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Notes from the Reel World: The Board President's Column, January / February 2000

By David Haugland

Welcome to Y2K. For one. l'm relieved that the suspense is over. Now let's get on with it.

The documentary community brings a lot to this new century. First, we have a heritage of which we can be truly proud. For within 100 years, the documentary has gone from an experiment by the Lumière brothers in capturing motion picture images, to a powerful and popular genre which records, interprets and preserves human experience for posterity. No small feat for the pioneers who have paved our way!

As we enter this new century, documentarians will continue to be in the forefront of testing and incorporating new technology. We've just begun to see how digital cameras, desktop editing systems and Internet delivery systems will allow us to create and distribute our work directly to audiences worldwide. Similarly, the emergence of global television networks has created a larger audience than ever for documentaries and more opportunities filmmakers to work and sell non-fiction programming. And, when we choose, instant communication allows us to collaborate with colleagues continents away: Recently a composer in Africa recorded the music score for a documentary and it was edited into the line cut of the picture minutes later in northern California! 

With the rapid advances whirling around us, we should keep in mind that the core of all this creativity and innovation remains with the individual documentary maker. Remember, it was in the hands of filmmakers like Albert Maysles, and underwater with Jacques Cousteau that the camera began to take us where we had never been before. It was in the mind of John Hendricks, where a global television network devoted to documentaries was first conceived and then realized. And it is from documentary makers that unknown stories will be found, captured, and told to people in the new century.

You and your creativity are the most valuable natural resources in the documentary world. Individual inspiration, perspective, and passion never go out of style—only the technology changes.

Recognizing that, I have a number of new century resolutions I'd like to share with you. Resolve to:

l) Inventory your completed documentaries and get them into safe storage. The IDA/Academy Documentary Archive was founded to preserve our work for posterity. Learn about it and use it.

2) Review your outtakes and dailies. They have value—to you and future filmmakers if they're in good condition. If they originated electronically, make sure you transfer them to a stable format, preferably film, and explore their potential for resale and use by other makers.

3) Assert your rights as a creative artist. Think as creatively about your contracts and relationships when making a documentary as you do about the subject.

4) Share your abilities with others and build the documentary community. If you're an experienced maker or executive, mentor a student or emerging maker and nurture the next generation. If you have financial or technical resources that can advance our genre, make them available and be amazed by the results. Documentarians are masters at maximizing resources. 

5) Honor our documentary heritage by vowing to do the best you can with your abilities. The legacy of tomorrow is what we imagine and create today.

Living across two centuries presents exciting prospects and profound responsibility. My hope for the 21st century is that, in 100 years, documentaries will look back with pride and feel that we honored our heritage, used our time and abilities well, and left a legacy of to future generations. 


Happy New Century!

David Haugland
IDA President