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Notes from the Reel World: The Executive Director's Column, Fall 2015

By Simon Kilmurry

Dear IDA Community,

Change can be hard. It can be terrifying, even paralyzing. It can also be exhilarating, inspiring and rejuvenating. After 28 years living in New York and 16 wonderful, often thrilling years at POV, I decided to welcome change, overcome the fear and embrace the inspiration. After just a few short weeks in Los Angeles and taking up my new role at IDA, I am already feeling the rejuvenating effects of change.

In many ways, these first weeks have been similar to my work at POV. I’ve spent countless hours listening to filmmakers and the various tribes involved in our documentary business. I’ve been listening to them express their hopes and excitement about the many changes that our business faces. I’ve also been listening to their trepidation as business models transform, as technologies disrupt, as competition increases. But change is a fact of life; it has always been here and always will be, so let’s embrace it and shape it.

Despite the constant change and challenges, I am amazed and thrilled by the quality and quantity of great documentary films being made. So far, 2015 has been a banner year, bringing us an incredible array of documentary films that push the creative boundaries of the form, inquire deeply about the world, challenge our preconceived notions and shake us out of our complacency.

I came to IDA, having been a longtime member, to build on the legacy of my predecessors, of former and current board members, of our diverse members and constituents; to build an IDA that serves, educates, supports, funds and advocates for filmmakers across the country. And to work with you to build an organization that forms alliances with partners around the country and around the world in service of filmmakers.

Change does not come overnight. It is an evolution, and it often involves difficult decisions. As an organization with a decades-long history, it is important to acknowledge and respect that legacy. But it is equally important to be unafraid to try new things and new ideas, to take risks, to be bold.

As we move forward I will be looking to build off the great conversations that were initiated at IDA’s Getting Real Conference in 2014, and I’ll be asking many questions: How can IDA best serve a community of filmmakers from the US and around the world? How can IDA be an advocate for the critical issues and challenges that filmmakers face in their work? How can IDA serve those communities that are too often left on the sidelines, to ensure a diverse range of voices and experiences? How can IDA be a convener to look at best practices in the field, and to train, educate and share knowledge? How can IDA support filmmakers with resources, both financial and intellectual? What alliances can IDA form with organizations around the world that serve our constituencies? How can IDA work with funders, broadcasters, distributors, exhibitors and educators to ensure a vital, vibrant and engaged audience for documentary storytelling? How can we expand the form to new platforms and new audiences? These are questions for all of us to ask ourselves.

The planning is just beginning. It won’t be easy, but it will be exciting.


Simon Kilmurry
Executive Director