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Notes from the Reel World: The Board President's Column, March 1996

By Lisa Leeman

As the IDA Board of Directors plots the course of the coming year and conjures new ways to spread shrinking funds over continuing and new programs, we'd like to hear from our membership. What do you see as the most pressing needs of the documentary community, and how can the IDA address them? We will give you a forum for these questions and many more when we mail you a member survey along with your membership renewal this month. Please take the time to read and answer the survey. Let us know if we are on target in serving your needs and how we can do a better job.

The IDA's mission statement reads that we are "dedicated to promoting the documentary form, supporting documentary film- and videomakers, and increasing public appreciation and demand for nonfiction programs." I've often thought that the IDA has a tougher mandate than some of our other media arts sister organizations (who are doing a great job). Sometimes it feels as though it would be easier to serve an organization of, say, all independents, even if they were working in both fiction and nonfiction, than it is to serve our varied membership, which has such a wide variety of needs. Our members range from film students to veteran network documentarians; from wildlife filmmakers to social issue documentarians; from video diarists and experimental filmmakers to journalists and scholars; not to mention the writers, editors, DPs, sound recordists, com posers, support facilities, educators, distributors, exhibitors, and the many non fiction aficionados who add to our melting pot. We are always looking for the overlapping interests and needs of our members, as well as thinking about how to serve individual constituencies within our membership. So please fill out those surveys! And if you just can 't wait, you can e-mail me ( or write to me at the IDA office.

Look to this column in the months ahead to keep abreast of nonfiction developments around the world. Soon we will begin to invite international guest writers to give reports on the state of documentary making in their own countries.

Lastly, I want to congratulate the makers of the ten feature and short documentaries that have been nominated for Academy Awards this year. No matter what you think of the myriad controversies swirling around the nonfiction Oscar categories in the past few years, I'm sure you will agree that it must be gratifying to find your deserving film saluted. I'll always remember one of the first IDA events I attended, the annual reception for the Oscar documentary nominees. One of the filmmakers thanked the IDA for putting on this event because, he said, he had just returned from an Oscar luncheon, where as a documentary maker he had received about as much attention as the potted plants. I hope attitudes have changed a bit since then, but the IDA continues to focus attention on the Oscar­ nominated docs with our 14th Annual Docu Day and Oscar Nominees Reception.

This year, DocuDay takes place on Saturday, March 23, with a day-long showcase of all the Academy Award-nominated short and feature-length documentaries and discussions with many of the filmmakers in between screenings. The Oscar Nominees Reception will be held, along with DocuDay, at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. If you are in the area, I encourage you to come enjoy some good films, lots of shop talk, and plentiful and delicious food.