In addition to our year-round programming, IDA spearheads research that leads to a better understanding of the problems facing the field and solutions in fortifying the documentary ecosystem.
Tools of The Trade: Documentary Equipment Survey
Tools of The Trade: Documentary Equipment Survey was designed by IDA for documentary filmmakers to share insights about their favorite equipment, user experiences, and biggest challenges. Conducted in two parts, the survey provides a comprehensive portrait of the technology and equipment most preferred by documentary professionals.
The State of the Documentary Field: Survey of Documentary Professionals
The State of the Documentary Field initiative is a collaboration between IDA and the Center for Media & Social Impact (CMSI) with the goal to understand trends and experiences of contemporary documentary professionals primarily based in the United States. The pilot report was released at Getting Real '16. It was designed to understand documentary industry members' perspectives and lived experiences based on four key themes that emerged as paramount to the field: challenges and motivations in their work, the question of financial sustainability as a documentarian, diversity on and behind the camera, and film distribution.
The 2018 report reveals the first formal foray into this work. Wider access to filmmaking technology, the proliferation of online platforms and questions of inclusivity within filmmaking were particularly salient in this survey, which was conducted in two parts: Part 1, which allowed any self-described professional from the documentary field to answer, and Part 2, directed at directors, producers and other decision-making roles in the field.
The 2020 report presented some unique challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite this, two reports were released. The first report provides the story and 15 Key Findings from US-based documentary professionals and makers. The second report provides insights from the full global data, presented in two parts: all global data and US alone. Together, the full research is based on the experiences of about 900 documentary professionals all over the globe. The study will be repeated every other year by CMSI, with feedback from the IDA.
State of the Field: A Report From the Documentary Sustainability Summit
In 2017, the National Endowment of the Arts and IDA hosted a one-day Documentary Sustainability Summit featuring filmmakers, directors, producers and various professionals in the documentary community, as well as leaders from the federal, state, and local governments. The summit held panel presentations and group activities to discuss the positive impact in the documentary field, with emergent themes including cross-sector connectivity, the need for public engagement and the strengthening of peer-to-peer networks. This report summarizes the key findings from the summit.
Mapping the Documentary-Journalism Landscape
IDA and National Endowment for the Arts, in partnership with the Jonathan B. Murray Center for Documentary Journalism at the University of Missouri, created a resource guide for documentary filmmakers working on journalistic projects. This guide is designed to bridge the methodological gap between journalists and documentary filmmakers, who often use similar techniques of storytelling and investigation in their work. Whether it be questions of what rights the First Amendment guarantees, what rights to privacy people can expect or what ethical decisions must be made when telling the stories of someone else’s life, this guide streamlines ways to find information when working on a compelling story.
Documentary Preservation Summit
Documentary films capture vital moments of history and culture that are at great risk of being lost if we don’t pay greater attention to their preservation. Every filmmaker must be an archivist for their own work. In March and April of 2015, the IDA partnered with DOC NYC to present the Documentary Preservation Summit, a two-day gathering of filmmakers, preservation experts and others to address the risks of losing access to important documentary films and strategies for ensuring their future.