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

By Michael Lumpkin

Dear IDA Community:

As many readers of Documentary magazine may have already heard, I left IDA at the end of 2014 to accept a new position with the American Film Institute as the Director of AFI Docs, the Institute’s documentary film festival in Washington, DC.

I’m looking forward to building on AFI Docs’ outstanding 13-year history to create a world-class showcase for documentary films in one of the world’s most important cities. But as I look back on six wonderful and productive years at the IDA, it isn’t easy to say goodbye.

I’ve had the good fortune to work closely with the IDA’s dedicated board and talented staff to reach a series of ambitious milestones:

We took the IDA’s DOC U program from a small screening room to the CineFamily Theater, where we presented more programs to more people than ever before, and covered a wider range of topics useful to documentary filmmakers. In 2015, DOC U will be moving to a new home in Hollywood for another round of innovative and productive evenings.

We rose to the challenge when the IDA’s often under-attended, Oscar-qualifying DocuWeeks program became more difficult and costly to produce due to changes in the Academy’s Oscar-qualifying rules. Now, IDA presents a popular new screening series instead, and some of the year’s best documentaries are playing to packed houses.

We expanded the IDA’s efforts as advocates for documentary filmmakers by leading the fight on a number of issues, including securing an exemption in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act that gives documentary filmmakers the ability to make fair use of copyrighted video clips.

We relocated to a larger, more accessible office space that has allowed us to add much-needed staff and welcome more IDA members. Its multi-purpose room is evolving into another center for IDA’s educational programs, such as the recent Master Class with IDA Award-winning Cambodian filmmaker Rithy Panh.

Our incredibly successful 2014 conference, GETTING REAL, raised IDA’s profile and relevance in the national documentary community to new levels and began a dialogue and work on critical issues facing the doc community.

Our 30th IDA Documentary Awards Ceremony on the Paramount Studios Lot was an unprecedented and stellar event—capped by the presentation of the IDA Career Achievement Award to Robert Redford.

All these exciting developments made it hard to leave. But I know that IDA is perfectly poised for its next big leap forward. Its programmatic focus, brand and communications are stronger than ever, and the organization is in very capable hands.

Fortunately, I haven’t gone far—just up the hill from the IDA office to the AFI campus in Los Feliz. From there, I hope to continue working with many of my old colleagues and forge new partnerships with IDA.

Thanks to the entire IDA community for welcoming me so warmly when I arrived in 2009, and supporting me over these last few years. I hope to see you all at documentary events in Los Angeles, Washington and around the world as we continue our work in support of documentary film and filmmakers.


Michael Lumpkin

Executive Director