July 9, 2009

Notes from the Reel World: The Board President's Column, Spring 2009

Fearless Readers:

Ever since I was a kid reading Stan Lee’s “Bullpen” in Marvel Comics, I’ve always wanted my own column. So now, you will suffer so that I may live the dream.

All across Film Land, 2008 brought predictions of the “sky is falling” and other doomsday scenarios. But much harsher doom befell other industries than independent film. Things may not be looking particularly rosy right now, but it’s not the end of the world as we know it--never mind feeling fine.

Still, it would be impossible to deny that the media industry is headed for huge changes in the months and years to come. The old models are, in many cases, falling by the wayside and even fewer will be viable in three to five years as technology eats its own. The new models may not be that lucrative…yet. But they are visible, they are accessible and they are the future. We will simply have to adjust our sets.

The spring re-launch of our own digital hub, documentary.org, was a major push for IDA, and we hope to continue its growth in the coming year and beyond. Right off the bat, the site allowed us to “go green” for our invitations and events. But more than that, the digital space has provided a powerfully connective tissue between the membership and the organization, as well a true destination for nonfiction news, video and information. We hope to announce some great digital opportunities, both on our site and beyond, for filmmakers in the months to come.

Over the last six months of 2008, I helped guide IDA as its interim executive director. In January, I transitioned out of that post into my new one as president. I’m very proud to continue to serve the community, and I’m equally proud to welcome IDA’s new executive director, Michael Lumpkin.

Michael is an experienced leader with over 20 years at the helm of Frameline, an international media arts organization that presents the San Francisco International LGBT Film Festival, operates Frameline Distribution and runs other important programs providing funding and training to filmmakers. He brings to IDA an outstanding track record of innovative programming, successful fundraising, effective financial and operational management, and strong community support. Needless to say, I’m very excited to be working alongside him to take IDA into the future.

In these times of change, amidst the wild west of the media landscape, I believe that the community of IDA, whether online or in the flesh, becomes even more necessary and vital. Making these projects, we may often feel like lone gunmen, but it helps to remember that we all drink at the same saloon. Ideas may be proprietary, but wisdom, advice and resources can--and should--be shared.

For wherever our work will be seen (and however it will be financed), what we cannot change is our shared passion for chronicling and commenting upon the world around us. That’s what keeps us all in this documentary game.

So whether we’re in limbo or the latency period, or whether we are not men and we are Devo, we’re all in this crazy nonfiction game together.

Change! It’s what’s for dinner.

Eddie Schmidt
IDA President