Skip to main content

History of IDA

The International Documentary Association was founded by Linda Buzzell in 1982 as an intimate community of like-minded film professionals, eager to expand the impact, scope and reach of the documentary genre. It all began with an inconspicuous advertisement in the Classifieds:

DOCUMENTARY FILM AND VIDEO MAKERS. Attend the charter meeting of the new INTERNATIONAL DOCUMENTARY ASSOCIATION (IDA), the first organization to honor and promote nonfiction product exclusively. SATURDAY, Feb 6, 10 a.m. at Assn. Office, Production Center, 8489 W. Third St., LA, CA 90048. Corner 3rd and La Cienega. Or call founder Linda Buzzell.

Unsure if anyone would show up, Buzzell was pleasantly surprised to find 75 IDA hopefuls under one roof, ready to create an organization that would actively help the documentary genre grow.

IDA began in kind with a selection of flagship programs, namely DocuDay (est. 1983-2019), the IDA Documentary Awards (est. 1984) and Fiscal Sponsorship (est. 1998). The opportunity to watch all-day, back-to-back screenings of Academy Award-nominated documentaries; the advent of one of the earliest documentary-only awards ceremonies; and the ability to accept tax-deductible donations as a working filmmaker were fresh, intimate and inspiring additions to the film landscape of Los Angeles. IDA was intent on moving documentaries into the limelight, and a wider community of filmmakers and film-lovers was supporting IDA’s activities.

Several new IDA initiatives quickly took shape over the next 35 years. Documentary Magazine began as a two-page newsletter in 1982, gradually transforming into a quarterly magazine that first hit the stands in New York City, Los Angeles and San Diego in 1988, and is now on newsstands and in bookstores across the US and in Canada. Documentary also publishes a significant amount of content on FallDocs and SpringDocs series, initiated as the DOCtober in 1997 then replaced by DocuWeeks between 2006-12, and IDA Screening Series (2018-22) is now a vital highlight of fall Awards Season in Los Angeles and New York City. In 2017, IDA launched Awards Spotlight to showcase telecasted documentary award contenders during the spring. The IDA Documentary Awards have expanded considerably to accommodate a rapidly changing documentary media landscape.

Our funding programs, such as the Pare Lorentz Documentary Fund (est. 2011), IDA Enterprise Documentary Fund (est. 2017), and Logan Elevate Grant (est. 2018) recognize some of the most vital and engaging work by a diverse corps of both established and emerging filmmakers.

Today, IDA has cemented its role as a multi-faceted presence in the documentary world. Our artist programming provides valuable tools and resources to documentary filmmakers such as the biennial Getting Real conference, which started in 2014 as a three-day series of networking and convenings designed to foster a stronger and more equitable documentary community. Advocacy efforts have also become an integral part of IDA’s mission—by issuing call-to-actions and public statements, as well as creating a global network of organizations, IDA has been involved in issues such as net neutrality, fair use and government arts funding, as well as defending filmmakers’ First Amendment rights.