Voltage topper tempts with edgier indies

Nicolas Chartier, prexy of L.A.-based foreign sales company Voltage Pictures and producer of Oscar hopeful “The Hurt Locker,” is a young guy from the old school.

Before co-founding Voltage four years ago with producer Dean Devlin, he learned his trade with sales veterans such as French producer Alain Siritzky, Gary Hamilton at Arclight, Paul Brooks at Gold Circle and Kirk D’Amico at Myriad.

That taught him about the importance of giving buyers the basic tastes they need, in order to tempt them with more ambitious flavors. So Voltage serves up genre telepics starring the likes of Steven Seagal, Wesley Snipes and Val Kilmer — 70 over the past four years — and invests the proceeds in more challenging feature projects.

“I definitely want to stay connected with the meat ‘n’ potatoes business, because those are the movies that the buyers make money on, so when I bring them something like ‘Hurt Locker’ that they are not so sure about, they will take the risk with me,” Chartier explains.

Now 35, French-born Chartier moved to Los Angeles at age 20 when he sold a script to Kushner Locke while working as a janitor for Euro Disney. He wrote erotic movies for Siritzky and got interested in sales when he helped out at film markets. “I realized that the same people who bought latenight HBO films were also paying $3 million for the next big action movie,” he recalls.

“The Hurt Locker” was the first feature that Voltage financed and produced inhouse. Next up are two more political thrillers, “The Company You Keep,” directed by and starring Robert Redford, and “The Whistleblower,” starring Rachel Weisz and directed by Canadian first-timer Larysa Kondracki. It’s also handling George Romero’s “Survival of the Dead,” which premieres at Venice and and plays Toronto.

“I want to finance and produce movies that the studios were doing in the ’70s and ’80s but aren’t making anymore,” Chartier says, “films like ‘Salvador,’ ‘Midnight Express’ and ‘Three Days of the Condor.’ The studios are making stupid sequels and movies for kids, so there are a lot of great filmmakers and actors who aren’t working for them.”

The success of “Hurt Locker” has put him on the prestige map. “What I want out of ‘Hurt Locker’ is to find another great director who has another movie he — or she — wants to do independently and control the film, a director who hasn’t worked for the studios since I don’t know when,” Chartier says.

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