Straight to (Digital) Video

Devolver Digital Films focuses on new avenues to viewers

Mike Wilson (l) and Andie Grace
Mike Wilson (l) and Andie Grace (Photo courtesy of Keith Carlsen)

Devolver Digital has its plate full. The video game publisher and production company dropped the surreal and hyperviolent Hotline Miami on the unsuspecting public in 2012, and it was on many best game lists by year's end. With Dungeon Hearts hitting mobile devices and PCs on March 28 and the much ballyhooed upcoming dogfighting title, Luftrausers, coming out this season, you have a very full company. Right?

Nope, it's going back for seconds.

On March 7, Devolver dispatched a press release saying it would be on the hunt during the South by Southwest Film Festival for movies fit for release later this year. The notice served as the formal announcement of Devolver Digital Films, complete with its two head honchos: co-founder Mike Wilson, expanding his role from the gaming arm of the venture to include film, and Andie Grace as vice president of acquisitions. Wilson's legendary if slightly checkered past with video game development (see "Betting the Farm," Dec. 14, 2007, for more on that) might not seem like a résumé worthy of a film distribution gig, but he's also worked producing a DVD video-magazine back in 2001 (i.e., before YouTube made that a thing), and helped produce two feature films. Wilson worked with Grace (aka Actiongrl) on Burning Man: Beyond Black Rock, a documentary about the desert festival where she was an executive staff member for 13 years. Who even knew Burning Man had an executive staff? All we know is if she can herd those counterculture cats, she can probably do just about anything.

Apart from using Tugg for a few cinematic screenings, Wilson doesn't want to engage with the established world of big-screen releases, opting to focus on video-on-demand and other digital modes of dissemination. When releasing a film digitally, directors and producers are left to promote their own work. Wilson explains, "The fact is that the filmmaker's resources, network, and energy are very nearly, if not completely, exhausted by the time their film reaches the market." Enter Devolver, whose connections with the digital distribution of video games makes them well-suited to market to the expanding demographic of the "gamer," which pretty much includes anyone with a phone these days.

Another result of the ongoing digital revolution is a new generation growing up without cable television, satisified to stream their moving images on their computers, gaming consoles, and Apple TVs. Devolver looks for movies that have performed well on cable and will bring them to emerging markets that demand entertainment on their own terms: at home and when they're good and ready to watch something.

The new company smell hasn't even dissipated, so Devolver doesn't have any films on its roster yet, but it's eager for spunky little projects to support, and looks forward to announcing its first few releases in the coming months. "Our model on the games and the film side is the same," Wilson says. "Super light, almost no overhead, and willing to scrap and champion films in ways that the bigger companies honestly can't be bothered with." In other words, Devolver is hungry for more.

Keep up with all our SXSW coverage at austinchronicle.com/sxsw. Sign up for our South By-specific newsletter at austinchronicle.com/newsletters for news, reviews, and previews delivered to your inbox every day of the Fest. And for the latest tweets, follow @ChronSXSW.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
SXSW Film Releases Full Feature Lineup
SXSW Film Releases Full Feature Lineup
Slate includes everyone from Wes Anderson to the Zellners

Monica Riese, Jan. 30, 2014

Mindy Kaling Comes to SXSW
Mindy Kaling Comes to SXSW
The comedian and showrunner will speak March 9

Monica Riese, Jan. 21, 2014

More by James Renovitch
VR Arena Adds Cardio to Your Virtual Experience
VR Arena Adds Cardio to Your Virtual Experience
Virtuix’s new attraction at Pinballz has players running and gunning without moving

March 22, 2019

Austin Video Game Developer Certain Affinity Announces Original Title, <i>Last Expedition</i>
Austin Video Game Developer Certain Affinity Announces Original Title, Last Expedition
Independent game studio also plans expansion to offices in Toronto

Jan. 30, 2019

KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Devolver Digital, VOD, South by Southwest, Andie Grace, Mike Wilson, DVD, Burning Man, Austin High, Tugg

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Updates for SXSW 2019

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle