It’s an adventure in itself to become immersed in a narrative world on screen, which was originally depicted through another medium. There’s something wonderfully nostalgic about these kinds of films, to see – in large – something you may have only visualized previously in your mind (ex. based on a book). Specifically, the action and adventure genre is a commonplace where you’ll find adaptations. Some great examples of adaptations that are popularly loved include, The Wizard of Oz (1939 – novel), The Godfather (1972 – book), Jaws (1975 – novel), The Princess Bride (1987 – book), The Shawshank Redemption (1994 – short story), Apollo 13 (1995 – book), Harry Potter (2001 – novel), and The Bourne Supremacy (2004 – novel).
Have you written the next great action and adventure film? Enter the ScreenCraft Action & Adventure Screenplay Competition here.
That said, when we’re given an on-screen narrative that’s completely unique, in terms of it being an original concept, idea, screenplay, world, characters – what have you. That’s a special experience. Today we’re here to talk about companies who produce original action and adventure films, and ways you can potentially become involved. Our focus will hone in on the ‘Big Five’ (more on that below).
Founded in 1912, Universal has a reputation that has proven to be unparalleled — dating back from the start of Hollywood’s golden age (20s – 60s) and continuing to show they’re a leading force amongst entertainment. Several original action/adventure films that Universal has put out include E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982), Back to the Future (1985), The Mummy (1999), and Fast & Furious (2009).
A program Universal holds for emerging and experienced screenwriters is called Universal Writers Program. Universal’s commitment through this is to discover stories that “reflect the vast diversity of our audience.” A one-year program where writers receive guidance from and networking opportunities with executives, producers, and consultants.
And to help further your research, some of Universal’s affiliations include NBCUniversal (studio parent), Focus Features (arthouse/indie), Gramercy Pictures (genre, b-movies), and DreamWorks (animation).
Founded in 1912, Paramount remains a leading force in entertainment with their 62-acre lot within central Los Angeles. Original action/adventure films from Paramount include Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), Top Gun (1986), Braveheart (1995), and Tropic Thunder (2008).
If you’re still a student (by technical terms), a great way to become immersed in the Paramount world is through their internship program. They offer an array of focused areas, including creative departments. Interns will have the chance “to network with industry professionals, attend a multitude of events aimed at furthering their entertainment knowledge, and play an integral role in their department.”
And to help further your research, some of Paramount’s affiliations include Viacom (studio parent), MTV Films (genre, b-movies), and Nickelodeon (animation).
Founded in 1923, Warner Bros. has built a reputation via multiple entertainment mediums such as film, television, and video games. Original action/adventure films from Warner Bros. include Pan’s Labyrinth (2006), Inception (2010), Mad Max: Fury Road (2015), Dunkirk (2017), and Wonder Woman (2017).
A famously known opportunity for screenwriters is Warner Bros. Television Writers’ Workshop. Warner Bros. incentive is for the recipients to earn a “staff position on a Warner Bros.-produced television show.”
And to help further your research, some of Warner Bros. affiliations include WarnerMedia (studio parent), HBO Documentary Films (arthouse/indie), New Line Cinema (genre, b-movies), and Cartoon Network (animation).
WALT DISNEY PICTURES
Founded in 1923, Walt Disney Pictures is the main division of The Walt Disney Studios, all of which falls under the much grander umbrella of The Walt Disney Company. Original action/adventure films from Walt Disney Pictures includes Toy Story (1995), Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003), Finding Nemo (2003), The Incredibles (2004), and Cars (2006).
A program Disney offers is called the Walt Disney Television Writing Program, which opens annually in May. It runs for a year, where recipients become employees at Walt Disney Television (WDT) and are introduced to invaluable industry professionals. Although not guaranteed, the program’s goal is to staff the recipients on a WDT show.
And to help further your research, some of Walt Disney Pictures’ affiliations include Walt Disney Studios (studio parent), Fox Searchlight Pictures (arthouse/indie), 20th Century Fox (genre, b-movies), and Blue Sky Studios (animation).
Founded in 1924, Columbia Pictures is a member of the Sony Pictures Motion Picture Group. Come the late 20s, the company started to really prove its place in the industry. Original action/adventure films from Columbia Pictures include Ghostbusters (1984), The Fifth Element (1997), Zombieland (2009), Zero Dark Thirty (2012), and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018).
And to help further your research, some of Columbia Pictures’ affiliations include Sony Pictures (studio parent), Sony Pictures Classics (arthouse/indie), Stage 6 Films (genre, b-movies), and Sony Pictures Animation (animation).
Those are the ‘Big Five’, all of which have made some of the best original action/adventure films to date. But, there may be an elephant in the room to address — why cover the obvious? The Univeral’s and the Disney’s? They’re a no brainer.
The reason being, as a screenwriter, part of your homework is to know who the top dogs are. To be familiar, at the very least. Meaning, who is consistently releasing “x” amount of films per year, as consistently dominating top box office revenues – we’re talking 80% – 85% worth. The ‘Big Five’ are, and four out of five of them offer opportunities for emerging screenwriters. That’s huge! From here, by all means please continue your research — create your wish list of companies – whether big or small(er) or both – because there are many amazing options. And many that will speak to your story’s voice – whether a Hello Sunshine or an Amazon or a Blumhouse or a New Regency or a LuckyChap or a Plan B or a Point Grey or a Lionsgate. They’re out there. And everyone’s looking for a great story. So have at it, and as always, happy writing.
Danielle Karagannis is a writer/director. She’s in post for her third short film (and proof of concept) GROUND CONTROL and in development for several productions between features, shorts, and music videos. Instagram: https://www.