The Yak interviews Cindy Cowan, a random Bali tourist who just happens to have financed a film that won four Oscars. Make up and photo by Troy Jensen.
Such a pleasure to meet you, but can we get down to the nitty-gritty?
Of course. It was so lovely to meet you, too!
Please introduce yourself.
My name is Cindy Cowan and I am a film and TV producer living in Los Angeles.
Three labels by people that judge you…
Gosh I don’t know. Tenacious, driven, world traveler…
Three labels by people that love you…
Generous, kind, always there for the people I love.
Pinnacles of your career at 20? At 30? After 40?
In my 20s I graduated college, wrote my first song that went Top 10 throughout Europe and started my company – IEG – that went on to produce, finance and distribute films. In my 30s, my career hit a high. My company bought, financed and produced over 25 films. We won numerous awards and I really made a name for myself in Hollywood. I lectured at film schools and started to become very charitable, realizing that I loved to give back. In my 40s, I sold my company and bought my dream house. I retired and became west coast chair of Little Kids Rock, a 100% non-profit charity that gives musical instruments to kids in under-served areas across the United States. Currently over 500,000 kids have been taught music and given the opportunity to learn the arts by attending after-school programs free of charge. I also went on the board of numerous other charities, developed my love of travel and helping people around the world in any way I can. In my 50s, I am back in the film and TV world. Looking forward to two movies going into production this year with Sony Studios as well as some other TV and film announcements. I am also going on the board of a beauty company, one of my passions, and will be joining forces with some new charities.
What were you doing in Bali when I met you?
My dream was to always go to Bali, but for some reason every time I planned it, someone changed my destination. This year, I couldn’t wait to make this dream come true. I took three weeks off to really see all the different sides of this beautiful place. We started out in East Bali and did water sports, went to an elephant sanctuary, traveled to Ubud, got blessed, saw waterfalls, temples, did sound baths and stayed at some of the most beautiful resorts. Then we brought in the New Year in Seminyak, where we shopped, dined on delicious food and even attended Burning Man Bali. It was all fabulous!
What do you intend to do in Bali the next time I meet you?
I am doing a show called Seekers. It is about seeking the light in a world going dark. Bali is so spiritual. I want to come back and film some of the amazing things I learned about or personally experienced when I was there. It is so rich with tradition that we in America know nothing about. I can’t wait to bring it to the screen so that others can gain knowledge about the beliefs of people on this side of the world.
Name one of the almost insurmountable peaks that you climbed (career or mountain)?
I was one of the first female distributors in my business. It was totally a male-dominated industry. It felt good to be a pioneer and help break this barrier.
Please expand on your next global cinematographic venture?
My next film is a real-life horror film that I am producing with Screen Gems/Sony. It is based on the first exorcism televised in the’ 70s and what happened to the family after the cameras turned off. This was before the movie The Exorcist came out and the only ghost was Casper, so people didn’t really know about supernatural occurrences. It is one of the scariest stories I have heard. We will be filming this in South Africa in a few months.
What part of your career are your parents most proud of?
I think they are very proud that I went off on my own, started the company I spoke about earlier and sold it for such a profit when I did. I also hope that they are proud of the daughter they raised.
What part of your career are you most proud of?
Getting Woman of the Year by the WIN awards was very special. You do things in life never really expecting others to recognize you for it, so this really touched me. Also getting Humanitarian of the Year in 2019 was incredibly special to me. I want to leave my footprint when I go, so this award meant a lot. I live my life trying to make a difference in someone’s life every day. Giving back makes me happy.
Are you woman first, brain second? Or brain first, woman second?
Funny . . . I answer this question differently now. When I was young and starting out, I was brain first. I had a lot to prove and anything else came second. After I sold my company though, all that changed. I am now definitely a woman first, I am proud to be a girl. And a successful one at that! My femininity is important to me, it’s one of the reasons I retired when I did. I wanted to regain my female values. Now my life is balanced.
Hollywood is known for being cut-throat. Do you know any pirates?
A ton of them . . . but none I want to call out here.
Your favorite movies are…?
Schindler’s List, Shawshank Redemption, Life is Beautiful and Silence of the Lambs. [While we’re here we’d like to let you know Cindy’s company IEG won an Emmy nomination for Rent-A-Kid starring Leslie Nielsen; Emmy, Golden Globe and People’s Choice nominations for If These Walls Could Talk; a United Nations Award for Savior starring Dennis Quaid; and Oscar-winning Traffic starring Michael Douglas].
Your main influence was…?
It depends on which part of my life we are speaking of. My mother, for my zest for life. My father, for my work ethic. Sherry Lansing, as a woman ahead of her time, paving the way for other women to follow.
What are the steps to take that make a dream career come true?
Honestly, just doing it! So often people just speak about what they want to do but don’t take any steps to achieve it. You just have to put all your fears aside and start taking those steps: read, learn, intern. Just be around as many people as you can in the field you want to go into. Live it, dream it . . . do it! If you believe you can achieve.
Born again, what would you like to be able to conquer/change?
The climate. I really believe the world is in a very bad place right now and we are heading for disaster. If I could be born again and conquer anything it would be finding a way to save our planet.
Lastly, Bali, it was your first time … what did you take away from your visit?
I loved everything about Bali, from the kindness of all of the people to the wonderful food, the beautiful scenery, some of the best resorts in the world, and especially the spiritual connections. I can’t wait to come back. You will definitely see me again, soon.