The International Documentary Association (IDA) announced today that Richard Ray Perez has been named the organization’s next executive director. Perez, a nonfiction film strategist and documentary filmmaker, succeeds Simon Kilmurry, who is stepping down after seven years.
Perez, a native of Los Angeles, most recently worked as director of acquisitions and distribution strategies at GBH’s WORLD Channel. He previously developed, designed, and led filmmaking programs at the Sundance Institute as director of creative partnerships.
Perez is starting immediately at the IDA. His appointment comes after Kilmurry announced in the fall that he would step down from the post he’s held since 2015.
In an interview with IndieWire, Perez reflected on how systemic racism, sparked by the police killing of George Floyd, has been pushed into the forefront of conversation over the last year. While the commercial prospects of documentaries has never been greater, Perez said he sees an opportunity to expand the conventional thinking around what films — and which filmmakers — are worth investing in during a time when the industry’s resources have never been more plentiful.
“As we go forward as a field, as an industry, what I really want to do collectively is tap into a cumulative wisdom that we’re garnering from this moment,” Perez said. “Documentary itself has been exploding, but there was an element of what is happening in society as a whole, what I might call a disparity of resources. What I want is to work with players across the field — the independent sector, the commercial sector — to not default to how we used to work before.”
Perez said as nonfiction films are playing an increasingly important role in shaping a global narrative, it’s crucial that historically underrepresented filmmakers have the opportunity to add their perspectives to the conversation.
Many underrepresented filmmakers and their projects are met with skepticism, Perez said, something he understands first hand. His most recent directorial effort, “Cesar’s Last Fast,” took seven years to make. The documentary focuses on labor leader Cesar Chavez’s 1988 hunger strike in protest of the dangers of pesticides to farm workers.
The film went on to premiere at Sundance in 2014 and was acquired by Univision and Participant’s Pivot. Writing for the New York Times, Carlos Aguilar named it one of the 20 essential American Latino films since 2000.
At GBH, Perez curated and acquired documentary film projects for the WORLD Channel’s three original series.
At Sundance, he developed, designed, and led filmmaking programs including Stories of Change, which supported the development and production of 46 projects. He also designed and led the Documentary Story and Edit Lab in Beijing, which provided creative mentorship and grants to independent filmmakers in China.
“We are thrilled to welcome Rick into the IDA family. We strongly believe that Rick is uniquely qualified to lead the IDA through these continued extraordinary times where our voice in the field, as well as the depth of resources we offer to the documentary community as a whole, will matter even more,” said IDA Board President Brenda Robinson. “We were all fortunate to have Simon Kilmurry with us during these past six very meaningful years, as his leadership has truly been transformative for the IDA. Simon has laid the groundwork for a solid foundation that all of us can continue to build upon. In that regard, he leaves a lasting legacy that truly changed the course of the IDA towards an even more promising future.”