Fellowship Honoring Late Documentary Champion Diane Weyermann Unveiled at Camden Film Fest

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On Friday, during the 18th edition of the Camden Intl. Film Festival, organizers unveiled a Diane Weyermann Fellowship at Points North Institute.

Weyermann, the former chief content officer at Participant and former director of the Sundance Institute’s documentary film program, died last October of cancer. She was 66. In addition to an apartment in New York City, Weyermann owned a home in coastal Maine. 

CIFF, run by Points North and concluding Sept. 18, is presenting several films Weyermann recently executive produced, including Laura Poitras’ Golden Lion-winning “All the Beauty and the Bloodshed,” Margaret Brown’s Sundance-winning “Descendant,” Steve James’ “My Compassionate Spy,” which recently premiered at Venice and TIFF, and Geeta Gandbhir and Sam Pollard’s “Lowndes County and the Road to Black Power.”

“It’s so meaningful to be in Camden screening the film we made with Diane,” Brown told Variety during a special reception held in Camden in honor of the new fellowship. “It’s so close to where she planned to spend time collaborating with filmmakers. I can so feel her presence here, and this Fellowship is the perfect way to honor and celebrate her life.”

Established to honor Weyermann’s legacy in the international documentary community, the Diane Weyermann Fellowship at Points North will champion filmmakers producing cinematic feature documentaries that take artistic risks. The program aims to empower a new generation of documentary directors and producers, building a community of support that will help them create significant works of art that connect with audiences worldwide. 

“We are incredibly honored and grateful for the opportunity to recognize Diane’s tremendous impact on the world of documentary filmmaking through this new Fellowship,” said Ben Fowlie, executive director of Points North and founder-artistic director of CIFF. “Diane has been a beacon for so many throughout her career, and her fervent belief in documentary as a catalyst for social change has been our guiding inspiration. We hope to mirror Diane’s dedication to the community through the Diane Weyermann Fellowship, creating an environment where we can prioritize two of the most difficult challenges of getting documentary films made – early, significant, and unrestricted funding combined with long-term professional and creative support to enable both the creation of the work and the development of the fellows’ career.”

Up to three original, feature-length documentaries in production from global filmmaking teams will be selected to participate in an 18-month collaborative fellowship. Resources provided to each fellow’s project includes $100,000 in unrestricted, non-recoupable grants, mentorship from veteran filmmakers and industry leaders, festival retreats, and ongoing professional development – all designed to support the completion of their films and the advancement of sustainable careers as artists. 

The fellowship is aimed at feature-length documentary projects that are between development and early to mid-production stages and have a producer attached. 

In partnership with the Skoll Foundation and Participant, Points North established the Diane Weyermann Memorial Fund to help seed the fellowship program. Over the past year, Points North has been working closely with an advisory committee to design the initiative. Advisors include Ally Derks, founder of Intl. Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA); Laura Kim, executive VP, campaigns & engagement, Participant; Jonathan King, CEO, Concordia Studio; Elise Pearlstein, exec VP, This Machine Filmworks; Courtney Sexton, senior VP, CNN Films; Andrea Weyermann, Ph.D., Georgia State University. 

“Diane Weyermann was a fierce advocate for artists and their stories, and we can’t think of a better way to honor her legacy than to collaborate with Points North on a vehicle to support up-and-coming filmmakers,” David Linde, Participant CEO, and Kim said in a joint statement. “The Camden International Film Festival was so special to Diane, so it’s the perfect place to celebrate her in this way.” 

Applications for the inaugural Diane Weyermann Fellowship will open on Sept. 19 and will run through Jan. 13. Selected filmmakers and projects for the inaugural Fellowship will be announced in April 2023 and will be in attendance for their first residency at the 19th Camden Intl. Film Festival, taking place Sept. 14-17, 2023.

This fellowship expands upon Points North’s commitment to supporting the next generation of nonfiction storytellers. Established in 2016 and building on the success of the Camden Intl. Film Festival (founded in 2005, CIFF is the Institute’s largest program), the Institute manages five different fellowship programs that support nearly fifty filmmakers and 25 projects annually.

“Since launching Points North seven years ago, the majority of our Artist Program Fellowships have been specifically created to support emerging filmmakers with mentorship, retreats, and workshops designed to help them develop a stronger artistic voice,” says Fowlie. “The Diane Weyermann Fellowship is an opportunity for us to expand this support to more experienced, mid-career artists, furthering our commitment to develop our own internal pipeline of support.”

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), directed by Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert, 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 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.

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