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Notes from the Reel World: The Executive Director's Column Fall 2018

By Simon Kilmurry

Dear Documentary Community,

IDA’s biennial Getting Real '18 documentary conference is upon us, and it feels like the right time to look back at what has happened since our last gathering in 2016—and to look a little bit forward too.

In 2016, the themes of Getting Real—career sustainability, diversity and the evolving craft of documentary storytelling—were the big topics. And these themes make a return in varying forms in 2018. The questions and issues underlying them do not lend themselves to easy solutions and quick fixes. And yet if we stand back, we can see that some progress, stuttering as it may be, has been made.

Getting Real presents an opportunity for communities of interest to align and shape the agenda for the field. In 2016, Getting Real hosted the first convening of A-Doc, a coalition of Asian American documentary makers that has since grown into a vibrant,  connected community that meets regularly at industry events across the country. And the Documentary Producers Alliance has since emerged as a supporter and advocate for creative producers wrestling with hard questions such as fair compensation and credits. Getting Real '16 inspired a host of regional conversations, from Maine to the Midwest, about how to build a more sustainable documentary career. These are small steps, but encouraging ones. But conversations are not enough. We need you to define what concrete actions can be implemented.

At Getting Real '18, we'll host a convening of disabled documentary makers and a discussion on what obstacles filmmakers with disabilities face. We’ll reveal the results of the second iteration of our longitudinal "State of the Field" study, conducted in partnership with the Center for Media and Social Impact, to see how the field is shifting and how people are making a living. We’'ll have a frank discussion of the emotional and financial toll that making documentaries can take on us and strategies for a healthier, more balanced approach.

And, of course, we must recognize that we now exist in a political environment where the media is demonized, so we'll examine threats to free speech and strategies for staying safe.

But this is just a tiny sampling of what we’ll be doing at Getting Real '18. It will be a dizzying, invigorating and packed few days that will help shape the agenda for the next few years. So reach out and tell us what you think, what you need and how we can come together to create more opportunities to build a vibrant documentary field.


Simon Kilmurry

Executive Director