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Notes from the Reel World: The President's Column, June-July 2006

By diane estelle Vicari

Dear IDA Community:

At a time when the question of "relevance" of nonprofit media arts organizations is blowing like a cold spring wind, interest groups can't help reflecting on their roles in the shaping of public opinion on issues of relevance to themselves!

It is no news that nonprofit media arts organizations struggle to stay afloat. There is no guarantee that when individuals join the board of an organization, it will succeed during their terms. But every time we witness the struggles of one of our contemporaries because it is perceived to be no longer "relevant" to our community, we all have lost.

How does one begin to measure relevance, and what does it really mean to be "pertinent to the matter at hand?" How often have you, as filmmakers, been told that "your story" is irrelevant to the current market?

In 1981, when founder Linda Buzzell decided she should join a professional organization of documentary filmmakers, her research failed to turn up such an organization. She told her husband, "Well, I want to join, so I'd better start one." Today's IDA board reflects the constituents of the organization--directors, producers, cinematographers, writers, editors, publicists, lawyers, distributors and so on--all committed to promoting the mission of our organization.

Documentaries may be "hot," but so is today's climate. More then ever, one needs to join a peer group to take on political, technical, economical and ideological issues. In 2002, IDA gathered a national assembly of independent filmmakers, unions and media arts colleagues to form the Documentary Credits Coalition, which helped to ensure that filmmakers receive proper on-screen credits. In 2003, IDA united in support of the Writers Guild of America, west's campaign to secure WGA pay and benefits for nonfiction writers. In 2005, in association with AIVF, Independent Feature Project, National Alliance for Media Arts and Culture and Women in Film and Video (Washington, DC Chapter), and in consultation with the Washington, DC-based Center for Social Media, IDA endorsed the Documentary Filmmakers' Statement of Best Practices on Fair Use. In the near future, US Congress is to consider adopting "orphan works" legislation. IDA representatives worked with the US Copyright Office to make recommendations to help frame this legislation. Finally, IDA joined a consortium spearheaded by Carl Malamud of the Washington, DC-based Center for American Progress to voice concern over the Smithsonian Institution's joint venture with Showtime Networks, which would seriously restrict access to both the Smithsonian's vast collection and to its corps of curators.

When one of us chooses to leave our peer group, we lose one more chance to survive as a collective. It is in our commonality that we can make a difference.

We welcome your voices!


With gratitude,

diane estelle Vicari
IDA President