The IDA has announced the hiring of two senior staff members and a consultant, in what the embattled organization calls “a major step forward.”
Arts administrator and film festival programmer Keisha Knight has been appointed director of the IDA Funds and Enterprise Program, a critical role that involves interfacing with grant-making entities that fund IDA initiatives.
“In this capacity [Knight] will oversee a portfolio of IDA’s granting programs, “the IDA said in a release,” including IDA Enterprise Documentary Fund, Logan elevate and Equity grants, and the Pare Lorentz Documentary Fund, XRM Media Incubator, and Netflix Global Emerging Filmmaker Award. “
Abby Sun, a filmmaker, researcher, and artist at the MIT Open Documentary Lab, has been hired as the IDA’s director of artist programs. One of her major responsibilities will be to develop thematic content for the IDA’s Getting Real 2022 conference, which is scheduled for September.
Louise Rosen, a veteran producer, sales agent, distributor and former executive and artistic director of the Maine Jewish Film Festival, has come on board as a senior consultant to the IDA, effective this week.
“Louise’s perspective, expertise, and nonprofit management experience,” noted IDA executive director Rick Pérez, “will help us facilitate the IDA’s fulfillment of its immediate obligations to the documentary community and going forward, clarifying the role we can play in advocating on its behalf. . ”
Sun and Knight start their new positions on Monday.
“This is a critical time of transition for IDA as we assess where we’ve been for the last four decades and how we want to evolve moving forward,” said IDA’s newly-elected board co-chairs Chris Pérez and Grace Lee. “We are excited to welcome our newest colleagues as we continue to reflect on how we can best serve the documentary filmmaking community and a more equitable IDA.”
Knight takes the job formerly held by Poh Si Teng, one of four senior directors who resigned in early January after filing a complaint with the board that was critical of Pérez’s leadership and of actions taken by the board that the directors said were inimical to the IDA’s goal of fostering greater diversity, equity and inclusion in the documentary field. Since then, several more staffers have resigned, one of them citing what she described as a “hostile and intimidating” work environment under Pérez. The board has defended Pérez’s conduct and said an independent investigation of the complaint filed by four senior staffers found no basis for their claims.
Rank and file IDA employees, organizing under the banner Documentary Workers United, are pressing ahead with plans to form a union under the auspices of the Communications Workers of America Local 9003. Last week, they filed a notice with the NLRB of their intent to hold a union election. According to the DWU, senior director positions at the IDA, including those filled with Thursday’s announcement, will not fall under their union.
Earlier this week, the IDA board’s executive committee posted on Medium, reiterating what it said was its support for the unionization movement.
“This is an exciting development that provides an opportunity to move forward together with staff,” said the post signed by Grace Lee, Chris Pérez (no relation to Rick Pérez), Amir Shahkhalili, and Marcia Smith. “To make it absolutely clear, we enthusiastically support and recognize workers’ right to unionize.”
The Medium post acknowledged the turbulence of the organization has faced going back to last year.
“IDA is grappling with an existential crisis. Over the last year, we have experienced internal conflicts and multiple transitions at the staff, executive and board level, including sadly, a number of resignations, ”the post said. “These internal changes came fast and furious, with little opportunity to digest before the next disruption. We’ve also seen how our communication shortcomings have led to factual inaccuracies and contributed to distress and confusion within our documentary community. ”
Earlier this week, the IDA held another virtual meeting with documentary field leaders to discuss its plans to move forward in the wake of the dissension between staff, the board and ED Rick Pérez. A similar meeting was held on March 9.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to clarify that Documentary Workers United says senior director positions won’t fall within their planned union.