IDA Executive Director Rick Pérez Announces Intention To Resign, Ending Troubled Tenure
UPDATED with statements from Rick Pérez and the IDA board from original Dec. 6, 8:27 am story: Outgoing IDA executive director Rick Pérez and the board of the IDA issued statements today, a day after we broke the news that Pérez would be departing as leader of the nonprofit documentary organization.
Pérez wrote in a message addressed to IDA Members, “Monday, I announced to IDA staff that I will be stepping down as Executive Director of IDA, effective December 23, 2022. Admittedly, this last year has been a challenging one for IDA in many respects. Despite those challenges, however, the board of directors and I built a talented and dedicated team who have delivered on key IDA programs, including Getting Real ‘22 which reached a record audience in 69 countries, the distribution of nearly $1 million in grants to filmmakers, and the launch of the Nonfiction Access Initiative. I am pleased to leave behind a talented staff, the most diverse staff in IDA’s history, who I’m confident will continue to evolve the organization. In the short term, I plan to return to filmmaking – working directly with directors and producers. I will also remain a member of the IDA family and an engaged member of the documentary community. Warmest Regards, Rick Pérez.”
In its own statement, the IDA’s executive committee — composed of co-presidents Grace Lee and Chris Pérez, secretary Amir Shahkhalili, and treasurer Marcia Smith, wrote in a message addressed to the IDA community, “First off, we would like to thank Rick Pérez for his commitment and work with IDA during a period of enormous transition for the organization. We wish him well in his future endeavors and appreciate his service in the face of many challenges.
“We have engaged Ken Ikeda, an experienced nonprofit executive, to help the organization through this transition. Ken will work with the board and staff as we re-examine the IDA’s role and mission in a rapidly shifting documentary field. The work to strengthen the IDA, grow our shared vision for a more equitable and inclusive documentary community, and fulfill the organization’s essential obligations to the field continues.
“Ken will serve as interim executive director and will guide a process that includes staff, board and community to continue imagining the next 40 years of IDA. Ken has led organizations through executive transitions, hirings and strategic planning with a record of success and impact wherever he has been. He has previously led BAVC Media, Public Media Company, Association of Independents in Radio and served on the Boards of organizations including Youth Speaks, Color Congress, KALW, Greater Public, and the Center for Asian American Media.
“As we move through these transitions, we want to assure members and those of you with Fiscal Sponsored projects that we have dedicated staff who are ensuring that all of our programming, funds, and grants are continuing as usual, including the 38th annual IDA Documentary Awards.
“We are excited to gather in person as a community for the first time since 2019 to celebrate the artistic accomplishments of nonfiction media makers’ over the past year. We look forward to seeing many of you at Paramount Studios this Saturday, December 10, or on the YouTube Livestream.
“At the top of the year, we will turn our full attention to the next stage in the 40-year life of the IDA and the critical field role that the IDA must continue to play. We need you to join us. We hope that you will continue to engage with us moving forward – contributing your thoughts and ideas, your analysis of the challenges facing the field, and the role we can play as an organization – and you will hear more from us on ways you can be involved. In the meantime, and as always, feel free to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.”
Earlier: EXCLUSIVE: Rick Pérez has announced his intention to resign as executive director of the International Documentary Association, with word coming just days before the organization’s signature annual event, the IDA Awards, Deadline has learned exclusively.
The surprise announcement came during a meeting with staff late Monday, a gathering that included IDA personnel both in-person and virtually. His resignation takes effect December 23, Pérez said.
“Rick thanked the staff for their work and acknowledged the difficulties as well as successes during the past year and a half as executive director, but that the challenges of leading a changing organization, during and post-pandemic, have weighed on him,” an IDA spokesperson told Deadline. “Ultimately, he decided his work was done and that he wanted to return to filmmaking, and working with directors, producers, and others as well as creating film projects, his true passion. He announced that his last day will be December 23.”
The IDA announced that non-profit veteran Ken Ikeda will serve as interim executive director. The board, led by co-presidents Grace Lee and Chris Pérez (no relation to Rick), noted, “The IDA board is confident in the ongoing work of the senior leadership and staff,” according to the spokesperson.
Pérez joined the IDA in May 2021, but his tenure was marked by tensions with IDA staff. In January of this year, four senior staff members resigned, protesting Pérez’s leadership style, which they characterized as abusive and belittling. Over a period of months, the IDA lost more than half of its staff (by one estimate 18 of 23 staff members left during Pérez’s time as ED; the organization has brought on a number of staffers to replace them). One of those who resigned earlier in the year was Cassidy Dimon, who served as associate director of public programs and events. She wrote on her departure, “The current atmosphere at the organization, that I and many other staff members experienced as hostile and intimidating, made it untenable for me to stay.”
The IDA’s board had strenuously backed Pérez and said staff departures were not unexpected when an organization faces a leadership change. Pérez succeeded Simon Kilmurry, who served as executive director for six years.
Pérez took the top job at the IDA after holding senior positions with the Sundance Institute and WGBH. He became the IDA’s first BIPOC executive director (Grace Ouchida served as acting executive director in 2000) and its second LGBTQ leader (after Michael Lumpkin). His documentary credits include co-directing (with Lorena Parlee) the 2014 film Cesar’s Last Fast, about United Farm Workers leader Cesar Chavez, and co-directing (with Joan Sekler) the 2002 film Unprecedented: The 2000 Presidential Election.
The IDA is currently celebrating its 40th anniversary. The organization founded in 1982 oversees a series of educational and development programs for filmmakers, including the IDA Documentary Enterprise Fund, the Pare Lorentz Documentary Fund, and the IDA+XRM Media Incubator.
The annual IDA Documentary Awards will be held Saturday, December 10 on the Paramount Studios lot in Hollywood. The organization describes the ceremony as “the world’s most prestigious event dedicated to the documentary genre, celebrating the best nonfiction films and programs of the year.”
(This piece has been updated to note that Rick Pérez was the IDA’s second LGBTQ executive director, and to provide more details on staff departures. Due to an autocorrect problem, a previous version of this story incorrectly applied the accent to the second “e” in Pérez’s name, instead of the first).