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Notes from the Reel World: The Board President's Column, April 2004

By Richard Propper

Dear IDA Members,

Before I address you as your new president, I would like to say a few words about my predecessor, Michael Donaldson. About four years ago, IDA moved into new offices and almost simultaneously lost its executive director. At the end of that year, a new president was elected. Those were challenging times. Michael kept the organization headed in the right direction, and that was not easy.

The board is comprised of individuals of varying creative and business opinions, but Michael, a consummate diplomat, would harness these opinions and forge them into a unified action. My hat is off to Michael, a true leader with an open heart for the things he holds dear, the IDA certainly among them.

Now, a little about me: I am a distributor of factual programming in the international marketplace. What is a distributor doing heading the IDA? Good question. I watch more than 250 documentaries a year, evaluating them for representation, and I attend markets, festivals and conferences around the world. I also serve as an executive producer on two to four new documentaries a year. I have served on the IDA Board of Directors for over seven years, including two years as secretary and three years as treasurer/CFO. The changes the IDA has experienced over that time have been positive, and while the Board provides support and guidance to the IDA, it is the staff—Tracie Lewis, Janice Van Wagner, Mindy Perrin, Tarra Bercegeay and Charlotte Young-Bowens, led by Executive Director Sandra Ruch—that makes the organization run. But as any organization gets bigger and better, more work needs to be done. We are in a new world for documentary filmmaking. Yes, we all know that camera, editing and sound technology are bolting ahead faster than many of us can keep track. The domestic and international broadcast marketplaces are seeking more nonfiction programming than ever before. Box office receipts for documentaries have been on an upward trajectory, our audience has been growing and more theatrical distributors are picking up feature-length documentaries. In other words, it's a good time to be a documentarian.

The IDA provides a bridge to filmmakers from around the world. As more documentary filmmakers find themselves with new challenges in pre-production, production, distribution and marketing, the IDA will continue to provide much needed advocacy, assistance, advice and support.

This year promises further change and improvement for the IDA. In the coming months I hope to share in this column IDA's latest accomplishments and discuss current issues regarding our work in this field. My vision for the organization is simple: 3,000 members before the end of 2004; a revamped website that will provide the depth and usefulness we all desire; and a continuation of this magazine providing unparalleled content about the world of the documentary.


Until next month,

Richard Propper
IDA President