Visionary Award: Jeff Skoll

PGA honors exec producer of 'The Soloist'

When he was a teenager, his family summered in the Adirondacks where he spent endless hours watching films and reading. That’s when Jeff Skoll first fell in love with storytelling.

Inspired by such films as “Gandhi,” “To Kill a Mockingbird,” and “Erin Brockovich,” Skoll founded Participant Media in 2004. The company’s mantra: to create entertainment that benefits society. “Good Night, and Good Luck,” “North Country,” “Syriana,” “An Inconvenient Truth,” “The Kite Runner” and “Charlie Wilson’s War” are all testaments to Skoll and his belief that film can deliver social change.

So inspired was he by “Gandhi” that Skoll, in 2005, along with Ben Kingsley, launched the Gandhi Project. The remit: to create an Arabic version of the film for the Palestinian people to promote Gandhi’s philosophy of peaceful resistance.

Not only does Skoll the philanthropist raise awareness through film and the Gandhi Project but also through the Skoll Foundation, an organization that provides financing to social entrepreneurs. The initative, he believes, will shift the balance between the haves and the have-nots.

“There are many unsung social entrepreneurs who are my heroes,” Skoll says: “Ann Cotton, who is educating hundreds of thousands of girls in Africa; Bill Strickland, who is building inner-city schools in the U.S.; Daniel Lubetsky, who is building a peace movement in Israel and Palestine; and Sakena Yacoobi, who is working to restore health and education services in Afghanistan.”