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Peter Bart's Variety Column on Participant

Participant Media: Jeff Skoll’s Unorthodox Business Model Has People Talking

October 18, 2013 | 09:30AM PT

EVP and Editorial Director Peter Bart

Shingle has been involved in making (and co-funding) some 40 films including "Lincoln," "The Help" and, opening this weekend, "The Fifth Estate"

Ten years ago, I encountered a congenial middle-aged fellow at the Cannes Film Festival who, after an exchange of pleasantries, proceeded to confide his plan to build an entertainment company. I’d been told he was a billionaire, albeit an unimposing one — no entourage, no bodyguards, not even a jeweled earring — so I listened respectfully before confiding my reaction: I thought his business plan was ill-conceived. I didn’t even like his company’s name, Participant. It sounded too, well, participatory.

Today, Jeff Skoll and his company are still around; clearly my advice did not resonate, and just as well. His buoyant shingle has been involved in making (and co-funding) some 40 films including “Lincoln,” “The Help” and, opening this weekend, “The Fifth Estate,” along with building a formidable digital platform for social advocacy.

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