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Can a Co-producer's Vested Interests Be Reconciled?
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A filmmaker's friend is willing to help create a horseracing documentary, but is there a hitch?


Here's the situation:

Producer Winnie Mare was excited about her idea for a new investigative documentary examining the horse racing industry. She believed the project’s scope had strong audience appeal: beautiful animals, high-stakes drama, and deception involving performance-enhancing drugs. Born and raised in horse country, researching growing concerns about the sport was a natural fit for Mare. 

Mare knew this project would be a big undertaking, though, and she had limited money of her own to put into it. She quickly realized that she wouldn’t be able to complete the film without assistance, so she reached out to a good friend from film school who still lived in Kentucky. The friend, a successful investigative documentarian, said he would be happy to co-produce the film with Mare. 

Soon after, Mare learned that her friend was the partial owner of a winning racehorse trained by someone caught up in a recent doping scandal. Mare had already interviewed the horse trainer for the film, and she believed that his comments were important to include. She struggled with what her friend’s business relationship meant for the film project.


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More to consider:

  • Financial conflicts. While conflicts of interest can arise in various situations, financial relationships are perhaps the most common problem to guard against. See "The conflict over conflicts of interest," from August 18, 2021 (Columbia Journalism Review).


  • Corporate interests.  Industry groups, advertising agencies, and companies are increasingly turning to documentary filmmakers to deliver their messaging to the public.  See "Documentaries as Advertising," from December 20, 2019 (100 Reporters).

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