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Notes from the Reel World, The Executive Director's Column, Summer 2009

By Michael Lumpkin

Dear Readers,

Four months ago, when I came to Los Angeles to assume the position as executive director at the International Documentary Association, I was thrilled to be joining an organization with a long history as a leader in the documentary field. Now, I'm even more excited about the role the organization can play today and in the years ahead, as IDA helps documentary filmmakers cope with uncertain times by making it easier for them get the funding they need, get to the places they need to go and get their movies on the screen.

The current recession will make funding a documentary harder than ever. IDA will help filmmakers find their way in this changing financial landscape by offering a series of special classes, through our Doc U series, focused on how to compete for the ever-dwindling pool of available funds.

Getting a film seen is also becoming more complicated as digital content delivery replaces traditional venues for documentaries. To make sure that nonfiction film has a place in the new digital world, IDA is establishing a major partnership with SnagFilms, an advertising-supported, online documentary venue, to launch the IDA Channel featuring IDA Award-winning films. The launch will happen later this year.

IDA will also continue working to make sure filmmakers have the freedom and the access they need to tell their stories. In March we helped spread the word about Iranian filmmaker Mohammad Ehsani who was accused of "seeking to overthrow the Iranian government" after returning home from the US.

IDA also stepped in recently to help Linda Goldstein Knowlton after she was denied the visa she needed to travel to China to film her IDA-sponsored project, The Sisterhood, about trans-racial adoption. IDA interceded with the Chinese government on Knowlton's behalf and the visa was issued. A week later, IDA assisted a group of Chinese documentary filmmakers in obtaining visas to travel to the US.

But of course, IDA cannot continue to provide these and other services to filmmakers unless it remains strong and solvent through these difficult times. With that in mind, we at IDA are looking for ways for the organization to tighten its belt. Our first step is the initiation of a strategic planning process designed to ensure that IDA has the resources it needs to fulfill its mission.

None of this will be easy. But I know it can be done. I also know that I have the great fortune of arriving at IDA at a very exciting time--one in which the challenges are outweighed by opportunities. I look forward to working with all of you to meet these challenges, seize these opportunities and create a stronger and more relevant IDA.


Michael Lumpkin
Executive Director