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Notes from the Reel World, Spring 2017

By Simon Kilmurry

Dear IDA Community,

At the IDA Awards last December, legendary producer Norman Lear said, "As we enter a very dangerous time in our country, with a president-elect who does not seem to understand, much less cherish, the Constitution, I am happier than I am able to express that there is an International Documentary Association to fight for the First Amendment…If he or his administration in any way threatens the free speech rights of our documentary filmmakers, the IDA and every supporter in this room must—will, I am sure—hunker down together and fight our asses off."

We face an immediate crisis in our democracy, in our media and in the arts, so now is the time to be fighting our asses off. We need to be fighting to protect the truth from distortion, and we need to be fighting to hold those in power accountable. We need to be fighting to make sure documentary filmmakers have the resources and support to do this work. And this is a fight not just for the present, but for the foreseeable future and beyond. To do that, we need a strong International Documentary Association—one that has in place the strategy, personnel and resources to fight this fight—and we need your support. IDA is well-positioned to do this work. Over the past few months we have:

  • announced a $5 million investment, with funding from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, in documentary journalism through IDA’s Enterprise Documentary Fund, which will support filmmakers not only with production resources, but also with legal support, research, mentorship and training, so that we have filmmakers out there investigating and telling urgent, high-stakes stories;

  • rededicated IDA to supporting advocacy and policy work by hiring a new Director of Programming and Policy, Claire Aguilar, who is charged with supporting the field and spearheading the necessary work to protect our institutions such as the NEA, NEH and public media. Claire will set the framework and develop resources to protect filmmakers under threat;

  • expanded IDA’s work to build a sustainable, diverse and thriving documentary field, through our Getting Real conference, workshops around the country, convenings and strategy sessions with partners.

This is just a start, and these changes represent only a few that will help IDA establish a core foundation so we can better respond to the immediate crisis in our democracy and be poised for unforeseen threats. But there is much work to be done if we are to be truly effective.

We need you to stand up and let us know your concerns. We need to you to support IDA, in whatever capacity you can. We need you to spread the word and get your friends and colleagues to join us.

Thanks for your support, thanks for speaking up and thanks for having the courage to be documentary filmmakers!


Simon Kilmurry
IDA Executive Director