Daniel-Konrad Cooper (1996, D)  is a film producer,  known for his work on films such as Dunkirk (2017), The Colour Room (2022), and The Man In The Hat (2020). He formed his own production company, Rather Good Film, in 2013.

An Oxfordshire boy, and keen Oxford United fan, Daniel Cooper came to Radley on a scholarship. He was academically gifted, an avid chess-player, and threw himself into extracurricular activities, quickly making friendships that are still going strong today.

He was one of the rare handful nationally who took triple maths, encouraged by Mr Garry Wiseman, and did an Electronics GCSE with Max Horsey while the department was still in its infancy. Watching films such as La Haine (1995) and Cyrano de Bergerac (1990) in Simon Barlass’s classes was transformational, introducing greater levels of nuance and realism, and starting his fascination for world cinema.

During this exploratory period of the mid-1990s, Daniel and Mr Horsey, developed a side-line in educational click-and-learn CD-ROMs, the first, That’s Magic, featuring Daniel performing and explaining magic tricks, and the second, Scientific Adventures, explored scientific theory. The CD-ROMs were stocked by Hamley’s for a while but, more importantly, the project affirmed Daniel-Konrad’s love for visual storytelling.

Despite his strong mathematical background, Daniel went on to Balliol College to study English. Alongside his studies, he became treasurer of the Oxford University Drama Society, and was involved in plenty of productions, alongside contemporaries like Riz Ahmed (actor and rapper), Felicity Jones (actor), Gethin Anthony and Harry Lloyd (both actors known for roles in Game of Thrones).

After trying his hand in theatre, Daniel started applying for jobs in the film industry, and was offered a role as the assistant to producer and director Matthew Vaughn on his film Stardust (2007). “And,” Daniel observes, “if you watch that film very closely, you can see that everyone who appears on screen looks as though they just had a fantastic cup of tea. That’s my doing. It’s not an Oscar category yet.”

Like many in the industry, Daniel’s first jobs were largely photocopying, running errands, and making beverages. But he was working alongside Hollywood superstars like Robert De Niro, Bruce Willis, and Michelle Pfeiffer. Importantly, he was gaining a better understanding of what it takes to run big-budget films. Daniel started to gain a reputation for being able to handle the more difficult characters in the industry, “I got this rep for being able to handle tricky people, and not taking things too personally which, actually, Radley sort of built me up for.”

Daniel fell in with a US producer, Jake Myers, and has worked with him regularly on projects ever since. He was encouraged to increase his responsibility over a number of films, starting as an assistant, and eventually being the Production Supervisor on Dunkirk (2017).

Over the course of eighteen years, Daniel has worked on a number of Hollywood blockbusters, and in between these projects, he produces smaller films of his own, first shorts, and later feature films. He’s a freelancer with his own company, Rather Good Films, and is enjoying telling stories that matter to him, alongside working on other people’s projects in the UK and overseas.

Recently, Daniel has produced The Man In The Hat (2020), starring Ciarán Hinds. It is a road-trip style comedy in which the protagonist has only two lines of dialogue, yet it magically communicates a Francophile celebration of people, culture, music and food. The film won Best Actor and Best Film awards in the 2022 Richard Harris International Film Awards, and is available to watch on Amazon.

What is the role of a producer on a film project?  

My job is to bridge the gap between the creative and commercial. You are responsible for raising a bunch of money from investors based on the commercial potential of a film. The key thing is to ask yourself, from a business perspective, am I generating a product that there is a demand for? What am I offering the audience? Who is going to watch this, and why? Once you have a project outline, and funding, a producer hires writers, a director, and oversees the project, managing the shoot until the point of distribution.

Is good story material always obvious to a producer?  

I’ve found that often the stories that I really want to tell don’t necessarily have a mass market. So, it’s harder to raise the finance for those. The thrust of my company, Rather Good Films, is to tell thought-provoking British independent stories. It’s often easier to raise finance for a horror or action movie than for some of the films that that I’m incredibly proud of, and I think have a deeper message. It costs the same to watch an independent movie at the cinema as it does to watch a James Bond movie or a Star Wars, even though they cost so much more to make.

But there will be a place for more thought-provoking films. I think what sells is good ideas. I think if you have an idea that you can communicate succinctly, then you can get people excited about that idea.

