Democratizing Non-Fiction

By Stephen Robert Morse & Maria Springer


It was the moment that Kim Kardashian tweeted about AMANDA KNOX that we knew: the documentary, an art and science for years relegated to arthouse cinemas, is now mainstream.

How did this evolution, or revolution, occur? In large part it is due to Netflix, Amazon, HBO, Hulu, and other platforms that have made documentaries far more accessible in the comfort of one’s own home. No longer will getting stuck in a boring film waste your precious time and money.

Yet while we have entered a “Golden Age” of documentary,  filmmakers still struggle to access capital. Some 80% of documentary filmmakers don’t earn more than $25,000 per year for their work. And a further 80% view access to funding as the main issue they struggle with every day.  

How many brilliant, amazing stories don’t get told because filmmakers lack funds? How many wonderful, newsworthy, relevant films don’t get finished because the filmmakers lack access to capital? These are the problems that we created OBSERVATORY to solve by making commercial investments in worthy non-fiction film and television projects.  

We view non-profits as necessary partners in the goal to make high quality non-fiction content, but we also view their methods as unsustainable on their own. For example, many filmmakers are successful at receiving grants for their projects, but these grants rarely cover the costs of finishing a film. Filmmakers, who more often than not lack MBAs, don’t anticipate cost overruns: they budget for best case scenarios, not worst case scenarios. This leads to thousands of projects each year that run out of funding.

Furthermore, we don’t view the skillset needed to write a successful grant as analogous to the skillset needed to make an amazing film. The most passionate and dedicated filmmakers likely aren’t spending their time applying for hundreds of grants in the hope of getting one. They’re probably in the field, with their subjects, actively creating projects, and adding value to their worlds.  

Few filmmakers are lucky enough to work without needing outside capital. Films are expensive endeavors, and OBSERVATORY will democratize the funding process. We work to get films across the finish line. Our goal is to increase the number of relevant, high quality films in the marketplace.

Yes, we are Capitalists. No, that isn’t a dirty word. We work to ensure that demand is met for buyers in search of high quality content. And in exchange for our debt or equity investments in films, we expect a solid return.

We also maintain our commitment to creating a diverse set of films: we want the future of film to be democratized. This means that we want to see more filmmakers who are people of color, women, immigrants, and from the LGBT community. (We also feature characters and stories in our films that represent these communities. )

In an era where the “truth” has come into debate, documentary is one of the tools that can be used to educate the masses. If you like what we’re doing, share our vision, or want to know more, feel free to get in touch: