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Jeff Skoll Talks Participant Media at TIFF

Filmmaker Magazine Article on the Toronto Conversation and Panel

What’s Your Proudest Career Accomplishment? Jeff Skoll Talks Participant Media at TIFF

by Allan Tong in Filmmaking, Financing on Sep 20, 2013

 When he was 16 growing up in Montreal, Jeff Skoll saw Gandhi and it changed his world. “Here was a way of talking about an exemplary figure who touched the world and spread a message to millions of people.” Skoll would go on to build eBay, amass a fortune currently estimated at $4.5 billion, then use his wealth to launch Participant Media, a film company whose mission is to change the world through movies.

Skoll was the keynote speaker at TIFF’s industry series recently. He was in Toronto, where he studied business as a young man, to open the festival with Bill Condon’s The Fifth Estate. Dramatizing Wikileaks founder Julian Assange’s battle against western governments and his fight for freedom of speech, The Fifth Estate nicely illustrates Participant’s ethos of fomenting social change. And for once, a keynote address didn’t glorify a guest speaker (though there was some back-slapping), discuss the craft of filmmaking or talk about business.

“I always had a dream as a kid to tell stories that would get people interested in the big issues of the world,” Skoll told a packed theater in a rare public appearance. “I wasn’t quite sure how I was going to do that. I figured I better figure out a way to make a living first so that I could tell these stories.” After he made a killing at eBay, Skoll went to Los Angeles in 2004 to see if “anybody had thought of setting up a company that was strictly in the public interest and if there was any viability.”

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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 40 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 80 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 56 Academy Award® nominations and 12 wins, including Best Picture for Spotlight and Best Foreign Language Film for 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.