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Notes from the Reel World: The President's Column, Spring 2012

By Marjan Safinia

Dear IDA Community:


They say you can tell a lot about a man by his shoes.

When I first met Eddie Schmidt, our retiring Board President, his shoes stood out most. Silver sparkles, black-and-white checks, psychedelic patterns--he had them all. Over the course of the last three years, I've had the pleasure and honor of working closely with Eddie on the Board of Directors of IDA, and he, like his shoes, has never failed to delight, amuse and amaze. And his are big shoes to fill.

When I applied for the IDA Board, I talked a lot about community. Now, as I step into my new role as President of the Board, community is still uppermost on my mind.

To be frank, it's one of the best things about being a documentary filmmaker. At the risk of invoking Barbra Streisand, we are indeed people who need people. We are drawn to people and their stories, and we rely on the camaraderie of our community to help us navigate the Herculean effort of getting a documentary funded, produced, distributed and seen in a challenging environment.

The hubbub surrounding the Academy's new Oscar rules for documentary served to remind me of just how small and tight-knit our community is. Within hours of The New York Times leaking the proposed rule changes, our community leapt into the fray, and again I was struck by how interconnected we all are. Whatever the distribution channels for our films may be, the idea of rules that might make it harder for great work to be recognized seems like an affront. Isn't it hard enough already? We will be talking about the Academy rule changes at our February Doc U.

I once developed a documentary about a notable economist, a particularly bright and inquisitive man who wanted to know everything about everything. Over the course of a couple of days of shooting, he riddled us with questions about the documentary process, and he finally surmised, "The economics of what you do are broken. I suggest you guys start thinking about different careers..."

So what is it that keeps us going? For me, it's being part of this community. Some of the finest, smartest, most compassionate and generous people I have ever met. And together, by sharing our successes, our failures and our strength in numbers, we will slowly improve our environment so that we can continue to do what we love so much.

You, dear readers, our community, are the driving motivation behind everything we do at IDA. That was true 30 years ago when IDA was founded, and it's still true today. We are constantly striving to better serve you, and to keep chipping away at those obstacles for you, to clear your path. We are here to provide you with a sense of community, and an organization that is watching out for you. We will advocate for you, educate you, fiscally sponsor you, promote you and celebrate you. And that makes us the luckiest people of all.

I'm excited for the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead. And while we bid the fondest farewell to Eddie, and superstar retiring Board Members Sara Hutchison and Steven Reich, they will always be part of our community of documentarians.


Until the next time,


Marjan Safinia
IDA Board President