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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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