Diane Weyermann, head of content at Participant and former director of the Sundance Institute’s documentary film program, died Thursday of cancer in New York City. She was 66 years old.
Over the past three decades, Weyermann has been instrumental in supporting the documentary community and shaping the non-fiction landscape during appearances with Participant and the Sundance Institute. Oscar-winning docuses including “An Inconvenient Truth” (2006) by Davis Guggenheim, “Citizenfour” (2014) and “American Factory” (2019) by Laura Poitras are among the many projects Weyermann has helped lead.
Weyermann joined Participant in 2005, a year after Jeff Skoll founded the socially responsible production company. For 12 years, she was responsible for the production company’s list of documentary and television feature films. In 2017, Weyermann was promoted to president and, in 2019, appointed director of content at the Los Angeles-based news house, where she was responsible for Participant’s list of documentaries, feature films and television.
During his tenure at Participant, Weyermann oversaw the production of docuses, which included âDarfur Nowâ (2007) by Ted Braun and âFood, Inc.â by Robert Kenner. (2008), “Standard Operating Procedure” by Errol Morris (2008), “The Look of Silence” by Joshua Oppenheimer (2014), “The Music of Strangers: Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble” by Morgan Neville ( 2015) and â3 1/2 Minutesâ by Marc Silver (2015).
In February, Weyermann played a key role in Participant’s partnership with Neon on the North American distribution of Jonas Poher Rasmussen’s documentary “Flee.” In March, the participant again partnered with Neon as well as National Geographic on Matthew Heineman’s COVID doc âThe First Waveâ.
In 2018, Participant released their first documentary television series, “America to Me” by Steve James – a Starz project Weyermann produced. James has teamed up with Participant again on his National Geographic 2021 four-part series “City So Real”. For his efforts on HBO’s âCity So Realâ and âAmerican Utopiaâ by David Byrne, Weyermann received two Primetime Emmy nominations this year. (Weyermann also received an Emmy name in 2010 for the executive production of BET’s âPressure Cookerâ.)
During Weyermann’s time at Participant, the company produced more than 100 feature films and documentaries. Collectively, the projects of Weyermann’s participants garnered 10 Oscar nominations and four wins; eight Emmy nominations and three wins; three BAFTA nominations and one victory; and five Spirit Award nominations and three wins.
Prior to joining Participant in 2005, Weyermann was Director of the Documentary Film Program at the Sundance Institute. She joined the Sundance Institute in 2001 after serving as director of George Soros’ Open Society Institute – New York’s arts and culture program – for seven years. In addition to his work with the contemporary art centers and cultural programs of the Soros Foundation network, Weyermann launched the multi-million dollar Soros Documentary Fund in 1996. The Global Fund was established for documentaries focused solely on human rights. When Weyermann joined the Sundance Institute to conduct international activities, the Soros Fund was transferred to the Sundance Institute, where it became the Sundance Documentary Fund.
In addition to launching the documentary film program at Sundance, Weyermann was responsible for launching the institute’s instrumental documentary labs for editing and storytelling, as well as the documentary composer’s lab.
Films ranging from Zana Briski and Ross Kauffman’s Oscar-winning documentary “Born Into Brothels” to Eugene Jarecki’s Emmy-winning documentary “Why We Fight” were among the 339 films that were supported by the Sundance Institute Documentary Program during the term. by Weyermann.
Weyermann was a member of the executive committee of the documentary branch of the Academy of Cinema Arts and Sciences from 2012 to 2018. She served on the executive committees of the Foreign Language Film Prize and the International Feature Film Prize from 2016 to 2020 and co-chaired the committees from 2018 to 2020. She was also a member of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences and the European Film Academy.
Weyermann was born and raised in Saint-Louis. She attended George Washington University, St. Louis University Law School, and began her career in legal aid. She realized early in her legal career advocating for those with few resources that millions of citizens had no voice and that the film could provide a huge platform for telling stories that would raise problems and people unknown, ignored or misunderstood. She then received her MFA from Columbia College’s Film School in Chicago.
Weyermann is survived by his sister Andrea, his brother-in-law Tim and three nephews.