From PlayStation to the Silver Screen: Asad Qizilbash on Making the "Uncharted" Film into a Success and the Future of PlayStation Productions

Adaptations of video game IP for film and TV have a troubled history, with very few projects in the last three decades managing to secure both critical and financial success. However, the tides maybe be turning, with the industry's continued strong appetite to diversify the genres of content releases, including game IP- based stories. And now, with PlayStation Productions, a team that will focus exclusively on adapting first party PlayStation IP for film and TV, Sony has decided to enter the arena with a slew of exciting projects, injecting new life into the genre.

For this edition of the Sony Corporate Blog, we spoke with the head of PlayStation Productions, Asad Qizilbash, about the team's first effort with Sony Pictures to hit the silver screen, a feature film based on the beloved video game franchise Uncharted, his thoughts what makes a successful adaption of a video game IP, and what gamers and film fans alike can look forward to from Sony.

Asad Qizilbash
Head of PlayStation Productions

PlayStation Productions - entering a new era of cooperation between SIE and SPE

PlayStation Productions was launched by Sony Interactive Entertainment (SIE) in 2019 as a collaborative effort with Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE) to expand the user base of first party PlayStation IP through the medium of film and TV adaptations. Heading the group is Asad Qizilbash, who has been at SIE for over 16 years, including serving previously as Vice President of Games Marketing. With other key members bringing over 30 years of combined experience in TV and film production to the team, PlayStation Productions is well-quipped to partner with SPE on development of all its film and TV projects, leveraging the vast experience in producing and distributing film and TV that SPE has cultivated over several decades.

SIE and SPE have collaborated on isolated projects in the past, but the launch of PlayStation Productions represents a new level of collaboration between the two Group companies that will allow for the utmost in creative expression and flexibility in creating films and TV series based on a number of Sony-owned IP.

Nearly three years after its launch, PlayStation Productions together with Sony Pictures released the eagerly awaited Uncharted film this February to very strong initial box office results globally, including opening as the No. 1 film at the US box office in its opening weekend.

"Uncharted" - the "perfect" first project for PlayStation Productions

Uncharted is a series of action adventure games that began with the release of Uncharted: Drake's Fortune in 2007, which was followed by the three direct sequels Uncharted 2: Among Thieves (2009), Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception (2011), and Uncharted 4: A Thief's End (2016), as well as a prequel title and various spin-offs. In total, the Uncharted series has sold over 40 million copies worldwide.

According to Qizilbash, "Uncharted was the perfect game to adapt to film because it's so cinematic and has these great characters and relationships. It also plays like those classic adventure movies we all love." Indeed, as Uncharted itself draws inspiration from the world of cinema, it is not as much of a jump to then adapt its aesthetic for film as may be the case for other video game properties.


The Uncharted series' stunning locations and combat sequences are also a natural fit for an action film, and provide an opportunity for star Tom Holland to utilize the breadth of experience he gained in shooting action sequences and performing his own stunts in the Spider-Man films. In fact, Tom was first suggested for role after Tom Rothman, Chairman and CEO,Sony Pictures Entertainment Motion Picture Group saw Spider-Man Homecoming. As Qizilbash says of the film's star, "Tom was the perfect choice to play the lead role of a young Nathan Drake. He is a brilliant actor that can mix comedy, drama and action. It also helped that Tom was such a huge fan of the games and it showed with his incredible commitment to the character and passion for this project."

The challenges and possibilities in adapting video games to film

Qizilbash is well aware of the reputation that video game adaptations have, especially in the West, for often failing to meet expectations. Adapting video game IP into other mediums is a challenge, and there's a careful balance, he says, that must be struck between satisfying both ardent, longtime fans of the franchise as well as newcomers. If you hyper-focus on appealing to one group you may alienate the other and lose half our audience, but at the same time, there is also the risk of straying too far from the source material as a sort of compromise and failing to reach either audience successfully.

Addressing these potential pitfalls, the Uncharted film was written as a new story featuring the world and characters of the Uncharted series, instead of adapting the story of the games outright. "By telling more of an origin story that hasn't been explored in the games," he says, "we are introducing a new audience to these characters while offering something fresh to fans of the game."

Qizilbash discussing the challenge of bringing Uncharted to the big screen in a round table with the film's star and director, Tom Holland and Reuben Fleischer, respectively, and Neil Druckmann, Co-President of Naughty Dog

Sony's approach also relies on hiring talented filmmakers and trusting them to flex their creativity and vision when adapting Sony's game IP, even in cases where there the creative team on the video game side might do things differently. "With any healthy creative process, you will get disagreements. In such circumstances, it's always important to side with the vision of the filmmaker," says Qizilbash. In the case of Uncharted, that means Reuben Fleischer, director of films such as Zombieland (2009) and executive producer of the recent hit Venom: Let There Be Carnage (2021).

Of course, success for any film is never guaranteed. As Qizilbash says, "There is no set formula for success. Making good movies is hard and takes special alchemy for it to turn out just right." However, by combining a story and characters that have already proven to resonate with millions of fans, with the strong creative vision of a filmmaker, there is great potential for magic to be made, and Qizilbash couldn't be more confident in the Uncharted film and its vital role as the first release for PlayStation Productions.

The future of PlayStation Productions

"Uncharted," says Qizilbash, "is just the beginning for PlayStation Productions, and the collaboration with Sony Pictures." In addition to Uncharted, there are currently nine other projects in the works at the studio, including a film adaptation of the recent title Ghost of Tsushima and TV series based on The Last of Us and Twisted Metal. Just like Uncharted before them, each of these projects will take on board talented creative voices from the world of film, such as Chad Stahelski (director of John Wick) and others, to create imaginative and resonant stories that will satisfy long-time fans as well as create new ones.


"At the heart of any great game, film or tv show, there is a compelling story with rich characters," says Qizilbash, and as long as PlayStation Productions can get to the heart of what makes each of its game IP resonate and connect with millions of gamers, and transfer that faithfully into the world of film, "it's going to be an exciting future for gamers and movie lovers, alike."

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