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Notes from the Reel World: The Board President's Column, September 2002

By Michael Donaldson

Dear IDA Members:

Thanks very much to all the members who have heaped such praise for the work done by the Documentary Credits Coalition. The details of the entire story are set forth elsewhere in this issue. Let me use this space to put the accomplishments in their proper perspective.

The Discovery Networks and IDA have enjoyed a long and close relationship. Discovery is, after all, one of the largest buyers of documentary programming in the world. Given its 11 different channels—plus a radio channel—Discovery is unsurpassed in variety and quality of documentaries. One part of IDA’s mission is to “help increase the audience for documentaries,” so we were not insensitive when Discovery wanted to hold on to the audience that turns the channel during the end-credits. Discovery’s solution to move the end-roll credits to the Web was misguided, unnecessary and harmful to our membership.

Following a series of letters, e-mails, and telephone and in-person discussions between the coalition and John Ford, president of Discovery Networks, over a two-month period, Discovery abandoned its plan, preserved credits and, in the process, came up with a solution that is better than anything we have had before. Credits can still be the old style, but the new alternative is to lay credits in over film. Those credits cannot be squeezed, squished or sped up. They will remain readable no matter where the film is exploited. This is a happy day for everybody. Hats off to the IDA staff, who took on the extra organizational work of this project. Everybody—including Discovery—is better off.

For the documentary community, this is not so much a victory as a very strong beginning: The Food Network, a division of the Scripps-Howard, may be calling for elimination of credits on its programming, so the Documentary Credits Coalition is inquiring about Scripps-Howard’s official policy. We will keep you apprised.

On the international front, IDA continues to globalize its operations. We presented a workshop in Miami in July, in conjunction with National Association of Latino Independent Producers and Independent Feature Project/Miami. In Singapore, IDA held its first Asia Forum, in which a core group of members from the Pacific Rim met at the Plaza Hotel over brunch to lay plans for IDA programs in that part of the world. And closer to home, you won’t want to miss “DOCtober in September,” our annual festival of documentaries for qualification for Academy Award consideration. This year’s slate is truly global, with stories from Japan, South Korea, Bangladesh, Afghanistan and the UK, so if you’re in Southern California, stop by the Laemmle’s Monica Fourplex in Santa Monica between September 13 and 19.



Michael C. Donaldson