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Notes from the Reel World: The Board President's Column, Spring 2014

By Marjan Safinia

Dear IDA Community,

This fall, we debut IDA's new three-day Documentary Film Conference in Los Angeles. Held in conjunction with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, with the support of funding by the National Endowment for the Arts, The Catapult Foundation and the Kallis Foundation, this conference, we believe, could become a game-changer.

It's a thrilling opportunity. We're hoping to kick-start something new, something that we desperately need in our community: a frank conversation about the state of the industry. Rather than hold more panels about festival strategy, self-distribution or how to leverage social media to change the world, we want to turn our attention inwards. Not that those topics (and more) aren't important and valuable, but the goal of this conference is to spend some time thinking—collectively—about how the documentary space has evolved and how to shape it in the future. We'd like to create a thoughtful space for those of us who spend our life in this world to come together, away from the pressures of pitching, promoting and selling films, and talk about the most pressing issues we are facing.

The conference is called "Getting Real," and that's what we're hoping to do. With the right people in the room, from across all walks of our industry (filmmakers, funders, distributors, innovators, academics), we can discuss and define what it means to build a thriving documentary culture—something that all of us would like to see. We can talk about what's giving us great hope and what's getting in our way. And we can dig down into how we can all play a role in transforming what is into what could be.

We're keeping it focused. The conference will primarily look at three areas: Art, and the evolution of the documentary form; Impact, and its role in shaping expectations for documentaries; and Career, as in: "Can (wo)man survive on docs alone?"

As we build out plans for the conference with our partners at the Academy, we are looking to you, the community, to weigh in. We've created a simple survey to gather your thoughts on the most pressing issues as you see them, and we'd love to see your broad participation. And if you know of anyone out there doing particularly innovative work around our areas of inquiry, please let us know at

Our hope is that the seeds we lay during this three-day conference will grow into something actionable and tangible, and that the dialogue will continue on. With your participation and enthusiasm, we aim to make the annual conference an unmissable date on the documentary calendar.

I look forward to seeing many of you there.

With gratitude,

Marjan Safinia
IDA Board President