How do you choose a director for a production?  

What a lot of people don’t realise is that, in many cases, the director is the least experienced person on the film set. A director only gets to make one film every couple of years, if they’re lucky, and most of the crew are working on six or seven movies a year. When I’m trying to raise investment, often the hardest thing is convincing someone to put up millions of dollars for a project where the director hasn’t done something similar before.

It’s important to find someone you can trust and who communicates well, brings energy and enthusiasm, and is a good storyteller. The experience of the director often dictates the scale of budget that the film can be made at, and their network affects which actors might be attracted to roles.

How has the landscape of film production changed over the last decade?  

At the moment there’s a big boom in the British film industry, and there’s a lot of exciting projects being shot in studios. However, a lot is what we’d call ‘blockbuster’ films: explosions, tidal waves, superheroes, whereas independent film is what I really love. These are stories that don’t need big budgets and crazy visual effects, and they’re often a lot more affecting: they make us laugh, they make us cry because they’re about people, and people’s responses to events, rather than the events themselves.

It’s much harder to get people to go and see these types of independent dramas, it’s trickier to sell: come and watch this movie, it’s about people and how people change. That doesn’t sound as exciting as an explosion or a tidal wave. So, I think that there’s been a big shift, generally in the industry, towards safe bets – big action and horror films that are more likely to be profitable, especially post-COVID, with investment harder to raise.

Can we fix that? 

Give me $20 million, and I’ll tell some good stories!

Perhaps the bond of trust between audiences and storytellers has been a bit broken, because the marketing departments have taken over. Every trailer that we see for a movie says it’s everything that we want, and it’s going to be amazing. Audiences have become numb. Often, there’s a big marketing spend on a film that’s not actually very good, because they’ve got to recoup a big expenditure. Every time we persuade someone to buy a cinema ticket and then give them an underwhelming experience, it’s harder and harder to get that person to take that chance again.

My hope is to make Rather Good Films a bit of a brand that people can trust, across all genres of movies. I want to deliver a consistent quality and integrity of storytelling, not just meeting audience expectations but exceeding them.

Finally, what advice do you have for those thinking about entering the industry, and film production particularly?  

People in the film industry are really amazing, resilient, and dedicated to what they have a passion for. The hours are long, at first the pay isn’t always great, and there’s a lot of travelling.

Building up work and life experience is always wise. Go to university if you can, embrace the opportunities that life gives you: join film societies, find the talented people, pull them together and make things with them. Build your network. Work your way up slowly, rather than just going for the top jobs straight off the bat.
I don’t think that films schools are necessarily the best environment to learn how to be a filmmaker. You will learn most by getting onto film sets in the real world where you can see successes and failure first hand. Today, anyone can be a filmmaker; you don’t need professional equipment, you can shoot a story on your phone, and you can get it out to a mass audience online. So, if you have stories to tell, there’s no excuse. If you want to be a director, find some people who want to act, and go create.

You’ve got to do something very special to get noticed, though, and this is always the challenge for an emerging director. In short films or lower budget features, you’re trying to do two things: you’re trying to show that you understand film convention, and how a story is told. But you’re also trying to put your own mark on it. I think that we all have a duty in whatever we’re doing in our lives, whatever our jobs are, to think, what am I really good at? The earlier that we can recognise what our skills are, and start thinking about how we get those out into the world, the quicker we find happiness.

What’s next for you?  

I’m putting together the pieces for a feature film titled “The Narrows”: a revenge thriller set in 1900 on the canals of Northern England. It’s a kind of British Western with the spirit of Peaky Blinders.

For this project we’re incorporating some Virtual Production elements and using advances in technology to add scale and production value. We shot a proof-of-concept that is working really well and overcomes a lot of the logistical challenges and costs around filming on the water.

The Narrows is an independent film with lots of soul, but I also worked for much of this year on the upcoming Sony/Marvel release Kraven The Hunter (in cinemas December 2024), which was better for the bank balance than the heart!

Find out more about Daniel’s production company Rather Good Film on their website: https://www.rathergoodfilm.co.uk/

This interview was printed in the Old Radleian 2023. To read other interviews in this publication click below. 


Read the Old Radleian 2023