February 8, 2021

Notes From The Reel World, Winter 2021

Photo by Mark Hayes

Dear Documentary Community,

This past fall, I announced that I would be stepping down from IDA in 2021. Over the past few months we’ve all been living through an unprecedented pandemic, inspiring movements for racial justice, and uncertain political situations. That has caused many of us to reflect on our lives and our choices. I made my decision full of hope for IDA, the world of documentary, and whatever my role in that world may be moving forward.

As I look back to how IDA has grown since 2015 and the work it is doing today, I see that IDA has become an essential institution within our documentary community and I feel an incredible sense of optimism that IDA will only continue to grow and be that leading voice we need. 

I joined a very different organization back in 2015. My immediate predecessor, Michael Lumpkin, had made great strides in building the organization, and it was on that foundation that we continued to build and expand. With the support and essential contributions of immensely talented colleagues and a board of directors focused on our mission, we have achieved a lot! 

In 2017, with key support from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, we launched the IDA Enterprise Documentary Fund. Since then, we have given out $4 million in grants. We knew that supporting diverse makers was and is essential, so it is gratifying to see that over 70% of our grantees have been women, and over 70% have been filmmakers of color. In 2018, we launched the Logan Elevate grants specifically to support emerging women filmmakers of color.

Getting Real, our biennial filmmaker conference, has grown and evolved into an international town square, where filmmakers, industry representatives and others can meet on the same level to explore how to bring about positive change in our field. The most recent digital edition drew over 3,100 attendees from 54 countries.

At the beginning of the pandemic, we, in partnership with Firelight Media and ITVS, shifted into rapid-response mode to provide essential information to filmmakers on how to access support during these unprecedented times. We have expanded our coverage of the field through Documentary magazine, and we have strengthened our impact internationally. In partnership with other organizations, IDA has become a key advocate for filmmakers, fighting for freedom of expression and freedom from persecution. The IDA Documentary Awards has continued to grow into a truly international event. 

It is thanks to IDA’s incredible list of supporters and our growing membership that we have been able to do this work. I feel very proud that a new leader will have a very solid foundation and the support of an amazing team and board to build a vision for an ever more impactful IDA. 

With gratitude,

Simon Kilmurry

Executive Director

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