Skip to main content

Notes from the Reel World, Winter 2018

By Marjan Safinia

Dear IDA Community,

I’m sad to say that this will be my last time filling this little corner of Documentary magazine. After nine years of service on the IDA Board, six of them as president, I have fulfilled my term limit and will be cycling off the board at the end of the year. Our resident historian, Tom White, editor of this publication, tells me that I am the longest-running president in IDA’s herstory. I can hardly believe it. The time has flown by, and this remains one of the things in my life of which I am most proud.

I took on this role from Eddie Schmidt with some trepidation, to tell the truth. How could I possibly live up to Eddie’s example? And yet, with time and the support of a fantastic board, a great staff and our former executive director, Michael Lumpkin, I was able to find my own leadership style. Together, we worked hard to better serve the documentary community, and I hope that many of you will agree that IDA has enjoyed quite an overhaul in the last six years. We’ve significantly grown the depth of our programs, turned Getting Real into a landmark event in just two outings, updated our brand, expanded our national footprint, grown our advocacy and policy work on behalf of the field, and stepped into the grant-making space in a significant way. While there’s work to be done on all these fronts, it’s been a sea change.

I also want to take a moment to acknowledge my beloved cohorts. Back in January 2009, six new board members joined IDA. Steve Reich and Sara Hutchinson, our predecessors who recruited us, told us they were mainly looking for “nice, kind people.” They got that, and so much more. While we lost Pi Ware along the way, the remaining five of us complete our service together this year. Laurie Ann Schag, Adam Chapnick, Senain Kheshgi and Gilda Brasch have been particularly strong allies, with a special mention for Laurie Ann, who stepped up to leadership in our very first meeting, and hasn’t stopped since. Their friendship, counsel, wisdom and sense of humor have been invaluable to me, as have the relationships with many dear friends who remain on the board to carry the mission forward.

Perhaps the most significant piece of my legacy as president, though, is to have brought on Simon Kilmurry, an extraordinary executive director who is perfectly poised to nurture IDA’s role as a field-builder. In Simon, IDA is fortunate to have a true leader within our field, as comfortable discussing the nuances of an edit with a filmmaker as he is lobbying major funders and for policies and dollars that support our critical work. He commands an encyclopedic knowledge of the form, a Rolodex filled with extraordinary relationships, and the deep, unrelenting rebel spirit of a former Scottish punk rocker. I know that under Simon’s leadership (and, critically, with our support as a community), we can expect to see IDA take a profound leap forward. So while I may be stepping down from my official role, I remain IDA’s number-one cheerleader—and you can expect me to be advocating for IDA as passionately as I ever have when next we meet.

Watch this space to see who comes next. I will be.

With gratitude,

Marjan Safinia
IDA Board President