George Clooney, Regina King, Michael Keaton and More Call on Hollywood to Make ‘Films With Purpose’ After Participant Closure

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In an open letter released Tuesday, a group of actors, filmmakers and activists called on Hollywood studios to produce more stories and projects that prioritize social impact following the closure of Participant Media.

The letter was organized by The National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA), the nonprofit advocacy group that worked with Participant and director Alfonso Cuaron on a campaign to increase the visibility of domestic labor tied to Cuaron’s film “Roma” in 2018.

Signees include George Clooney, Ava Duvernay, Regina King, Kerry Washington, Michael Keaton, Diego Luna, Jane Fonda along with organizations like ACLU, GLAAD, and more.

“Participant’s model of filmmaking and partnerships showed us the power of storytelling to open our hearts and inspire action in times of change and uncertainty. ” National Domestic Workers Alliance President Ai-jen Poo said in a statement provided to TheWrap. “The open letter is a re-commitment to this work, and an invitation to others to join us in harnessing the power of art to change the world.”

Participant – who was also responsible for films like “Spotlight,” “Green Book” and “An Inconvenient Truth” – announced in April that it was shutting down after 20 years of moviemaking. The announcement was made in a memo released to its 100 employees.

The news rocked the rocked the filmmaking community – particularly the documentary scene. Participant’s ability to not only get documentaries like “An Inconvenient Truth” or “The Cove” funded but also marketed as must-watch docs was one of it’s strengths, and it’s closure leaves a void.

“There are other places to go to get a social impact doc funded…but Participant was so good at bringing a doc into the world in a big high impact way,” award-winning director Julie Cohen told TheWrap.

After a banner year for documentaries back in 2018 where four films broke through the $10 million box office ceiling, the scene has struggled. Following the reopening of theaters in 2021 only a single film – “After Death” – has managed to cross the $10 million mark.

While the currently outlook is a bit dire, there is still hope lingering hope that the general public will also rally behind documentaries like these in the theater. Cohen also told TheWrap there’s some hope.

“I’m not despondent, I am hopeful that entities that exist already…will jump in to to take Participant’s place,” she said. “I know how enthusiastic people are when they see a doc that tells them something they didn’t know in a way that really moves them. So I hope that some of the doc lovers of the world — I guess I should say some of the wealthy doc lovers — will figure out a way to step up and help us fill the gap that that is left by Participant.”

Read the full letter:

Friends of Filmmaking and Impact20 years ago, long before social impact had a place in Hollywood, Participant launched stories into our culture with the explicit goal of changing it. Participant empowered bold storytelling with their faith in the vision of filmmakers, trust in advocates and social movements to utilize those narratives in dynamic campaigns, and most importantly, they never underestimated the public’s appetite for thought provoking subject matter that could power new narratives and offer fresh perspectives.

As artists inspired by and connected to social movements, we have experienced the unique role Participant has played in empowering filmmakers to experiment, innovate, and grow. As advocates, we have seen the real world change sparked by the power of filmmaking and campaigning. Participant, through its model of impact filmmaking combined with forging authentic partnerships between advocates, storytellers and distributors has forever changed the landscape of our public conversation and popular culture. For that we are filled with gratitude and pride in our collaborations with this groundbreaking entertainment institution.

Participant proved that audiences crave films with purpose, having collected 21 Academy Awards out of 86 nominations, and 18 Emmy nominations across five television series. Alongside critical acclaim, its catalog including “Spotlight,” “Roma,” “An Inconvenient Truth,” “A Fantastic Woman,” and “When They See Us,” grossed over $3.3 billion at the worldwide box office. The mission was to achieve the “double bottom line,” creating world-class content that inspired social change, which it did.

As we say goodbye to Participant, we must underscore that values-based storytelling is needed now more than ever; to expand the room for debate, to open our hearts to experiences vastly different from our own, to immerse us in the beauty of humanity’s complexities. And in the face of unprecedented change and uncertainty, we need deep partnerships between great storytellers, advocates and movements for change now more than ever, to remind us of our agency in shaping the future and the power of our actions. The future and health of our culture and democracy requires more of us to participate, spread hope, and humanity. Democracy is a living, breathing being that we, as participants, give life.

As we reflect on the accomplishments of Participant, we look forward to championing the next generation of producers that will build upon Participant’s extraordinary body of work, integrating learnings it has offered, seeding new partnerships and innovating within this new media landscape. We call upon Hollywood to meet the moment. There is a whole ecosystem of people, connected by the work of the last 20 years of Participant, ready to work with you.

And the full list of those signing:

George Clooney

Ava Duvernay

Regina King

Kerry Washington

Alfonso Cuarón

Michael Keaton

Diego Luna

Chiwetel Ejifor

Jane Fonda

Vera Farmiga

Martin Sheen

Sophia Bush

Daveed Diggs

Destin Davis Cretton

Davis Guggenheim

David Oyelowo

Gabriela Cowperthwaite

Alan Cumming

Yaltiza Aparicio

Yvette Nicole Brown

Clark Gregg

Alyssa Milano

Piper Perabo

Rosanna Arquette

June Diane Raphael

Juan Devis

DeVon Franklin

Baratunde Thurston

Mark Duplass

Justin Baldoni

Laura Poitras

Louise Hogarth

Mónica Ramírez (Justice for Migrant Women/The Latinx House)

Fatima Goss Graves (National Women’s Law Center)

Anthony Romero (ACLU)

Rashad Robinson (Color of Change)

Bryan Stevenson (Equal Justice Initiative)

LaTosha Brown (Black Voters Matter)

Tarana Burke (Me Too)

Yalda T. Uhls (The Center for Scholars & Storytellers at UCLA)

Muslim Public Affairs Council Hollywood Bureau

New America Better Life Lab’s Entertainment Initiative

PopShift

Storyline Partners

Human Rights Watch

CAPE (Coalition of Asian Pacifics in Entertainment)

Pop Culture Collaborative

NRDC

GLAAD

The post George Clooney, Regina King, Michael Keaton and More Call on Hollywood to Make ‘Films With Purpose’ After Participant Closure appeared first on TheWrap.