Participant’s Diane Weyermann, longtime champion of docs, passes away

Diane Weyermann, a champion of the documentary genre through her career with Participant Media, the Sundance Institute and the Open Society Foundation, has passed away at the age of 66 ...
October 15, 2021

Diane Weyermann, a champion of the documentary genre through her career with Participant Media, the Sundance Institute and the Open Society Foundation, has passed away at the age of 66 following her battle with cancer.

Most recently, Weyermann served as chief content officer at Participant Media, where, since 2005, she shepherded such acclaimed documentaries as Davis Guggenheim’s An Inconvenient Truth, Laura Poitras’s Citizenfour, and Dawn Porter’s John Lewis: Good Trouble among many others.

She executive produced 48 films at Participant, and collectively, her projects have earned 10 Academy Award nominations and four wins, eight Emmy nominations and three wins, three BAFTA nominations and one win, and five Spirit Award nominations and three wins.

Weyermann came to Participant following her time at the Sundance Institute. She first joined the organization in 2002, after founding the Soros Documentary Fund as part of the New York-based Open Society Foundation. At Sundance, as with her work at Participant, she had a monumental impact on the documentary genre, founding the Sundance Documentary Film Program and overseeing its Documentary Film Fund, creating the Documentary Edit & Story Lab, and co-creating the Documentary Composers Lab with Peter Golub.

“From day 1, Diane brought a passion to her work and cared deeply about the battles we helped fight over the issues portrayed in each film,” said Participant founder Jeff Skoll in a statement. “Over 17 years together, she was a champion in every way, through strategic, industry, and emerging global challenges. Diane was the heart and soul of Participant. I will miss her spirit, her collegiality, and the effervescence she brought to everything she touched. I am deeply grateful for Diane’s dedication to helping me build Participant. Our team, the film industry, and the world have suffered a great loss. Diane was one of a kind.”

Tabitha Jackson, director of the Sundance Film Festival, said via a statement: “Diane was gentle, and she was strong. Her commitment to the work was legendary. She is gone far too soon. Her smile is still visible and her laugh is still audible‚Ķ And it will be a long time before using the past tense will feel okay.”

“It is not hyperbole to say that Diane Weyermann changed the world for the better in a remarkable way,” said former Vice President and subject of An Inconvenient Truth, Al Gore. “She shone a powerful spotlight on stories that provoked thoughtful action to promote justice and ignited progress toward a better, safer and more equitable future. With her skill and passion, she spurred millions to become changemakers. Her deep and heartfelt empathy, creative vision, and unwavering commitment to supporting each and every person she encountered made her the most cherished of colleagues, mentors, and friends.

“I am devastated by her loss,” he added. “It is beyond heartbreaking. And I am forever grateful for her friendship and for the incredible legacy that she leaves to the world.”

Scores of documentary filmmakers have also registered their grief over the news. In a tweet, RBG co-director Julie Cohen¬†wrote: “Diane Weyermann was a superstar documentary exec. But she was an even more stellar human being.” Alex Gibney, via his Twitter account, wrote: “She was a guiding light to all documentarians. I’m shattered by the loss. And inspired by the memory of what she has done.”

Citizenfour director Laura Poitras offered: “As a friend and collaborator, she was the best. Brilliant, fierce, funny, and honest.”

Tributes also came from Blue Ant Media’s Laura Michalchyshyn, who posted via Twitter: “So devastated to hear that the most incredible human and magnificent supporter of all of us in the documentary world has died tonight.” TIFF doc programmer and DOC NYC co-founder Thom Powers tweeted: “Diane Weyermann had an unparalleled career championing documentary filmmakers at Soros, Sundance and Participant. She nurtured thousands of creative seeds that grew into profound works where her spirit continues to shine.”

A memorial fund has been established by the Camden International Film Festival (CIFF) as well as Weyermann’s family, friends and colleagues and will be administered through CIFF parent company the Points North Institute, “to underwrite efforts in support of emerging documentary filmmakers, a mission that Diane fervently believed in.” To find out more about the fund, click here.

A memorial service will be announced at a later date.

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