The International Documentary Association has named Senna (pictured), Il Castello and Better this World as recipients of its new creative achievement awards.

The 27th annual IDA Documentary Awards, held in Los Angeles at the Director’s Guild on December 2, is launching the Creative Recognition Awards to acknowledge cinematography, editing, and music in documentary feature films.

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“Before I met you,” one Emmy-nominated, highly skilled documentary filmmaker said to me, “I thought a producer was just an accountant.”

Several years ago at the IDA Awards, an esteemed member of our community stood at the podium and made a crack about how when he takes a producer credit on his collaborator’s films, “We all know what that means”–which is to say, he isn’t doing much of anything. Everyone had a good laugh.

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Listen to Eddie Schmidt, IDA’s Board President, in conversation with Media Minutes’ Stevie Converse and Candace Clement, as they discuss the Lee Storey IRS case, and IDA’s Amicus Brief in support of documentary filmmakers.

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Documentaries Supposed to Make Money, Court Told


LOS ANGELES — Bad enough that documentarians have a hard time getting an audience for their wares. Now the United States Tax Court is raising alarms throughout the documentary world by questioning whether documentary-making can generally be considered for-profit activity.

The International Documentary Association, Film Independent, and several other film organizations joined Monday in an amicus brief urging the court to recognize that documentaries are overwhelmingly intended to turn a profit, even if many of them never do. The stakes are enormous: if documentary-making were generally construed to be more to persuade than to profit, the deductibility of expenses incurred in the making of such films would come into question.

In a statement on Monday, the groups and their lawyers from the Donaldson & Callif firm in Beverly Hills described a brief they filed in a tax case in which the Internal Revenue Service challenged the business expenses associated with the production of “Smile ‘Til It Hurts: The Up With People Story.” While the groups took no specific position on the facts of the case, they strongly urged that the court back away from a judge’s statement, during a trial in March, expressing an inclination to hold that documentaries in general are intended to “educate and expose” rather than make money.

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Update in the IRS Case Against Documentaries: Do They Satisfy the “Nine-Factor Test”?

By Dana Harris (June 13, 2011)

The International Documentary Assn. has formally announced its legal battle to protect the for-profit status of documentary filmmaking.

As Indiewire reported, the IDA and other organizations have filed an amicus brief urging “the United States Tax Court to recognize that documentary films are overwhelmingly undertaken in pursuit of profit.” Entertainment attorney Michael C. Donaldson is handling the case pro bono.

Said Donaldson: “We recognize that this issue, if left un-thwarted, could have devastating consequences to those artists whose livelihood hinges on enlightening the world at large on significant social subjects.”

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Arguments about truth in documentary filmmaking–how “real” a film is or isn’t–are inherent to the form, part of its DNA.

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Doc U presents an in-depth conversation with Steve James, the award-winning producer-director of Hoop Dreams, the landmark documentary hailed by critic Roger Ebert as “the great American documentary.

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Photos from the Event

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IDA is reaching out to the documentary community for support on an important issue that affects our community.

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“Gasland,” “Fahrenheit” and “Crude” Under Fire: What’s At Stake
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Eddie Schmidt attends the International Documentary Association’s 24th annual awards ceremony at the Directors Guild of America on December 5, 2008 in Los Angeles, California.

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In addition to his tri-annual Presidential column, Eddie often contributes other pieces to the IDA’s mag and website.

[button_round color=”orange” url=”″] Notes from the Reel World–The President’s Column I[/button_round]

[button_round color=”orange” url=””] Notes from the Reel World–The President’s Column II[/button_round]

[button_round color=”orange” url=”http://”]You Too Can Make A Hit Doc! By Eddie Schmidt[/button_round]

[button_round color=”orange” url=”http://”]The Five Obstructions – Revisited. By Eddie Schmidt and Tom White[/button_round]