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Notes from the Reel World: The Board President's Column, September 1999

By David Haugland

Dear IDA Members:

Change seems to be the rule around the IDA headquarters these days. We have just opened our New York Office, staffed by Susan Berry, our East Coast coordinator. Additionally, we have completed our search for our new editor, and welcome Kathleen Fairweather to the helm of the magazine. Kathleen brings an innate understanding of the non-fiction media world through her career as a film journalist, college film instructor, and documentary filmmaker.

Kathleen has written about the documentary and entertainment industry for American Cinematographer, Written By, the Writer 's Guild Magazine. Director's Guild Magazine, Variety. International Photographer, and other publications. Through Kathleen 's guidance, we hope to raise the IDA Magazine beyond its past achievements. To that end, we have formed our new publications committee, chaired by IDA board member Joan Owens­ Meyerson. It also includes former IDA board member Harrison Engle, Jeanney Kim, John Ramirez and Craig McTurk.

Our team continues to include associate editor Tom White, and our ad sales representative, Jodi Pais-Montgomery. They have been invaluable to the publication in the past, and have been extremely helpful during this transition. I look forward to working with them, the publications committee, and with Kathleen to create a magazine that is an informative and inspiring resource, reflecting your ideas and suggestions.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, for three days in June, I had the pleasure of meeting, talking, and socializing with documentary film colleagues at the European Documentary Film & Television Congress in Munich. Here are just a few of the insightful comments that framed discussions at the conference:

On independence: "Looking back on 15 years in the business, I realize I am still fighting a battle for the same cause-independence. The players may be different and the market has greatly expanded , but nothing has really changed . Everyone is looking for talent, but then they want to control it until it is no longer distinctive and different, but branded and stranded to fit manufactured images and time slots." Jane Balfour (J. Bal four & Associates)

On human rights: "Documentaries and news shows can't ignore ques­tions of human rights. Television encourages us to spread our sympathies, without necessarily doing anything about them. All it supplies is raw (or confectionery) emotion, endlessly re-circulated-and I cannot begin to tell you how this problem might be resolved ." Nick Fraser (BBC Storyville)

On politics: "The filmmaker's politics determine how equitable the relationship will be between the person who wields the camera and the one who becomes the subject. This can only be fair if they share a world view, and it is the responsibility of the filmmaker to work towards it." Sehjo Singh (filmmaker, India)

On the marketplace: "The challenge for today 's filmmakers would appear to be how to preserve some of documentary's fundamental ambitions in a media environment that is increasingly dominated by commercial concerns. The fear is that traditional documentary—in the form of the Griersonian tradition—will be steadily eroded, to be replaced by the various lightweight formats at the "softer" end of the documentary/factual spectrum." Richard Kilborn (Stirling Media Research Institute)

Beyond the spirited dialogue, foremost among conference highlights was the IDA-hosted opening day reception sponsored by Media 100. At this and other in formal sessions, I met filmmakers and IDA members from across Europe, including our only member in Croatia!

My sincere thanks to conference coordinators Dieter Matzka and Dr. Wilma Kiener and to IDA Board member Sven Berkemeier for bringing EDN, Media 100 and IDA together for a truly successful European event!


Very sincerely,

David Haugland,
IDA President