Participant Productions has to be one of the most interesting companies in Cannes this year. A relatively new outfit set up by Jeff Skoll, one of the founders of Ebay, it has already produced such interesting films as Syriana, North Country and Good Night, and Good Luck.
Skoll and company president Ricky Strauss are in Cannes with two films this year – Fast Food Nation, which is in the official competition, and An Inconvenient Truth a documentary version of former vice-president Al Gore’s lecture tour on global warming.
The filmmakers describe their company as seeking to make films that have some global impact describing it as a double bottom-line company – they are about making a profit and making a positive impact, that’s the way to hit the double bottom line.
Skoll says the whole idea dates back his childhood. ‘I would read about these scary trends in the world like destructive new weapons, global warming, scary new trends, that we should be spending more time thinking about and maybe get involved,’ says Skoll, ‘then maybe the future wouldn’t be as scary as otherwise it might be.’ He says he wanted to write about these subjects to bring them to the fore
So with the financial security from Ebay he decided to set up a film company to send the messages and find some good writers to do exactly that.
Strauss explains the company’s philosophy as aware of health, the lifestyle of people, the environment, welfare and the films they have in Cannes this year fit into the field of the environment.
He is very aware of the adage about movie making ‘if you want to send a message use Western Union and to get any impact across the film also has to be entertaining. There is no point in sending a message in a movie if no-one sees it. So Strauss is committed to make entertainment as well as making an impact.
Meanwhile, the London Film Festival hosted an evening at the Majestic Hotel pool featuring Tessa Jowell, the UK Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport. Jowell gave a speech saying how committed the government is to the development and production of British Film to muted jeering from the assembled British filmmakers.
Unfortunately, she was also overlooked as she stood in the queue waiting to attend the BBCFilms party on Monday evening and had to be pointed out by one of the UK’s most vocal journalists.
BBCFilms has part financed Red Road which is in competition here in Cannes and directed by Oscar winner Andrea Arnold.
Tony Curran who stars as the misguided male lead in the extremely emotional movie, says he had no idea when was shooting the film in Glasgow that he would have any chance of being here now in Cannes.
‘Do you know who I am,’ Curran says comically, ‘I’m nobody,’ he laughs. Well, maybe not for long.
The Cannes Film Festival jury will award the Palme D’Or on Sunday May 28