Diane Weyermann, chief content officer at Participant and former director of the Sundance Institute’s Documentary Film Program died Thursday of cancer in New York. She was 66.
For the last three decades, Weyermann played a seminal role in supporting the documentary community and shaping the nonfiction landscape during stints at Participant and the Sundance Institute. Oscar winning docus including Davis Guggenheim’s “An Inconvenient Truth” (2006), Laura Poitras’ “Citizenfour” (2014) and “American Factory” (2019) are among the many projects that Weyermann helped shepherd.
Weyermann joined Participant in 2005 – one year after Jeff Skoll founded the socially conscious production company. For 12 years, she was responsible for the production company’s documentary feature film and television slate. In 2017, Weyermann was promoted to president, and in 2019 named chief content officer of the L.A.-based media house, where she was responsible for Participant’s documentary, feature film and television slate.
During her tenure at Participant, Weyermann oversaw production of docus, which included Ted Braun’s “Darfur Now” (2007), Robert Kenner’s “Food, Inc.” (2008), Errol Morris’ “Standard Operating Procedure” (2008), Joshua Oppenheimer’s “The Look of Silence” (2014), Morgan Neville’s “The Music of Strangers: Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble” (2015) and Marc Silver’s “3 1/2 Minutes” (2015).
In February, Weyermann played a key role in Participant partnering with Neon on the North American distribution of Jonas Poher Rasmussen’s documentary, “Flee.” In March, Participant again partnered with Neon as well as National Geographic on Matthew Heineman’s COVID doc “The First Wave.”
In 2018, Participant released its first documentary TV series, Steve James’ “America to Me” – a Starz project that Weyermann executive produced. James re-teamed with Participant on his 2021 National Geographic four-part series “City So Real.” For her efforts on “City So Real” and HBO’s David Byrne’s “American Utopia,” Weyermann received two Primetime Emmy nominations this year. (Weyermann also received an Emmy nom in 2010 for executive producing BET’s “Pressure Cooker.”)
During Weyermann’s time at Participant, the company produced more than 100 feature and documentary films. Collectively, Weyermann’s Participant 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.
Prior to joining Participant in 2005, Weyermann served as the director of the Sundance Institute’s Documentary Film Program. 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 her work with contemporary art centers and culture programs in the Soros Foundation network, Weyermann launched the multi-million dollar Soros Documentary Fund in 1996. The global fund was created for documentaries focused solely on human rights. When Weyermann joined the Sundance Institute to run international activities, the Soros Fund was moved to the Sundance Institute, where it became the Sundance Documentary Fund.
In addition to starting 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 doc “Born Into Brothels” to Eugene Jarecki’s Emmy winning doc “Why We Fight” were among the 339 films that were supported by the Sundance Institute Documentary Program during Weyermann’s tenure.
Weyermann was a member of the Documentary Branch Executive Committee of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences from 2012-2018. She served on the Foreign Language Film Award and International Feature Film Award Executive Committees from 2016-2020 and co-chaired the committees from 2018-2020. She was also a member of the Television Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the European Film Academy.
Weyermann was born and grew up in St. Louis. She attended college at George Washington University, law school at St. Louis University and started her career in legal aid. She realized early in her law career advocating for those with few resources that millions of citizens lacked voice and that film could provide a huge platform to tell stories that would elevate issues and people that were unknown, ignored, or misunderstood. She then went on to receive her MFA at the film school at Columbia College in Chicago.
Weyermann is survived by her sister Andrea, her brother-in-law Tim and three nephews.