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Notes from the Reel World, Summer 2022

By Rick Pérez

Rick Perez, a Latino man wearing a blue blazer over a black t-shirt, is looking out beyond an orange wall; office buildings are in the background. Photo: by Adam G Perez,

Dear Documentary Community,

Just over a year ago, I began my tenure as IDA’s first Latinx executive director. I accepted the position hoping to address the systemic inequities and biases that undermine the documentary industry. But this endeavor was interrupted by numerous staff resignations, causing turmoil and confusion in the larger community. 

I humbly admit that during this period, the board and I struggled to effectively communicate to the community what was happening. This was due to the legal constraints involving confidential personnel matters. I also regret that I did not effectively manage declining staff morale while working to rebuild the senior leadership team, deliver programmatic commitments, and address the concerns of our members and the community. Today, however, IDA is on the path to addressing staff concerns and uniting our constituents. 

Some of the actions IDA has taken include hiring a human resources consultant to develop and implement best employment practices. We are now well on our way to ensuring our organization adopts policies appropriate for a nonprofit of our size. 

When 11 IDA staff members voted to form a union last March, the board and I voluntarily recognized their efforts. We embrace the unionizing process and have hired labor attorney and workers’ rights advocate Kathy Krieger to represent IDA in the bargaining process. We look forward to negotiating in good faith so that IDA can continue meeting its mission with a staff that feels supported to do so.

Our new leadership team is the most diverse and inclusive in the organization’s history. Abby Sun, Director of Artist Programs, a former programmer at True/False Film Festival, is leading the programming for Getting Real ‘22. Keisha Knight, Director of IDA Funds, co-founded Sentient.Art.Film, an organization dedicated to expanding distribution opportunities for filmmakers. Director of Development Brian J. Davis honed his fundraising skills at nonprofits that serve LGBTQ youth. Zaferhan Yumru, Director of Marketing, Communications, and Design, joins us from the New Orleans Film Society, where he helped significantly grow their audience. Louise Rosen, IDA’s Interim Managing Director has been working in independent media and the arts for over 30 years, starting her career in international film and television as Director of Sales and Co-productions at Boston PBS station WGBH, later launching her own distribution company and sales agency.

Abby Sun, Keisha Knight, Brian Davis, Zaferhan Yumru, and Louise Rosen.

 IDA also elected new board officers and three new board members deeply committed to supporting the vital work of documentary storytellers. Led by Chris Pérez, Grace Lee, Amir Shahkhalili and Marcia Smith, the board is enacting a set of best practices under the guidance of nonprofit board consultant Tim Kittleson, whose clients have included the Academy of Motion Picture Arts Sciences and currently serves on the Outfest board as co-chair of the Governance Committee.

Throughout this period of transition, we delivered on our programmatic commitments. We concluded the open call for the Enterprise Fund, and launched The Sarowitz Project Completion Fund. We renewed our grant with the New York Community Trust, which supports the IDA Pare Lorentz Documentary Fund, and pivoted to a virtual edition of the IDA Documentary Awards when the Omicron variant prevented an in-person event. We celebrated a special set of honorees at an intimate luncheon at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival; and opened submissions for the 38th IDA Documentary Awards. 

In September the community will come together for Getting Real 2022. Our highly anticipated conference is a chance to address issues related to the present and future of the documentary field. This year’s theme, Flipping the Frame: Community, Imagination, Reverberation, encompasses the work that lies ahead of us.

We live in tumultuous times: war, mass shootings, an evolving global pandemic, a surge of hate crimes against multiple communities, and the dismantling of abortion rights in the US. We must not be seduced by misinformation, or impulses to sustain divisions. My goal for IDA and my leadership is to strive for reconciliation and restorative engagement.

In solidarity,

Rick Pérez
IDA Executive Director