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How Independence Day producer Dean Devlin is filling the gaps left by Hollywood’s franchise fever

Dean Devlin
Dean, Dean, the directing machine!

The blockbuster culture of Hollywood dates back to Jaws in 1975. Once Star Wars hit, studios went into the business of tentpole hits. By the ‘90s, studios were banking on summer tentpoles to pay for the rest of the year’s slate of films.

Dean Devlin was instrumental in the ‘90s, producing Independence Day and Roland Emmerich’s subsequent summer movies. The thing is, Independence Day was not the kind of blockbuster that’s being made today.

Today’s Hollywood rarely even tries for middle ground movies anymore, and when it comes to blockbusters, they want well known comic book, literary or video games franchises to adapt. Now Devlin sees an opportunity.

“Unfortunately, the studios have kind of abandoned a whole swath of movies because they really want to focus on big home runs,” Devlin said. “There’s nothing wrong with that but I think that the audience would like to have more items on the menu.”

David Tennant
David Tennant in Bad Samaritan

Devlin now produces and directs for his company Electric Entertainment. Bad Samaritan is a thriller from an original script by Brandon Boyce.

“Independent companies like mine or A24 or STX or Lionsgate or Entertainment Studios have this opportunity to add back some menu items that I think the audience would really like to have,” Devlin said.

Having produced his share of tentpoles, Devlin understands the appeal of the big risk/big reward game. However, entertainment, let alone art, can’t be boiled down to a scientific formula.

“There’s a lot of rules that movies need to be based on something else,” Devlin said. “There has to be an arguable pre-existing audience for it. The problem with trying to left brain the movie industry is if you could do it, every director would come from Harvard and Yale and every movie would be a giant success. It just doesn’t work that way.”

There’s also a downside to flooding the market with familiar movies.

“We’re seeing it now in the declining box office,” Devlin said. “If everything you go to see is based on something you’ve already seen, at some point it’s a little bit like kissing your sister.”

Bad Samaritan
Bad Samaritan wouldn’t be made by a movie studio.

Even Devlin’s biggest hit, he realized, wouldn’t be greenlit today

“I said to a studio head seven or eight years ago, even my own film Independence Day wouldn’t get made today,” Devlin said. “The studio head turned to me and said, “You’re right. I wouldn’t make Independence Day today unless you called it War of the Worlds.’”

Devlin looks at movies like Baby Driver and Get Out as proof that audiences still crave original ideas. With the latter, Blumhouse produces such movies at low budgets so producer Jason Blum doesn’t have to justify every expenditure.

“And he’s had enough hits,” Devlin said about Jason Blum. “He’s really good at what he does. He has a real eye for the material. He’s had failures but his successes have been far greater than the failures and it’s created a brand name. I think when people see Blumhouse on the movie, there’s a certain comfort that it’s going to have a quality level.”

Bad Samaritan stars David Tennant as a psychopath keeping a kidnapped woman (Kerry Condon) in his house. When a valet (Robert Sheehan) tries to rob him, the boy finds the victim but can’t outsmart the killer to free her.

Bad Samaritan
Dean Devlin directs Robert Sheehan in Bad Samaritan.

Electric partnered with a new crowdfunding venture, Legion M, to fund the marketing of Bad Samaritan. Production had already been completed when Devlin heard about Legion M.

Legion M allows fans to invest in the movies they want. Thanks to new SEC rules, unaccredited investors can invest in films in a way they could not via Kickstarter, Gofundme or Indiegogo.

“This company doesn’t answer to Wall Street,” Devlin said. “This company answers to the fans. As a filmmaker I would much rather answer to the fans than to have to answer to Wall Street.”

With the Roman Numeral M, Legion M’s goal is to have one million investors. They already have over 35,000.

“When they get to a million users, if each user puts in $100, they could make a hundred million dollar movie,” Devlin said. “That’s a real game changer.”

Bad Samaritan is now in theaters.

Fred Topel has been a journalist since 1999. Over the decades he’s written for About.com, Hollywood.com, CraveOnline, Rotten Tomatoes and Slashfilm. Fred brings Monsters and... read more

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