Cindy Cowan is a big deal in the filmmaking business. She has produced some of the biggest studios films in Hollywood with some of the most well-known A-listers through IEG, the production company she co-founded with Graham King. During her tenure as president, IEG had successes that included an Emmy nomination for Rent-A-Kid; Emmy, Golden Globe and People’s Choice nominations for If These Walls Could Talk; and Oscar-winning Traffic starring Michael Douglas and Benicio del Toro.
After selling her stake in IEG, Cowan started Cindy Cowan Entertainment where she has produced Scorched, Fifty Dead Men Walking, and Red Lights starring Robert DeNiro and Sigourney Weaver. Recently she optioned Edwin F. Becker’s book True Haunting about NBC’s 1971 televised exorcism, which she will produce for Screen Gems along with Steve Bersch and Scott Strauss. She is also working on the upcoming film Arkansas which stars Vince Vaughn and Liam Hemsworth.
With an incredible film production resume, Cowan is now entering the TV arena, partnering with one of TV’s most prolific producer of hit TV shows, among them Jane the Virgin, and Charmed. “ Most of my work is in film…but I am getting into TV,” she confirmed. “I Just partnered with Ben Silverman and we have a couple of huge TV projects that I cannot announce yet.”
Transitioning into TV is a natural for Cowan, however, she realizes the difficulty for many indie producers to break into the business. So when Kiki Melendez of Latin Hollywood Films approached her about joining her in co-founding the Omni Cultural TV Fest it was an easy decision. Both women are joined by Sarkis Semerjyan also a Co-Founder of the Fest.
The Omni Cultural TV Fest is a one of a kind opportunity for independent content creators to showcase their ideas for television, cable, and Over-The-Top (OTT) distribution. A panel of judges comprised of industry professionals have had the hard taske of selecting projects ranging from TV series dramas, comedy, animation, reality, webseries and talk shows to screen at the Egyptian theater on May 1st.
As busy as Cowan is with her producing she is making time to launch this TV festival in a major way. She recognizes the importance of looking at content from diverse communities and working with Melendez to do so. “Kiki is a force to be reckoned. I met her during the Hot Tamales Days [a comedy show created by Melendez],” she explained. “She would come in to pitch her different projects. She has been a friend for 20 years…and although I liked her ideas, I think this is the best idea she has had in 20 years.”
Beside the “Kiki factor” Cowan believes it’s the time for this TV fest to happen. “It’s amazing, there are a lot of film festivals, but not many TV festivals and the ones there are, are all for finished projects.”
Omni Cultural TV Fest is an idea which has resonated with established industry organizations in Hollywood whose business is the promotion and sales of syndicated TV content. The National Association of Television Program Executives (NATPE) is a co-presenter of the Festival, as well as Women in Film. The good news for the indie projects, selected from the hundreds of submission, is that studio and TV network, cablers and OTT executives will have an opportunity to watch their shows at the fest, content they otherwise might never see.
Cowan believes the TV and film landscape is changing and that the time is now for an event like the Omni Cultural TV Fest. “There is now a huge demand in both tv and film for projects with diversity, with funding actually coming in quicker because of it,” Cowan explained. “The trend for females and people of color, across the board from directors, to writers, to talent, is there. After the industry initially claimed that a film with black leads would not sell, there is now a mandate. Black Panther changed the whole landscape.
And that trend continues on TV. Although, Jane the Virgin is going off the air after a five year run, executive producers Jennie Snyder Urman, star Gina Rodriguez, and exec producers Ben Silverman have already secured a pilot order for a spinoff called Jane The Telenovela; And Jaime Camil who plays Jane’s father Rogelio is re-teaming with CBS for his own, as of yet untitled show, which he will star in and executive produce.
Diversity is the next big thing. “Omni culture will be putting diverse content creators and their projects in front of the biggest TV executives,” Cowan confirmed. “We will have Amazon, Netflix execs and others in the audience”. She also adds that her company will also be taking a serious look at the festival projects.
Omni Cultural TV Fest will make its debut on May 1st at the Egyptian Theater with a full day of panels featuring the content buyer and development executives, distribution and panel where content producers can pitch their project and of course the screening of all the projects selected. Also, panels that will teach you about storyboarding all the way to finish production and talent panels
In June, Cowan will receive The Hollywood Women’s Film Festiva’s Humanitarian Award which recognizes women pioneers in writing, directing and producing. It also encompasses her philanthropy work which included her board position of of Little Kids Rock, a non-profit organization that provides free instruments and lessons to underserved public schools, and Children Mending Hearts, a dynamic arts-based enrichment education program that helps empower disadvantaged youth, building empathy and global citizenry.
Cowan’s career has always been propelled by doing the right thing. Early l on in her career she quit her job as a producer at a TV station when they wanted her to place hidden cameras to capture a father of a decapitated boy who refused to do an on-camera interview. Then there was a time when while working as the executive on a movie, she uncovered a million dollars was missing. She reported to the bond company and was still able to deliver the picture and on budget. Both these incidents changed the course of her career or served to enhance her work as a producer.
Now, as a co-founder of the Omni Cultural TV Fest, she is once again on the right side, providing an opportunity to other producers to propel their careers.