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Notes from the Reel World: The Board President's Column, March 2003

By Michael Donaldson

Dear IDA members,

March is Oscars month. For IDA, the annual Oscars Reception for the nominees in the documentary categories takes place March 19 at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Beverly Hills. We'll be screening all the nominated films, from 10:00 a.m. to midnight on DocuDay, Saturday, March 22, at the Writers Guild of America's theatre, just blocks away from the Academy. The reception and DocuDay are IDA's longest running events, both spurred by a desire to raise the profile for documentaries and celebrate the groundbreaking films that documentary makers offer us year after year.

Speaking of Academy Awards, in the February issue we covered the new rules for eligibility for award consideration. One must not only have a seven-day qualifying run in either Manhattan in New York City or Los Angeles County, but one must also do one of two things: (1) have two-day qualifying runs in at least four additional cities, or (2) if that rule cannot be met, and if the film is nominated, one must withhold the film from television, cable broadcast or Internet transmission for at least nine months from the day the nominees are announced. All theatrical exhibitions must be at legitimate, commercial venues, complete with advertising and publicity.

The intention of the Academy-—and particularly Documentary Branch Governors Michael Apted, Arthur Dong and Frieda Lee Mock—is to encourage theatrical exhibition of documentary films. A reasonable and honorable intention, without a doubt!  For many of you, the road to distribution, whether finding a distributor, or taking your film on the road yourself, can be difficult and challenging.

The IDA will do its part to facilitate the process of rolling out films to four additional cities. Here's what we will do: We will present the qualifying showcase—formerly known as DOCtober, now tentatively called IDA InFACT Film Fest—in August.  The deadline for submissions is April 26. We are in the process of identifying host venues for the four-city tour, and we may extend the tour beyond that. We will work with these venues as a network, pooling our resources, talents and capabilities to ensure that your films get maximum exposure in theaters across the country.

The easiest, surest way to qualify a documentary film for Oscar consideration is through the IDA. We will be sure that all the "i's" are dotted and "t's" are crossed!   There is a lot of planning that must go into any theatrical release. We are happy that the Academy has added these new rules to encourage the screening of documentaries throughout the country. 



Michael C. Donaldson
IDA President