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Notes from the Reel World: The Board President's Column, February-March 2004

By Michael Donaldson

Dear IDA Members,

When I took the helm as IDA President three years ago, I eschewed "pompous pledges and misty projections" and promised to "keep my hand on the tiller as we pass through this period of great growth and unparalleled opportunity." Now that I am completing my tenure, though one might conjure up images of Prospero breaking his wand, I am not leaving the documentary stage. Indeed, with pundits across the country declaring 2003 to be "The Year of the Documentary," I am as excited as ever about the future of the art form and will continue to work on its behalf.

Needless to say, I'm proud of what the IDA Board and staff have accomplished over the past three years. In 2001, we found a dynamic executive director in Sandra Ruch, who continues to bring to the table a wealth of contacts and ideas. We expanded our programming, launching the Fiscal Sponsor Support Program to complement our successful workshop and seminars series. Docs Rock, our documentary education program in high schools, has just been certified by the State of California for use in school districts throughout the state. We are now poised to expand the program across the country.

In 2002, our 20th anniversary year, we overhauled our by-laws for the first time, thereby enabling us to serve you better. We created an alliance with the Sundance Channel, which produced a wrap-up of the year for documentaries, based on the IDA Awards Gala. We assembled a legion of unions, media arts organizations and independent filmmakers across the country, and, as part of the Documentary Credits Coalition, we managed to persuade Discovery Communications to ensure that working filmmakers are properly acknowledged on screen. Our tête à tête with the E.W. Scripps Company continues. IDA has actively supported the Writers Guild of America, west, in its fight for better pay and benefits for nonfiction writers.

In 2003, IDA continued its push to increase the number of documentaries that receive theatrical release within the United States. Our InFACTTM  Theatrical Documentary Showcase (formerly DOCtober) went on the road to commercial venues in Del Mar, Austin, Little Rock and Seattle. We hope to expand the project further in 2004. The documentaries impressed critics and audiences alike, further demonstrating the real prospect for success on the big screen.

This period of activity has played out against the backdrop of a post-September 11 world, one replete with loss and uncertainty. Documentaries make a difference in grappling with the truth and finding astonishing new stories about the human experience.

It's been a pleasure to serve you as IDA's president, and I thank you for your support as we continue our best efforts to serve the documentary community around the world.



Michael C. Donaldson
IDA President