Hot Docs today unveiled the first two documentary projects to receive production support through Hot Docs Partners, its CAN$2.6 million ($1.9 million) co-financing initiative that was launched a year ago at the annual festival in Toronto.

The most recent addition to Hot Docs’ CAN$9 million ($6.7 million) production fund portfolio, Partners matches a select group of doc-friendly, socially conscious investors with Canadian and international feature-length projects that have key financing already in place, and strong potential to impact audiences in meaningful ways.

Partners is providing co-financing support to “Influence,” directed by Richard Poplak and Diana Neille, the journalists who exposed the reputation-management firm Bell Pottinger. An international co-production between South Africa’s StoryScope and Chronicle Productions, and Canada’s Eyesteelfilm, “Influence” explores the dark art of geopolitical spin-doctoring.

Partners joins Sodec and the Canadian Media Fund to support “We Are Here,” directed and written by Ariel Nasr and produced by Loaded Pictures’ Sergeo Kirby for CBC and Canal D. “We Are Here” examines the community left behind after six worshippers were killed and 19 injured in the Quebec City mosque shooting of 2017.

Hot Docs’ industry team draws on its market and festival expertise and deep knowledge of Canadian and international feature documentary projects to evaluate and recommend projects that connect to the expressed interests and investment priorities of the new fund’s partners. Toronto’s Blue Ice Docs, the fund’s anchor investor, has committed to matching investments made by the other partners on a project-by-project basis.

“Partners grew out of several different trends and initiatives that have been evolving over the years,” said Hot Docs industry programs director Elizabeth Radshaw. “We all know that documentaries need to pull together lots of sorts of funding – broadcast licenses, NGOs, distributors, equity funds – to get that budget.”

Citing the Chicago Media Project and Catalyst Sundance, among others, Radshaw said that while equity investment is nothing new in the documentary space, the rise and influence of streamers and all-rights deals has added momentum to the model.

“In the past, ROI was not always there for equity investors, who may have supported a documentary project because of their interest in a particular cause, for example,” she said. “With Amazon, Netflix, and the like making competitive deals and offers to documentaries, equity investors can now be made whole, or maybe even enjoy profit participation.”

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CBC News