Films With a Message Make Lasting Impression Beyond the Oscars

Lisa Richwine


This is an excerpt from an article originally published by REUTERS. Read the rest here.


LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The movie Green Book explores racial inequality, Roma reveals the emotional toll placed on domestic workers, and RBG chronicles the fight for women’s rights.


The messages in the three Academy Awards contenders are no accident. All were produced and financed by Participant Media, a pioneer among a group of companies aiming to advance social missions through movies.


Participant was founded in 2004 by billionaire and former eBay President Jeff Skoll. The company’s credits range from Al Gore’s climate-change documentary An Inconvenient Truth and Steven Spielberg’s historical drama Lincoln to Spotlight, a best picture winner about journalists who exposed a coverup of abuse by Catholic priests.


“We often gravitate toward stories of ordinary people doing extraordinary things, becoming leaders for change in their own and others’ lives,” Participant Media Chief Executive David Linde said by email.



Roma is a prime example, Linde said. The black-and-white drama, which was distributed by Netflix Inc, revolves around Cleo, an indigenous Mexican housekeeper who displays courage in the face of serious challenges.


RBG, about U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, is up for best documentary.


Participant’s movies are paired with off-screen activism. For Roma, the company joined the National Domestic Workers Alliance to push for labor protections and supported the launch of an app that provides benefits to house cleaners such as paid time off.


Scott Budnick, who quit his career producing comedies such as The Hangover to advocate for prison reform, is also working to spark change through compelling and commercially successful entertainment.


His new company, One Community, is aiming to raise $10 million to mount a year-long campaign around the January 2020 release of the film Just Mercy, a biographical drama starring Michael B. Jordan as a lawyer fighting to free a man wrongly convicted of murder.



The campaign is expected to kick off within the next two months and will be designed to prompt changes on issues such as the death penalty and juvenile sentencing, Budnick said in an interview.


One Community, which is co-financing Just Mercy with AT&T Inc’s Warner Bros., “is the branch between philanthropy and politics to the entertainment community,” he said.


While many philanthropists and politicians want to tackle problems such as poverty or homelessness, “they are never aligned with a major studio that may be spending $20, $40 or $60 million to sell that issue to the public,” Budnick said.


“We’re here to be that aligner,” he said.


Reporting by Lisa Richwine; editing by Paul Tait.


This is an excerpt from an article originally published by REUTERS. Read the rest here.



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