Deepwater Horizon: The Movie

Participant Media plans on portraying the moments leading up to the BP oil spill disaster in an upcoming film.

Deepwater Horizon on fire


Jeff Skoll’s social film company, Participant Media, has picked up the rights to adapt the New York Times article, “Deepwater Horizon’s Final Hours.” The deal was done in partnership with Summit Entertainment and Imagenation Abu Dhabi–the film will tell the story of what happened on the rig when it exploded, including the story of how over 100 people survived.

“It was impossible to be paying attention and not have this story catch your eye,” Participant’s Executive Vice President of Production, Jonathan King, tells Fast Company. “Everybody knows what happened after, but not many people know what happened at that moment and how people survived. Part of this story felt less known than what happened afterward. That was the part that felt like a movie, the story of those heroes and heroines.”

Participant produces both documentary and narrative films that have a social action theme–The Cove, Food Inc, Waiting for Superman, Fair Game, and Syriana are all previous productions. Should the film make it to the big screen, it will be one of the more action-heavy films in the company’s catalog, given the nature of the story. The timeliness and relevance of the film to the American public, Participant feels, makes it particularly resonant.

“It’s hard for us to find issues that are on point, socially relevant, and that can be compete with big movies out there,” says King. “It’s certainly an event that resonates and it’s inherently dramatic, because of what those oil rigs are like–larger than football fields on both sides. And there were many acts of heroism.”

The social action campaign is already being developed–that’s generally a component of Participant’s projects that takes shape early on in the process; partnerships with NGOs are being finalized now.

“As soon as we put a project into development, we start talking about how to address the issue–the educational and advocacy part of it,” says King.


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About the author

Jenara is an overseas reporter for Fast Company and a freelance writer/producer in Asia, regularly on CNNGo, and a graduate of Harvard and UC Berkeley.