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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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