Oscar-Winning Documentary Backer Now Taking Pitches to Develop and Fund New Non-Fiction Work

Exclusive: Impact Partners, which backed "Icarus" and "Won't You Be My Neighbor?," will invest in early-stage nonfiction projects. (Spoiler: The market is dying for more series.)
Oscar-Winning Backer Taking Pitches to Develop New Non-Fiction Work
Courtesy of Netflix

Impact Partners, the Brooklyn-based documentary funders behind last year’s Academy Award winner “Icarus,” has launched a seven-figure development fund to support documentary features and series. It will support the development of four to eight nonfiction projects a year, with a range of $10,000-$100,000 per project.

“We review 800-plus projects a year, and we see so many incredible ideas from filmmakers who have unique access or a fantastic vision for a film,” said Jenny Raskin, executive VP for development and filmmaker relations. “But they often need further development. We are thrilled that we now have a mechanism to give filmmakers the time and resources they need to reach the next stage.”

Prior Impact titles include “Dina,” “The Eagle Huntress,” “The Cove,” “How To Survive a Plague,” and this year’s breakout hit and Oscar hopeful “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” Beyond supplying early financial support to promising projects, Impact now will provide filmmakers strategic support as well.

Founded by Dan Cogan and Geralyn Dreyfous in 2007, Impact previously did not invest at the development stage. Cogan said the change in course comes in response to the marketplace.

“There are many more filmmakers interested in doing limited series then there were before,” said Cogan. “And I think in limited series, it often doesn’t make sense to fully finance something and then take it to market. It’s much more about developing something, getting it to a place where it’s ready to be pitched and then taking it out. And even in the feature world, what we’ve found is that a lot of companies these days, both streamers and broadcasters, would rather come onboard something earlier in the process, during production, than having to fight it out to acquire something at a festival.”

Cogan said in many cases, nonfiction filmmakers may stumble upon a subject better suited to a long-form series — which the marketplace currently craves — than the feature-length movie they intended to make. He believes that what’s best for each project is unique to the project.

“I think there will be certain situations where, together with the filmmaker, we decide yes, this is a film that we want to make independently and take to market,” said Cogan. “And then there will be other situations where we develop it, and again, together with the filmmaker, we decide, you know what, the best thing to do right now is to take it to the right home. And we want to do this because we want to create both opportunities.”

Filmmakers can apply for the development fund through Impact Partners’ general submission process. Acceptance will begin on a rolling basis December 1. Filmmakers can apply to the fund for a variety of reasons, including development shoots, cutting a trailer or reel, conducting archival research, casting characters, or many other reasons related to development.

“It will all go through our regular online submission process,” said Cogan. “It’s important to me that our submission process is totally open. It will not be invitation only; we want to be open to the broader film community and to anyone who thinks they have a great project to share.”

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