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Fast Foreward: The Editor's Column, Summer 2018

By Tom White

Dear Readers,

At some point, following the tentative steps we take out of college, with our degrees and diplomas at hand and a daunting mountain of debt to deal with, we find ourselves on a career path—beginning with our first jobs and the first time we fill in the "Occupation" box on our tax returns. If we're lucky, our career/occupation/line of work morphs into something deeper—a livelihood, a calling, a passion, a purpose.

The documentary career—well, purpose—is a daunting one that can take you to thrilling and dangerous places, that can open your mind to a trove of ideas, that can expand your heart to an amazing corps of heroes and sheroes, that can fill your soul with the affirmation that you are truly doing the right thing.

But purpose has a price. And since the first Getting Real conference in 2014, we as a community have been wrestling with the sustainability question—which, in turn, has underscored the documentary career since the earliest, grainiest, iterations of the moving image. The momentum picked up after Getting Real '16, when IDA and the National Endowment for the Arts convened the Documentary Sustainability Summit, which kicked off a series of regional meetings over the next year.

And where is The Sustainability Movement now? And where is it heading? What have we accomplished? What can we do better? Ken Jacobson, who will be moderating a session on regional sustainability models at Getting Real '18, posed those questions and many others to a broad cross-section of thought leaders.

Sustainability also connotes personal well-being. And while this art form can bring you emotional highs, it can also drive you to wrenching depths. The constant fundraising and its attendant uncertainty…the work-life balance…the months-long immersions into heart-rending situations…the tricky covenant between filmmaker and protagonist: These can lead to serious existential struggles. Rebecca Day recognized a troubling undercurrent of angst among the documentary community in her native Scotland, so she embarked on a parallel career—as a psychotherapist. She'll be taking her talents to Getting Real '18, leading a panel entitled Therapeutic Interventions in Documentary, as well as conducting a closed-door Experiential Workshop. I talked to Day about how she's been developing her practice.

Finally, there are less weighty, yet no less necessary, aspects to sustaining your documentary practice—that is, presenting your project to the key stakeholders who will make a difference in the life of your project. Suz Curtis talks to funders, pitch forum directors and publicists about how to put your best face forward.

Yours in actuality,

Tom White