Dear Documentary Friends,
When I joined IDA as Executive Director in 2015, I did so to build on the work of my immediate predecessor, Michael Lumpkin, and those who sat in this seat before him. I sought to create an organization that had relevance in documentary and that, first and foremost, centered and supported documentary filmmakers. It has been both an exceptionally challenging and rewarding journey, especially over the past year as we have faced a global pandemic and a long overdue international reckoning on race and systemic racism. But what some may see as challenges have really been opportunities for us to rethink our work: to examine our assumptions and approaches, center filmmakers, and commit to justice, equity and field-building in ways that give many more people an opportunity for their voices to be heard.
Early in the pandemic, we made the decision to double down on our commitment to supporting filmmakers, rather than pause our work and retrench. In partnership with ITVS and Firelight Media, we quickly developed resources and seminars for filmmakers to help them access loans through the Payroll Protection Program and unemployment support. Instead of postponing our Getting Real ‘20 conference, we moved forward with a digital conference that focused on the urgent questions of authorship and the uneven distribution of resources in our field. Knowing that our community was enduring unprecedented economic pain, we made Getting Real available free to all attendees, resulting in over 3,100 attendees from 54 countries—its largest audience ever. In an effort to level an increasingly imbalanced playing field, we allocated resources to filmmakers trying to compete during awards season. And, we continued with all our regular work: funding films, doing advocacy work in support of filmmakers in jeopardy, helping filmmakers raise resources, covering the field through Documentary magazine, and many other programs.
There are many lessons to be learned from the past year, but there are two that I hope that we keep in mind as we move towards a post-pandemic era. First, access is incredibly important. Robust digital access to conferences, resources and connections must be something we retain as we embark on in-person events. Without this, we risk shutting out entire swaths of filmmakers who cannot attend in-person events, for whatever reason that may be. Besides, as we face a climate crisis, this becomes an existential question. Second, no matter how “progressive” we may feel our field is, we must not forget that deep inequalities permeate throughout it. BIPOC and women filmmakers still have an extraordinarily more challenging time accessing resources and support. We already knew that, but the pandemic has laid bare how fragile the existence of many filmmakers actually is. We must keep this front and center if we are ever to build a field that thrives.
As I hand over the reins at IDA, I am happy to report that the organization is stronger than ever, both financially and programmatically. For that I have to thank IDA members and our supporters. But I especially have to thank my colleagues, whose commitment to the work has been unstinting and creative, and IDA’s committed and passionate Board of Directors, whose leadership has seen us through tough times to a time of growth and opportunity.
I am excited to see IDA continue to grow under Richard Ray Perez’s leadership, and grateful that you have given me this opportunity for the past six years.
IDA Executive Director (2015-2021)