Diane Weyermann, Award-Winning Documentary Producer, Dies at 66

Weyermann most recently served as chief content officer at Participant

diane weyermann
(Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty Images for Paramount Pictures)

Diane Weyermann, an Emmy-winning documentary producer and the chief content officer at Participant Media, has died after a battle with lung cancer. She was 66.

Weyermann, who served as director of the Sundance Institute’s Documentary Film Program prior to joining Participant in 2005, executive produced the Oscar-winning feature docs “An Inconvenient Truth” and “Citizenfour.”

She also worked on such nonfiction hits as the Oscar nominated Robert Kenner’s “Food Inc.” (which won two Emmy Awards in 2011), Julie Cohen and Betsy West’s “RBG,” Joshua Oppenheimer’s “The Look of Silence” as well as Margaret Brown’s Emmy-nominated “The Great Invisible.”

“We are heartbroken and devastated over the passing of our leader and friend, Diane Weyermann,” Participant CEO David Linde said in a statement Thursday night. “As the steward of Participant films for the past 17 years, she showed how fierce determination to authentic storytelling can drive civic participation and create a more empathetic world. There was no story worth telling that Diane shied away from. From the landmark documentary ‘An Inconvenient Truth,’ which helped awaken millions of global citizens to the ravages of climate change to “American Factory” and its brilliant examination of what it means to work in America today to  the upcoming “The First Wave,’ which bravely captures the early months of the Covid-19 pandemic in New York, Diane’s ability to partner with world class filmmakers in telling the most important stories of our time leaves an indelible legacy that cannot be matched. She brought integrity, passion, and unwavering commitment to every project she undertook. Her very presence transformed everyone at Participant and words cannot express how much we will miss her.”

“In the very earliest days of Participant, I was incredibly lucky to have Diane agree to run our newfound documentary department, including our first documentary, ‘An Inconvenient Truth,’” Jeff Skoll, founder of Participant, said. “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. 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.”

“It is not hyperbole to say that Diane Weyermann changed the world for the better in a remarkable way,” former Vice President Al Gore said about her. “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. It is beyond heartbreaking. And I am forever grateful for her friendship and for the incredible legacy that she leaves to the world.”

“Diane was my most cherished partner for over 12 years at Participant,” Jonathan King, former President of Narrative Film and Television at Participant, said in a statement. “She was as enthusiastically supportive of the filmmakers creating narrative work as she was of her own projects.  That meant the world to them, and to me.  Her wisdom and shining example always inspired us to try harder, aim higher, treat everyone with more kindness and generosity.  Even more, I was lucky to have Diane include me in her close circle of love and friendship since the day we met.   Her joy and sense of adventure inspired everyone who knew her.  Losing Diane is a terrible blow, not just to the world of film, but to the world at large.  I will never stop missing her.”                          

“The impact of Diane’s work and devotion to cinema will be felt for generations – not just through the films that exist because of her, but exponentially through the relationships and organizations she built,” Laura Poitras, director of “CITIZENFOUR,” said. “As a friend and collaborator, she was the best. Brilliant, fierce, funny, and honest.”

“Diane has been such a wise colleague, sounding board, supporter, and most preciously of all, friend,” Steve James, director of “America to Me,” and “City So Real,” said. “There was never ego with her and she constantly deflected praise.  Diane was brilliant at seeing what my work was trying to be and helping me make it better, more impactful, and insightful. I will treasure the memories of our long talks about the work, about documentaries we loved and didn’t love, about the state of docs and the world – both of which she worked tirelessly to make better.  Yet, she had a radiant smile and a wonderful sense of humor to go along with that amazing sense of purpose.  She has been a true beacon in our community.”

“Diane brought people together,” Elise Pearlstein, producer of “Food, Inc.” and “American Factory,” who worked with Weyermann at Participant, said. “She curated people as skillfully as she curated film slates, with impeccable taste, the highest of standards and an unwavering moral compass. Diane had a keen gift to see around the corner and support films that would arrive in the culture at just the right moment for the greatest impact. She was a fierce advocate for filmmakers, fighting tirelessly and fearlessly for their creative freedom and vision. She was a citizen of the world, a seeker and an explorer, and her loss will reverberate throughout the global documentary community. Diane leaves a profound legacy of films, as well as people who grew and thrived under her influence. I will deeply miss my friend, mentor, colleague, and partner in crime.”

While at Participant, she oversaw the company’s nonfiction feature film and TV slate, including the Oscar-winning 2019 doc “American Factory,” “City So Real,” John Lewis: Good Trouble,” “An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth To Power,” “The Music of Strangers: Yo Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble,” “Zero Days” and the two-time Oscar nominee “Collective.”

During her tenure at Sundance, she was responsible for the Sundance Documentary Fund and launched two annual documentary film labs, focusing on the creative process.

Before Sundance, Weyermann served as the director of the Open Society Institute New York’s Arts and Culture Program where she launched the Soros Documentary Fund (later renamed the Sundance Documentary Fund).

In 2018 and 2019, she served as co-chair (with screenwriter Larry Karaszewski) of the executive committee that oversaw the Oscars’ Best Foreign Language Film campaign, which changed its name to the Best International Feature Film after she and Karaszewski lobbied for the new name. “These are not foreigners — these are our peers in the international film community,” she told TheWrap at the time.