Participant Media Comes to Canada: A Creative Management Narrative Exam

Following from the post about my public management exam, here are the questions I asked in my Narrative and Management course last semester that demanded creative answers from my students.

In my post of December 10 I discussed the relevance of the 2003 movie The Fog of War in 2017. I had also mentioned this in my narratives class, and it was the inspiration for an exam question. I asked students to explain how several movies we saw in the course could be relevant to the context of 2017. Here are the answers I expected.

12 Angry Men (1957) showed one juror motivated by racism towards the accused, who was assumed to be a New Yorker of Puerto Rican background. The movie’s obvious relevance is to the racism of today, which the President of the United States never misses an opportunity to incite.

Spotlight (2015) was about the sexual harassment of children by Catholic priests and the complicity of the Church hierarchy. The forefront of opposition to sexual harassment today is the MeToo movement of women calling out men in positions of authority for harassment.

Inside Job (2010) dealt with how the global financial crisis was brought on by excessive risk-taking by the financial sector in the US. To some extent that risk-seeking behavior has been mitigated by the Dodd-Frank Act of 2010, and of course the financial sector is now lobbying to amend Dodd-Frank to go back to the unregulated “good old days” of 1998-2007..

The Social Network (2010) touched on sexism and the under-representation of women in the technology industry. And of course, both have become increasingly evident and controversial since the movie was made.

So these movies, like The Fog of War, acquire new meaning and resonance in today’s context.

The second question requiring a creative response dealt with Participant Media. I informed the students that Participant Media was started by a Canadian, Jeffrey Skoll, and has funded numerous movies about social issues in the US and globally: An Inconvenient Truth, Spotlight, Lincoln, North Country, and Waiting for Superman. But Participant Media has never funded a movie dealing with a Canadian issue. Therefore, I asked the students to come up with a Canadian theme for a Participant Media movie, explain why it is timely, outline the plot, and discuss why it would appeal to Jeffrey Skoll.

Without going into detail about the pitches the students made, here are the most popular topics:

  • Indigenous Canadians, in particular the infamy of residential schools and the ongoing lack of safe drinking water on some reserves
  • Multiculturalism, especially the challenges faced by Syrian refugees.
  • Hockey, our national obsession. One suggestion was a movie about Nazem Kadri, one of the first Muslims to play in the NHL. Another suggestion was a movie about violence and injuries, especially concussions.
  • Development of the oil sands, pro and con.
  • Legalization of marijuana, pro and con.
  • The conflict between free speech or offensive speech, as it is currently being enacted at Canadian universities.

I was impressed by the suggestions the students came up with on short notice. And I was impressed that the best suggestions had distinctively Canadian themes and were consistent with the social activism that has been Participant Media’s hallmark. Are you listening, Jeffrey Skoll?

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