Participant Media

For-profit media company dedicated to producing socially conscious movies


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About the project Edit

Participant Media is a for-profit business with the mission of creating popular entertainment that tackles social issues.

In January 2004, Founder Jeff Skoll brought together a handful of entertainment industry executives who shared his interest in creating quality entertainment that would engage the audience, generate awareness of topical and interesting issues and inspire individuals to take action. Participant Media was born.

Today, eight years later, that handful of employees has grown to a team of more than 70.

In what ways is this project unique and creative? Edit

Participant’s track record is remarkable: Contagion, The Help, Syriana, An Inconvenient Truth, and dozens of other movies.

Besides making socially relevant movies, Participant does something else different. They create social action campaigns around the movies. With Syriana it was around oil dependence. They worked with groups like the NRDC to help bring this idea from the screen into newspapers, television, and op-eds.

Today when Participant does a film, the studio demands that they put together a social action campaign around the movie. It brings in a bigger audience, and in particular it brings in an audience that’s passionate about the subject matter in the film.

What is the social value of this project? Edit

Participant creates specific social action campaigns for each film and documentary designed to give a voice to issues that resonate in the films.

Participant teams with social sector organizations, non-profits and corporations who are committed to creating an open forum for discussion, education and who can offer specific ways for audience members to get involved. These include action kits, screening programs, educational curriculums and classes, house parties, seminars, panels and other activities and are ongoing "legacy" programs that are updated and revised to continue beyond the film's domestic and international theatrical, DVD and television windows.

What is the potential of this project to expand and develop? Edit

To date, Participant has developed active, working relationships with 600 non-profits which collectively have the potential of reaching over 75 million people.

Skoll’s ambition is to create and distribute a variety of media to audiences around the world, but to date the company has been most successful at creating English-language movies.

What was the triggering factor of this project? Edit

Participant Media started out as a philanthropic venture with the goal of getting to the point where it was sustainable enough to become a global media company not just doing movies, but also doing TV, publishing, music, and all other forms of entertainment that could make a difference all over the world.

What is the business model of this project? Edit

As Jeffrey Skoll puts it: "We think this film is going to lose X million dollars but it would be worth it because it can make a difference in the issue, and that X million dollars would not on its own be able to make the same kind of difference".

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