August 29, 2014

Funder Support Takes the IDA's Doc U Program to the Next Level

For almost seven years, the International Documentary Association has engaged nonfiction filmmakers with programs under the Doc U banner. We developed this popular series to address the educational needs and creative interests of documentarians, although the sessions we present often appeal to folks who just love the genre. Doc U provides practical know-how for filmmakers who are just starting out, those who have a body of work under their belts, and everyone in between.

Many recent Doc U sessions have both explored the business side of documentary, including securing distribution, fair use issues and fundraising, Other sessions have covered creative issues in documentary such as directing, cinematography and editing. Prominent filmmakers and industry leaders we’ve brought on as Doc U moderators and panelists include Morgan Neville (Director, 20 Feet From Stardom), Roger Ross Williams (Director, God Loves Uganda), and Gabriela Cowperthwaite (Director, Blackfish).

Providing such a great resource doesn’t come cheap, though. The cost of presenting Doc U is covered by individual admission fees, IDA members’ annual dues, corporate sponsorship and charitable donations. Recently, four major funders have stepped forward with significant donations that will help Doc U become better than ever.

The Los Angeles County Arts Commission has provided a two-year grant that will help ensure that Doc U seminars and conversations continue to offer high quality, relevant content at an affordable cost for working filmmakers. These sessions usually take place in an auditorium setting, most often the Cinefamily in Los Angeles’ Fairfax District.

Certain topics in documentary filmmaking call for deeper exploration than our 90-minute auditorium sessions permit. We’ve therefore developed a workshop track of Doc U, which includes 3-hour Master Classes and all-day Intensive events. These hands on sessions take place at the IDA’s headquarters in LA’s Koreatown neighborhood. Generous support from the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association enables us to set the tuition for these classes at well below the cost of comparable university extension or for-profit programs.

As the world capital of film production, it comes as little surprise that the greatest concentration of IDA members is in Southern California. However, large clusters of IDA members can be found in major centers for nonfiction media around the world. A grant from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will enable the IDA to present Doc U programs to the nonfiction film communities in metropolitan areas other than Los Angeles. We’ll announce more details on these events in the coming months.

Whether it comes in the form of foundation grants, individual donations, member support or corporate sponsorships, the IDA is grateful for all of the funding it receives to make its Doc U program a relevant and impactful resource for stakeholders in the documentary film community—and the best deal in town.

To learn more about the Doc U series and upcoming Doc U Master Classes, please visit