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

By Michael Lumpkin

Dear IDA Community:

As I near the end of my first year as the International Documentary Association's executive director, I am struck by how many of the conversations I've had over the past months have been about change--changes in documentary technology, methodology, funding, distribution, audiences, and even in the definition of the word "documentary" itself. I am also struck by the obvious lesson to be learned from all this talk: If the IDA is to continue to thrive, and to provide the kinds of valuable services it has been providing to documentary filmmakers for 27 years, it too will have to change.

But what kind of change is needed? To find out, we here at IDA are taking a hard look at every aspect of our operations, and debating how, or if, we need to rethink the organization's programs and redefine its mission.

In October, the IDA Board of Directors and I spent two days on the initial phase of this work, taking stock of the current state of the nonfiction world, reviewing the new challenges filmmakers face in this ever-shifting environment, and discussing ways in which the IDA can provide assistance, support and leadership in these transformative times.

We came out of these discussions recommitted to serving both documentary filmmakers and their audiences, re-dedicated to advocating for documentaries, and reaffirmed in our belief in the power, artistry and importance of nonfiction storytelling. We also came away with a new determination to reach out to every member of the increasingly diverse documentary community, and to seek ways to make sure that every nonfiction filmmaker feels welcome at IDA.

Our goals are to provide leadership to the documentary community; to facilitate, support and promote documentary filmmaking; and to increase public awareness and interest in nonfiction film. To meet these goals, we will soon begin evaluating IDA's programs, forging new strategic partnerships in both the nonprofit and for-profit worlds, and making sure we have sufficient financial resources and adequate infrastructure to do the work that needs to be done. But we can't do it all alone.

Over the next few weeks, many of you will be asked for your opinions on IDA. How is it serving the community? How can we improve those services? How can we advocate for the documentary as a uniquely valuable form of filmmaking art? I hope you will join us in this discussion, and that you will give us the kind of frank and honest feedback that will help us see what the documentary community really needs from the IDA.

With your help, we can change the IDA to meet the needs of these changing times, and maybe even shape the future of documentary film.

Michael Lumpkin
Executive Director