The company has now become a highly successful 7-figure business operating globally, most recently in Sweden, Mexico, and Italy.

Arridia’s growth is a testament to their technical and creative prowess, but also, their deep commitment to people over profits.

Setting a new industry precedent 

In Hannah’s years as a production assistant in the early 2000’s, she was turned off by the treatment she and others received on set.

“I was tired of the ‘oh, you’re below-the-line, you’re just a number on a page.’ It’s what drove me to start this company — to treat humans better.”

She made it her mission to cultivate a humane, safe, and enjoyable environment for all people, no matter where their name fell on a call sheet.

In practical terms, she makes business and hiring decisions based on this philosophy.

“We select people who share our values of putting people first, acting with emotional intelligence, and leading with innovation.”

The emotional intelligence piece is worth noting. Most producers know it’s important, and do the best they can while on set, but rarely do companies make it part of their fabric. 

Because the truth is, a people-first approach sounds great on paper, but the current state of the industry doesn’t make this easy.  

Prioritizing people while increasing profit may seem like a pipe-dream to most producers

Clients need more content in multiple formats across multiple platforms for the same price. The quantity of content is much higher, but now, with a much shorter lifespan. 

And this affects everyone from the producer to the PA.

Hannah brings up the idea that if more content is needed and that content is now less valuable, the client wonders, ‘shouldn’t it cost less?’

Hannah notes,“Because it’s a freelance world, it’s a ‘chase to the bottom’ at times.”

Shrinking budgets with an increase in deliverables is nothing new. Danny Rosenbloom, former VP of the AICP writes, “The very real truth is that commercial budgets have been shrinking steadily for nearly twenty years,” long before Arridia came onto the scene. 

Though, the way Arridia navigates this challenge feels novel. 

Hannah shares that the impulse to become reactive to the demands of the industry, especially once COVID hit, soon caught up with her. She and her team needed a reset, and in late 2021, Arridia temporarily paused operations. 

“We closed for six months.” 

For most companies, this would be lethal. The very idea that a production company would take a breath and regroup for the sake of their team may seem counterintuitive – but in Arridia’s case, for both company and crew, it worked. 

“Coming back with that refreshed perspective, being able to be proactive instead of reactive, felt so much more at home. We're able to deliver consistently high caliber and enjoyable productions. And most importantly, doing so is sustainable for our team to execute.”

The team has been involved in various industry collaborations since, and has gained a widespread reputation for being a compassionate production partner that prioritizes human and social impact in all their endeavors.

When a production company values its people more than its profits, the conversation changes

Hannah advocates for the removal of harmful stereotypes in advertising. Exemplified through her hiring practices, resource allocation, and company programs, she strives for accurate representation of cultures, bodies, identities, abilities, and races. 

One of Arridia’s most notable events is the "Breaking Barriers + Building Careers for BIPOC Crew + Creatives," which targets decision-makers involved in the hiring process to tackle the prevalent gatekeeping within the industry.

And in October 2022, Hannah headed to Houston to speak to 150 CMOs of brands about what the procurement of more diverse suppliers needs to look like.

“If you want new outcomes, you need to change old practices. I initially started this wanting to treat the humans that we hired better, but now I'm super grateful, and a little in awe, to have the opportunity to make positive shifts in the industry as a whole.” 

Slowly but surely, those shifts are happening. With a revamped workflow that centers on the client and crew’s experience, the Arridia Group is not only improving the way commercials get made, they’re also making better, more exciting work.

Just in the past few years, they’ve worked with Apple, General Motors, The United States Olympic Commitee, The Coca-Cola Company, and many others. 

Hannah has been recognized by one of the Best 200 Digital Artists Worldwide for a CGI project with Filtre Studio and Andy Goodwin

Beyond The Arridia Group, Hannah co-founded the Forward Fund, a nonprofit dedicated to supporting women and non-binary owned startups, and currently serves as a member on the True Chicago board to push forward their mission to help young artists take ownership over their creative futures.

The Arridia Group is a proud WBENC-certified women’s minority business enterprise.

And they’re far from done.

So, what’s next for The Arridia Group?

The team is gearing up for a busy 2023, and there’s no doubt that their respite helped them get there. But no matter how busy it gets, the team is committed to putting their workers first. It’s become the recipe for their success.

“We’ll be implementing what we learned during our pause and helping it improve the life work balance of our team. We may not be perfect, but as an organization, we are constantly learning and improving towards our goals. Even when our impact feels small, I remind myself that a small action can make a big difference in one person's life today and potentially benefit many more in the future."

Disclaimer

At Wrapbook, we pride ourselves on providing outstanding free resources to producers and their crews, but this post is for informational purposes only as of the date above. The content on our website is not intended to provide and should not be relied on for legal, accounting, or tax advice.  You should consult with your own legal, accounting, or tax advisors to determine how this general information may apply to your specific circumstances.

About the author
Alyssa Maio

Alyssa comes from the commercial production world, with additional experience in film-tech writing. As the Manager of Content Marketing here at Wrapbook, she oversees execution and strategy across all content formats with one goal in mind --to provide the best resources possible for the production community. If you'd like to collaborate, get in touch with Alyssa here.

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