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How to Manage The Relationship Between Film Producer and Investor

By Indiewire | Indiewire September 11, 2013 at 11:58AM

Yesterday at IFC Doc Conference at The Toronto Film Festival, Dan Cogan presented "The Gift," a speech about how filmmakers can best manage their relationships with the investors who make their work possible
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The Cove
"The Cove."

As the co-founder and Executive Director of the equity fund Impact Partners, Dan Cogan has supported many independent films, including "How to Survive A Plague, "Hell and Back Again," "The Cove," "Detropia," "The Island President" and "Midway." Yesterday at the Doc Conference at The Toronto Film Festival, Cogan presented "The Gift," a speech about how filmmakers can best manage their relationships with the investors who make their work possible. Cogan advised producers to give filmmakers the freedom to make the film they want to make and filmmakers to respect "the gift" they have been given and make the best film they can. Read his full speech below:

Venal. Manipulative. Short-sighted. Just downright pathetic.

There are no better words to describe the dominant strain in the relationship between film producer and investor throughout the sorry history of filmmaking. Both sides are to blame for this state of affairs.

Film producers, often desperate to get a film made, will do anything to get investors to jump in. Investors, knowing little about the film business other than its supposedly glamorous side, often aren't aware of, or even focused on, how to protect themselves properly.

Or else they become so enthralled with the creative side that they believe their investment gives them the right to take the film over creatively. Both sides enter the equation with warped expectations, and both often leave feeling like they've been duped, or had, or just, at the end of the day, feeling like life is too short for all this nonsense.

In the low-budget world, the venality of it all tends to be less pernicious. But false expectations, dramatic blow-ups, unhappy partings -- they are no less common.

In short, the basic model of the relationship between financier and film producer is broken. And yet, since films still continue to limp along, getting made, everyone lives with the drama, the imperfections, the hassle. It's seen as just part of the process.

But it does not have to be so. If you step back and look at the process systematically, outside the context of whether any one film actually managed to get made, you can see the current system actually serves nobody's interests in the long run.

The producer does all this work to get an investor into a film, and then, because the relationship ends unhappily, the producer has to lay all the groundwork, all over again, with a new investor or group of investors for the next film.

The investor has the immediate sugar rush of being involved in one film only to wake up with a massive headache and never want to go near another film again. But the biggest loser is the industry itself. We need more investors coming into and staying in the business, not fewer.

But, as I said, there is a better way. And it's actually very simple. It's called, The Gift. Each side of the equation -- the film producer on one side, and the financier on the other -- must see their relationship not as a forum for venality, manipulation, and mutual jockeying for advantage.

They must do the opposite. They must see their relationship as an exchange of gifts. 

This article is related to: Filmmaker Toolkit: Festivals, Producing, Toronto International Film Festival, Financing