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The Fact That Changed Everything

The Fact That Changed Everything: Jim Berk and Participant Media 

A film can have the power to spur conversation and spark an audience’s empathy, passion, and curiosity. For Los Angeles-based Participant Media, the visual storytelling power of movies is an invaluable tool to create meaningful impact. Says Participant CEO Jim Berk, “This company is driven by the belief that every problem this world confronts has solutions.”

For those that doubt an entertaining movie can lead to world change, consider the movie industry leaders that not long ago felt the same way. When Jeff Skoll, Participant’s founder, was attempting to get the company off the ground eight years ago, he met with studio heads to find support for socially relevant films. “They looked at it as a nice thing to do, but not particularly smart from a financial return basis and as a stand-alone business,” remembers Berk.

Still, Skoll refused to give up on his vision because of one simple undeniable fact: movies can move viewers. “Media can create the opportunity for masses of people to look at things in different ways; to change policy and behaviors on a massive scale,” explains Berk of the company’s long standing philosophy. “You do that through storytelling.” By 2004, Participant was able to launch its first few films—Good Night and Good Luck, North Country and Syriana—and all met with success. Eight years and 39 films later, that success has won over their original doubtful industry leaders thanks to the accolades they’ve collected: 22 Academy Award nominations, four Oscars, six Emmys and box office gold with films like The Help and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.

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Participant MediaAbout Participant Media

Founded in 2004 by Jeff Skoll, Participant Media’s (www.participantmedia.com) content combines the power of a good story well told with opportunities for real world impact and awareness around the most pressing global issues of our time. As an industry content leader, Participant annually produces up to six narrative feature films, five documentary films, three episodic television series, and more than 30 hours of digital short form programming, through its digital subsidiary SoulPancake—all aimed at entertainment that inspires social awareness and engaging audiences to participate in positive social change. Participant’s content and social impact mandate speaks directly to the rise of today’s “conscious consumer,” representing over 2 billion consumers who are compelled to make impactful content a priority focus. Through its worldwide network of traditional and digital distribution, aligned with partnerships with key non-profit and NGO organizations, Participant is positioned uniquely within the industry to engage a rapidly growing audience while bringing global awareness and action to today’s most vital issues.

Participant’s more than 100 films, including Spotlight, Contagion, Lincoln, The Help, He Named Me Malala, The Look of Silence, CITIZENFOUR, Food, Inc. and An Inconvenient Truth, have collectively earned 73 Academy Award® nominations and 18 wins, including Best Picture for Green Book and Spotlight and Best Foreign Language Film for Roma and A Fantastic Woman. Participant’s digital entertainment division, SoulPancake (www.soulpancake.com), is an award-winning provider of thought-provoking, joyful, and uplifting digital content including such widely popular series as Kid President and The Science of Happiness and reaches an audience of nearly 9 million fans. Follow Participant Media on Twitter and on Facebook and Instagram. Follow SoulPancake on Twitter and on Facebook and Instagram.


Participant Media became a Certified B Corporation in 2018. B Corps are a new type of company that uses the power of business to solve social and environmental problems. B Corp certification is to business what Fair Trade certification is to coffee or USDA Organic certification is to milk.