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Notes from the Reel World: The Executive Director's Column, Summer 2010

By Michael Lumpkin

Dear IDA Community,

On April 13, I joined over 500 educators, administrators, students and artists in Washington, DC, for the 23rd annual Arts Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill. Organized by Americans for the Arts, this unique event brings together representatives of various cultural and civic organizations from across America to remind our representatives in Congress of the need for strong public policies and increased government funding in support of the arts, and I wanted to make sure that the art of documentary film was included in this vital campaign.

It is essential that filmmakers in general--and documentary filmmakers in particular--receive the support they need from congressionally funded groups like the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), but they never will until they make their presence, and their role as true artists, known. For documentary filmmaking is indeed an art, and deserves to be recognized--and funded--as such. Taking our place at events such as Arts Advocacy Day is key to making sure that happens.

We began our day with a rousing pep rally featuring inspirational remarks from arts champion Louise Slaughter (D-NY), civil rights icon John Lewis (D-GA) and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), who was presented with the Congressional Arts Leadership Award. Then we fanned out across Capitol Hill to take our case directly to the men and women who make the decisions about government funding for the arts in America.

I, along with representatives from Arts for LA and the LA County Arts Commission, went to the office of Lucille Roybal-Allard, Representative of House Congressional District 34 (Downtown Los Angeles) to urge her to support a budget of $180 million for the NEA in 2011, which would restore the agency to its 1992 funding level. The NEA provides critical support to our nation's nonprofit arts industry, and the IDA is determined to make sure that documentary filmmakers get their fair share of these funds.

We also asked Roybal-Allard to push Congress to appropriate $53 million for Arts in Education programs and to retain the arts in the definition of core academic subjects of learning. This designation is key to keeping the arts as part of our country's educational system, and to ensuring that IDA's high school documentary production program, Docs Rock, can expand to more high schools in Los Angeles and across the country.

I came away from the day's events convinced that this kind of advocacy is vital to the future of the arts in America, and to the future of documentary filmmaking. Fortunately, this is exactly the kind of role that IDA was founded to play. In the days to come, the IDA will continue to make the case for documentary filmmaking as a vital art form, and to seek ways to ensure that the artists who make documentaries get the funding they deserve. Meanwhile, I urge IDA members to do their part by going to the Americans for the Arts  website to send their own message to Congress about supporting the arts, including the art of the documentary film.


Michael Lumpkin
Executive Director