As documentaries abound, Elise Pearlstein shares her view from the middle of it all

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The 2008 documentary 'Food, Inc.' might have changed the way you eat, or at least changed the way you think about where meals come from. Elise Pearlstein co-wrote and produced 'Food, Inc.,' which won 2 Emmys and was Oscar-nominated for best documentary feature. It lost out to 'The Cove,' but Participant Media won big that night at the Academy Awards since it was involved in both films.

Participant aims to make both fiction and non-fiction films that have a social impact--other documentaries they’ve produced include 'An Inconvenient Truth,' and the Edward Snowden doc, 'Citizenfour.' They also co-acquired the box-office and awards success story 'RBG' with Magnolia Pictures out of Sundance last year.

As for Elise Pearlstein, she produced three more documentaries for Participant after 'Food, Inc.' Then in 2013, Participant hired her to be their Senior Vice President of Documentary Film and Television.

Documentaries are making money--some of them, anyway. And they’re making headlines. As documentary film is having a moment, Matt Holzman sat down with Pearlstein to talk about the transformation in the industry.

They also discuss the film 'American Factory,' which won the Director's Award at Sundance this year, and is Participant's first documentary they've sold to Netflix, where it will stream later this year. She tells us about navigating the "pendulum swing" of the streamers going from being distributors of documentaries to producers of them, and gives us the scene from this year's Sundance, where the streamers went back to being eager buyers.



  • Elise Pearlstein - Participant Media Senior Vice President, Documentary Film and Television


Matt Holzman


Kaitlin Parker