Skip to main content

My Life at the IDA: An Intern Perspective

While on a worldwide trek, I suddenly came up with the idea that I wanted to start producing documentaries when I returned home to Germany in September 2000. After New Zealand, the USA was the next country on my list; more precisely, Hollywood. I was sure that there I could get an internship and gain knowledge aboul creating documentaries.

After applying to several organizations, I received word from back home in Germany that a letter from an organization called the International Documentary Association had arrived for me. My sister read it to me over the phone. Merely a week afier I had a short but very promising conversation with the IDA's Darren Hand in Los Angeles, I had my first day in the IDA office!

When I first arived, the whole office staff was gathered for a meeting. I was introduced first to the "bosses": David Haugland, President; Betsy A. McLane, Executive Director; Grace Ouchida, Managing Director. I soon came to know all of them as hard-working but very friendly people. I was then introduced to the "crew," who, being my "direct bosses," kept me busy helping them out wherever and however I could: Amitai Adler, 26, Membership Administrator; Darren Hand, 25, Operations Manager; Melissa Disharoon, 27, Programs and Festival Administrator and Jessica Rath, 31, ID Managing Editor. One thing they have to do constantly through out the day is answer the telephone-and they do it highly professionally. Callers are greeted with warm and friendly voices, giving them the feeling of talking to a good old friend.

When they are not on the phone, Darren takes care of the finances and the website and oversees the interns. He also keeps the office running, making sure all the necessary supplies are ordered and tending to the Big Move to the new downtown offices. Melissa has a very special talent on the phone dealing with over 100 IDA fiscally sponsored film projects; maybe that's because she used to be an actress. This and her many other skills made the 2000 IDA Oscar' reception a great evening, with twice as many guests as in previous years. Both Darren and Melissa have been working for the IDA for about 18 months now.

Jessica started a year ago and "sculpted" a perfect DocuDay 2000, as she is a sculptor in her leisure time. She also manages the lnternational Documentary magazine that was published well in time for the Oscar events. And I know from previous experience that such an accomplishment really isn't so easy.

When you call the office and hear: "IDA, this is Ami," in a very calm and almost therapeutic voice, you are talking with Amitai, the man with the overview who can tell you everything about being or becoming a member. But if you like, you can meander into other topics which may pique his interest. None of the staff is a documentarian, but all have been involved in various aspects of art, acting, design and history.

Within the last eight years, I was told, Betsy has changed the image of the IDA by keeping abreast of all the doc news through international traveling and networking. With her Ph.D in film studies and history, she is the real resident documentary expert. Grace, so I heard, has the "big picture" in mind. She knows where the limits are—the limits of resources that is—since she manages the accounts. She supervises the office and has no problems making decisions if anyone doesn't know how to proceed. And, of course, one should never forget the Doc dogs. Darren's little Lucy became a good friend of mine and she makes sure that there is always action in the office, keeping Grace's Casper and Betsy's two dogs, Oengus and Pinky, busy.

All of the IDA staff are young, energetic and encouraging people who apparently have a lot of fun working together. I really enjoyed the working atmosphere there during my sixweek internship and hope to stay in touch with all of them.


Anja Rohlf is well on her way to becoming a young, talent in the documentary film industry.