Toronto: Jeff Skoll Foresees Massive Growth For Participant

Founder forecasts 2,000 employees in 10 years

On the heels of its film “The Fifth Estate” launching the Toronto Intl. Film Festival, Participant Media topper Jeff Skoll has offered a thoroughly bulllish vision of how his nine-year-old company will look in 2023.

“Ten years from now, I’d like Participant to have 2,000 employees and be producing content in every country of the world,” Skoll said Friday at the festival’s keynote industry panel at the Glenn Gould Center. “I believe that in 10 years, the majority of our content will be in languages other than English.”

The company currently has 219 employees and has produced about 45 films. It also announced Friday that it had partnered for a sixth time on a film with DreamWorks on “The Hundred Foot Journey”; in addition to “Estate,” that association has brought hits “The Help” and “Lincoln.”

SEE ALSO: Toronto: Helen Mirren’s ‘Hundred-Foot Journey’ Joined By Participant

Participant CEO Jim Berk asserted that companies have to partner in order to survive in today’s complex marketplace, adding, “we’re better because of DreamWorks.”

Berk stressed that Skoll, a Canadian native who made his fortune as president of eBay, has been willing to bankroll Participant’s expansion. “He’s always asking what would I do if I had another $100 million to spend,” he added.

The Participant execs stressed during the 90-minute session that their company will remain focused on social issues as a way of engaging audiences while placing a premium on storytelling and entertainment. (Berk admitted that Participant had not been able to do so on Matt Damon’s fracking drama “Promised Land,” which grossed under $8 million for Focus.)

“It’s all about the story first,” Berk noted. “We were wrestling with how to make ‘Promised Land’ not be seen as an ‘issue’ film.”

DreamWorks production chief Stacey Snider provided a measured response to a question about the summer misfires by high-priced studio franchise films in the wake of warnings by Steven Spielberg and George Lucas against continuing to greenlight mega-budget films.

“I think that everyone is doing a lot of serious soul-searching,” she said, adding that the criticism from Spielberg, DreamWorks’ co-founder, was aimed at urging studios to offer more diversity.

Other panelists included Sony Classics co-topper Michael Barker; Magnolia Pictures executive Matt Cowal;, Pablo Cruz of Canana, a partner in Participant’s Panamerica venture; and director-producer Ava DuVernay, whose 2012 prison drama “Middle of Nowhere” was released by Participant.

DuVernay said the climate is improving somewhat for African-American filmmakers such as herself amid the successes of films like hers, Ryan Coogler’s “Fruitvale Station” (which won the Sundance directing trophy last year) and Steve McQueen’s “12 Years a Slave.”

But DuVernay also said there’s an unfortunate tendency to not consider these instances part of a growing trend.

The event was moderated by Variety executive editor Steven Gaydos.

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • Matthew Modine

    Matthew Modine Accused of Violating Labor Laws With Campaign Videos

    Matthew Modine has been accused by SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris of violating federal laws in his campaign to unseat Carteris. The production of three campaign videos for Modine by the for-profit New York Film Academy — on whose board Modine sits — has been blasted by Carteris for alleged violations of federal labor law prohibiting [...]

  • Ready or Not Movie

    'Ready or Not,' 'Angel Has Fallen' Enter Box Office Race

    Three more contenders are joining what has lately been a hostile box office arena. Can anyone emerge from August victorious? Fox Searchlight’s “Ready or Not,” a black comedy about a diabolical game of hide-and-seek, will debut in 2,244 North American theaters on Wednesday. The low-budget film is expected to earn upwards of $6.5 million over [...]

  • Rules Don't Apply

    Warren Beatty and Arnon Milchan Settle Suit Over 'Rules Don't Apply' Flop

    Arnon Milchan and Warren Beatty have settled their two-year legal battle over the disastrous release of “Rules Don’t Apply,” Beatty’s period drama about Howard Hughes. Milchan’s attorneys have filed a notice with the court dismissing his suit against Beatty. Terms of the settlement were not disclosed. Milchan’s company, New Regency, sued Beatty and other investors [...]

  • Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro attends a

    Bolsonaro LGBTQI Outburst, Subsidy Freeze, Stirs Outrage

    Ramping up the drive into censorship in Brazil, its Minister of Citizenship, Omar Terra, has suspended a call for applications for governmental TV funding – until new criteria are established for its application. The country’s secretary for culture, Henrique Pires, who reports to Terra, has resigned in protest of the incentive freeze. The suspension, for [...]

  • Adam Brody'Ready or Not' film premiere,

    Adam Brody to Executive Produce, Star in 'The Kid Detective'

    “Ready or Not’s” Adam Brody has signed on to star in “The Kid Detective.” Sophie Nelisse will co-star in the dramedy from writer-director Evan Morgan. Brody will star as a once-celebrated kid detective, now 31, who continues to solve the same trivial mysteries between hangovers and bouts of self-pity until a 16-year-old client (Nelisse) brings [...]

  • Alita: Battle Angel VFX

    How Previsualization Helps Create Pitches for Projects Like 'Alita: Battle Angel'

    Filmmakers are increasingly using previsualization, a now-standard technique for planning highly technical shots and sequences, as a tool for pitching a project to production companies, investors and studio executives — before a single full scene has actually been shot. More creatives are relying on the technique, dubbed “pitchvis,” to fashion a compelling and engaging presentation [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content