Skip to main content

Notes from the Reel World: The Board President's Column, October 1998

By David Haugland

There was a time when I'd cringe at the question , "So, David, what do you do for a living?" Because once I replied "I'm a docu­mentary filmmaker," the response would be, "That's nice, David. Now, what do you do for a living?"

But, times have changed. As this century draws to a close, nonfiction film and video has reached dramatic new heights—in awareness by the general public, in interest from theatregoers and television viewers, and just plain acceptance and credibility with other media artists. I, for one, am grateful—now when respond to that hitherto anxious question, people smile, look impressed even, and then immediately begin to tell me about the television show they watched last night or their favorite feature documentary.

Nonetheless, there are still documentarians out there who feel out of the loop, yet to be blessed by nonfiction's improved status. Of course, as filmmakers—certainly as documentarians—we were never told it would be easy. But we were assured—and it happens every day—that the rewards would be there: we get to work with passion, we meet great people and often under the most adverse of circumstances, we encounter stories that simply have to be told. There are times when we work in relative isolation—it's difficult: selling an idea, raising money, coming in on budget, all those challenges that we face with every project.

But every once in a while—perhaps at a screening, or a festival, maybe a market or seminar—we get a few moments to talk with our colleagues, experience that sense of camaraderie, and we know that we're not alone. So much of what IDA is all about is that reminder­ we really aren't alone—and we remember this by reading about each other in the monthly magazine, seeing each other at various events, celebrating the gains made by documentary throughout the world as members of the same association. Here it is October 1998, and that's exactly what the month is all about: sharing and remembering, challenging and reflecting, connecting with others as we jump start our creative juices, advance our pet projects, and build that ever-important rolodex!

My top ten list for the month:

10) Oct. 28: DOCtober, IDA's film festival at the Pasadena State Theatre;

9) Oct. 6: Documentary Filmmaker Night, Joseph's Cafe, Hollywood;

8) Oct. 10-18: The Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival, in Arkansas;

7) Oct. 16-29: Frame by Frame, the HBO/IDA Festival in New York City;

6) Oct. 25: Screening of HBO's The Death Train, in Los Angeles;

5) Oct. 27: Premiere screening of newly restored prints of Robert Drew's "Kennedy Trilogy" in Los Angeles;

4) Oct. 28-30: International Documentary Congress 3, IDA/AMPAS, Beverly Hills:

3) Oct. 30: 16th Annual IDA Awards, Marina Del Rey;

2) Oct. 31 : DocuDay, IDA Award-Winning Films screened at Raleigh Studios, Los Angeles;

1 ) Nov. 1 : A Forum with Ricky Leacock at UCLA.

You'll find more details about all of these events in this issue of ID, but what's important is that each of these is a terrific opportunity to become more involved with the documentary community: the makers, the funders, the executives, the programmers and the audience. I want especially to encourage all IDA members to attend the Congress: our volunteers and staff have been working for more than a year to bring you programs and people representing the world of the documentary from six continents. The Board and I look forward to greeting you personally: There's has never been a documentary gathering like this—you deserve to be a part of this "once in a millennium event."


David Haugland,