By Ray Pride

Award-Winning Filmmakers Dan Cogan and Liz Garbus Launch Story Syndicate Production Company

 Academy Award® winning producer Dan Cogan (ICARUS) and two-time Academy Award® nominee and two-time Emmy-winning director and producer Liz Garbus (WHAT HAPPENED MISS SIMONE?, THE FOURTH ESTATE) have launched a new production company, Story Syndicate. They will be joined by Julie Gaither as their Head of Production and Jon Bardin, formerly Head of Documentaries at Discovery, as their Head of Development. The new venture will develop and produce premium non-fiction series, features, shorts and podcasts with the aim to expand into scripted series and features. It will be based in Dumbo, Brooklyn.
The company will make the kind of projects Cogan and Garbus are known for: character-driven, award-winning and bingeable non-fiction content that can grab audience’s attention and hold them rapt. The first four projects, which are currently in production, are the HBO true crime limited series I’LL BE GONE IN THE DARK based on the best-selling book by Michelle McNamara; an ambitious upcoming feature documentary on the life of underwater explorer Jacques Cousteau with National Geographic Channel and the Cousteau Society (2021); an upcoming limited series with Netflix; and an upcoming short series with Quibi.
Throughout 2019, Dan will remain as Executive Director of Impact Partners, the pioneering Brooklyn-based financier of films such as the beloved box office and award-winning WON’T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR?, Academy Award winners ICARUS and THE COVE, and Academy Award nominees including this year’s OF FATHERS AND SONS as well as HOW TO SURVIVE A PLAGUE and HELL AND BACK AGAIN. He will be joined in managing Impact Partners by Jenny Raskin, who has been promoted from SVP of Development & Filmmaker Relations to Co-Executive Director.
Dan Cogan said, “Liz and I are excited to create a production home in which filmmakers we love can come and be supported creatively, strategically and financially. From established directors to up-and-comers, Story Syndicate will provide a home for a vibrant community of storytellers to come and do their best work and feel completely supported in every way.”
Liz Garbus continued, “Filmmaking is a team sport. I’m excited to build a company that can support the scale and scope of what I want to do as a director, and I’m really energized by the idea that this structure can also provide a foundation for the creative work of many other filmmakers. We’re at a moment of huge growth in the non-fiction world, and Dan and I are so excited to share our expansion with other storytellers we love.”
Dan Cogan Bio
Dan Cogan is the Academy Award®-winning producer of Icarus and the Co-Founder of Impact Partners, a fund and advisory service for investors and philanthropists who seek to promote social change through film.
Since its inception in 2007, Impact Partners has financed over 100 films, including: Icarus,which won the 2018 Academy Award® for Documentary Feature; Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, which won the 2019 Independent Spirit Award for Best Documentary; Of Fathers & Sons, which was nominated for the 2019 Academy Award® for Documentary Feature and won the Grand Jury Prize at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival; Dina, which won the Grand Jury Prize at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival and was named Best Feature by the International Documentary Association; The Eagle Huntress, which was nominated for the 2016 BAFTA Award for Best Documentary; How to Survive A Plague, which was nominated for the 2013 Academy Award® for Documentary Feature; The Queen of Versailles, which won the U.S. Directing Award at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival; Hell and Back Again, which was nominated for the 2011 Academy Award® for Documentary Feature and won the Grand Jury Prize and Cinematography Awards at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival; and The Cove, which won the 2010 Academy Award® for Documentary Feature.
In 2013, Cogan co-founded Gamechanger Films, which was the first for-profit film fund dedicated exclusively to financing narrative features directed by women. Its films includedThe Tale, The Invitation, Buster’s Mal Heart and Land Ho!
Cogan received his B.A. from Harvard University, magna cum laude, and attended the Film Division at Columbia University’s Graduate School of the Arts. In 2014, he was awarded the Leading Light Award at DOC NYC alongside filmmakers Albert Maysles and D.A. Pennebaker, as well as the America Abroad Media Award in Washington, D.C.
Liz Garbus Bio
Two-time Academy Award®– Nominee, two-time Emmy Winner, Peabody Winner, Grammy Nominee, and DGA-Nominated director Liz Garbus is one of the most celebrated American documentary filmmakers working today.
Currently, Garbus is in post-production on Lost Girls, an upcoming scripted feature for Netflix based on the book by the same name, starring Amy Ryan, Thomasin McKenzie, and Gabriel Byrne. Garbus’ latest docuseries The Fourth Estate, for Showtime, was nominated for a 2018 Emmy for Outstanding Documentary or Nonfiction Series, a Cinema Eye Honor for Outstanding Achievement in a Nonficiton Series, and a Humanitas Prize. “Engrossing… enthralling” (Washington Post), The Fourth Estate follows The New York Times reporters covering the first year of the Trump presidency, with unprecedented access and intimacy. What Happened, Miss Simone?, a Netflix original, was nominated for a 2016 Academy Award® for Best Documentary Feature, received a Peabody Award, and six Emmy nominations including Best Directing. It took home the Emmy Award for Best Documentary or Nonfiction Special. The film delves into the life of Nina Simone, drawing from more than 100 hours of never-before-heard audiotapes, rare concert footage, and archival interviews.
Past work includes: Nothing Left Unsaid: Gloria Vanderbilt & Anderson Cooper (HBO) which had its world premiere at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival Love, Marilyn, which was a Gala Premiere at the 2012 Toronto Film Festival and released worldwide by StudioCanal and HBO. In 2011 her film Bobby Fischer Against the World premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, and won the UK Grierson Award for Best Cinema Documentary and earned an Emmy nomination for Best Documentary Special. Garbus’ first documentary feature film, The Farm: Angola, USA, won the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival, was awarded ten other festival and critics’ awards included NY and LA film critics awards, and was nominated for an Academy Award® in 1998. Other films as director or producer include: There’s Something Wrong with Aunt Diane (HBO, 2011), Girlhood (Wellspring, 2003), and as producer Street Fight (PBS, Academy Award®– Nominee, 2005), Ghosts of Abu Ghraib (HBO, Emmy for Best Doc, 2007), and Killing in the Name (HBO, Academy Award®– Nominee, 2010).
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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon