David Weissman is an Emmy Award nominated filmmaker, teacher, film programmer, public speaker and longtime activist. He is best known as producer of the acclaimed documentaries, We Were Here (2011) and The Cockettes (2002). Currently a resident of Portland OR, David spent more than three decades in San Francisco, where he was deeply engaged with that city’s cultural and political life.
We Were Here and The Cockettes both premiered at Sundance. We Were Here was released theatrically, and broadcast internationally – in the US on the PBS series Independent Lens. We Were Here was on the shortlist for the 2012 Best Documentary Academy Award. The Cockettes was also released theatrically, broadcast on Sundance Channel and BBC, and received the Los Angeles Film Critics Award for Best Documentary of 2002. Both films received nominations for Independent Spirit Awards for Best Documentary of the Year.
David has taught courses in “Producing Feature Documentaries” in Portland, San Francisco, and Seattle. He has taught classes and workshops in a many aspects of filmmaking, and has been a guest speaker, and presented his work at many universities, including USC, Stanford, Wesleyan, Yale, UC Santa Cruz, and Princeton. David is co-founder and co-director (with Russ Gage) of QDoc: The Portland Queer Documentary Film Festival.
David Weissman moved to San Francisco in 1976. A longhaired refugee from the rapidly gentrifying bohemian enclave of Venice Beach, CA, David was elated to find himself in such a beautiful city overflowing with activists, artists, performers, poets, hippies, drag queens and Deadheads. There were rebels and dreamers of every variety, thousands of whom were gays and lesbians, creating what was often referred to as the “Gay Mecca.”
David remembers the thrill of being at Harvey Milk’s camera store on the night of Harvey’s election, and at the victory party the following year for the No on 6 Campaign — the first major electoral victory for the emerging gay movement. Devastated by Harvey’s assassination just months later, David became more active in SF politics — working on political campaigns and as a Legislative Assistant to San Francisco Supervisor Harry Britt.
In 1981, David began taking filmmaking courses at City College of San Francisco. For years David made short films, which screened widely in festivals around the world. He also worked on other people’s films (including Crumb, and In The Shadow of the Stars) and taught filmmaking classes. As people began to die of AIDS in the early and mid-80s, this began to affect the content of David’s films, particularly in the short film Song From an Angel which featured San Francisco performer Rodney Price doing a song and tap-dance about his own death, two weeks before he died of AIDS.
In 1990, David was the first recipient of the Sundance Institute’s Mark Silverman Fellowship for New Producers, which included a four-month producing internship on Joel and Ethan Coen’s Barton Fink.
In the mid-90s David became interested in HIV prevention policy, and independently produced a groundbreaking series of Public Service Announcements that specifically addressed the complex emotional and psychological stresses facing HIV-negative gay men living in the midst of the epidemic.
In 1998, David teamed up with his friend Bill Weber to co-direct the feature length documentary, The Cockettes. After a 2002 Sundance premiere, theatrical and broadcast release, The Cockettes received the LA Film Critics’Award for Best Documentary of The Year.
The Weissman/Weber team reunited in 2008 to begin work on We Were Here.