Electric Entertainment’s Dean Devlin tells Jeremy Kay what makes the company spark and what’s buzzing at AFM.
Dean Devlin, the founder and owner of Hollywood-based Electric Entertainment, acted in shows such as LA Law in the 1980s and hit pay dirt when he met Roland Emmerich. The pair co-wrote Stargate, Independence Day and Godzilla. Devlin set up Electric at Paramount in the early 2000s and co-founded Voltage Pictures with Nicolas Chartier in 2005. He has never let go of Electric Entertainment and attends AFM with the company’s new sales division.
Give us the low-down on Electric.
We’re a full-service film and TV production and distribution company in Los Angeles and we also have Electric Visual Effects here and sound stages in Portland, Oregon, and now a sales unit. I funded Electric and we built a library and leveraged it to move things forward. We were fortunate to have success early on [with The Librarian film franchise on Turner Network Television and the former TNT TV show Leverage] so we didn’t acquire enormous debt. We have built a workflow that gives us a competitive advantage because it allows us to do things for less money and improve quality.
Tell us about your new hire.
We brought in Sonia Mehandjiyska [formerly of Global Screen] to head the sales unit and it’s a perfect fit because she has experience in TV and movies and we’ve done a lot of TV and features and they’re very different disciplines. Last year we wrapped up our [fifth and final season of] Leverage and we¹re hoping to do some new series next year to sell worldwide.
What features will Mehandjiyska talk up at the market?
We’ve got our mob drama The Wannabe, which we’re financing and it starts shooting on October 28 in Brooklyn. It stars Patricia Arquette, Vincent Piazza and Michael Imperioli and I’m an executive producer with Martin Scorsese. We’ve got Transit, which is the Philippines Oscar submission that we just picked up for the world, excluding the Philippines, and is a marvellous movie about Filipino immigrants in Israel that could really be set in any country. And we have a new TV show based on The Librarian property.
When will you move into feature production?
Hopefully by Cannes. We’re putting together No Good Deed and Critical Hour and we’ll finance and sell both titles. The budget sweetspot is $30m but the plan is to finance much bigger movies in the future. I’m also in pre-production on my feature directorial debut Geostorm with Skydance Pictures. [The disaster film is based on a script Devlin co-wrote with Paul Guyot.]
Why does television excite you?
When we got into TV we were financing hour-long dramas, which set a precedent outside the studio system. Traditionally in TV the studio would make the show and the network would license it, and very often both companies were owned by the same larger corporation. So that made it a very dangerous business for an indie, because traditionally only deep-pocketed studios that could absorb losses would take those risks. The success of our movies of the week and our tele-series showed that if done properly it can be independent and successful.