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Fast Foreword: The Editor's Column, June 2002

By Tom White

Dear Readers,

Monthly publications such as ours are often encumbered by long lead times, and late breaking news can wreak havoc on the production schedule—and the editorial calendar. But sometimes news flashes and long-in-the-pipeline articles can strike a magical confluence, as with this issue, in which we take a look at the relationship between the cable industry and the documentary filmmaking community.

The news of Discovery Communications’ proposed policy to eliminate end-roll credits from broadcasts of newly commissioned documentaries arrived in time for IDA President Michael Donaldson to deliver a call for engagement with Discovery in last month’s issue; in this month’s “Notes from the Reel World,” he reports on the activities that IDA has undertaken since then with the respect to this issue—and Discovery’s reponse to the documentary community’s concerns. In “Short Takes,” Tamara Krinsky also reports on the initial meeting of the IDA-spearheaded Documentary Credits Coalition, in which these concerns were aired.

Barbara Rick examines the often contentious issues and policies coming out of the cable industries that have impacted the independent community’s dealings with the industry. Low budgets and licensing fees, little autonomy, rights to one’s work, and now artistic credits: these are some of the issues that Rick explores with players on both sides of the aisle. Elsewhere, Stephen Sheppard, an seasoned attorney who structures deals with both cable companies and independents, offers a primer for independents in what to be cognizant of in terms of budgets, rights and territories, fees and compensation, clearances and permissions, and errors and omissions insurance. Finally, former IDA President Mel Stuart, in our continuing series of 20th Anniversary reflections on then and now, also addresses, among other things, the situation for filmmakers like him, a veteran of 40 years, who has seen the rewards diminish in inverse proportion to the opportunities.

Elsewhere in the magazine—the cover feature, for instance—Kathy MacDonald takes us into the charhned and charming world of legendary Hollywood producer Robert Evans, the subject and narrator of Bret Morgen and Nanette Burstein’s “autobiodoc” The Kid Stays in the Picture; the film is based on Evans’ best-selling autobiography and audiocassette of the same name. It is an encouraging sign that Hollywood—and such lions as Barry Diller, whose USA Films helped finance the documentary, and Vanity Fair Editor Greydon Carter, who produced it, and Evans himself, who, of course, is pulling out the stops to promote it—is willing to put its largesse and marketing muscle get behind behind Morgen and Burstein, in this, their second film. Their first film, On the Ropes, earned an Academy Award® nomination and an IDA Award. Here’s hoping that the studios continue to recognize and support documentary filmmaking and filmmakers, on a more-than-occasional basis.


Yours in actuality,

Thomas White