Derek Potts has always been a film fan.
Today, Potts combines his career as a successful litigator–he founded his now national law firm in 2001 out of two rooms as a solo practitioner—with that of a film producer. The Houstinite’s latest film, “Narco Sub,” stars Lee Majors, Tom Sizemore and Robert Lasardo. The action thriller is slated to premiere in October.
How did your interest in the justice system begin?
My passion for the practice of law started with a passion for oral advocacy. I’ve always been intrigued and stimulated by debate and argument. I attended a debate camp when I was 13 and became the captain of my high school debate team. I was offered a scholarship to attend college to practice debate at the collegiate level.
You’ve had many achievements and accolades along the way as a lawyer. Which has meant the most?
I’m not sure I can narrow it down to just one, but if I may generalize, my federal litigation appointments are the accomplishments I’m most proud of. I’ve been appointed by four different United States federal judges around the country, who were appointed by the President, to lead different complex litigations. It’s such an honor that they put their trust in me to lead.
In addition to being a full-time lawyer, you founded Deep Water Productions. How did that happen?
I’ve always loved movies. Growing up, I admired the details that went into creating complex storylines and characters along with the process that goes into translating that story to the audience. I remember seeing Star Wars as a very young child and being blown away. I’ve had my hand in the film industry over the past 10 years as a silent partner in various movie and television productions, but I was never actively involved in the production process. It wasn’t until I met Houston movie director Shawn Welling through one of my cases that I had the opportunity to get my boots on the ground so to speak through my first film, “The Last Astronaut.”
“The Last Astronaut” got great reviews. What drew you to the story?
As I mentioned, getting involved in the film industry in the role of a producer had always been a dream of mine. When Shawn asked if I would like to get involved in “The Last Astronaut” as more than just a financial partner and be involved in the actual production, it was an opportunity to check something off my bucket list. But it obviously became so much more than that. The story itself was gripping.
What’s your current film, “Narco Sub,” about and why did you write the script?
I was in the Florida Keys with my son and daughter, and a local deputy sheriff I just happened to run into on the beach shared these crazy stories about homemade submarines being used to transport narcotics and how they were finding them on the shore. It actually happens; they’ve even recently found quite a few in the Keys.
The cartels build these submarines from scratch to avoid detection when smuggling drugs, and people, into the United States. I found it so fascinating to hear how far these cartels go to move drugs, driven by money and greed. There’s no limit to what they’ll try. We also have an element of sex trafficking in the film, which unfortunately is a major problem across Texas. With “Narco Sub,” we take their motivations and contrast them with a father’s love and how far he will go to protect his kids.
What sort of films does Deep Water Productions want to see on the big screen?
We’ve already been approached with some great ideas that we are looking forward to developing. One is the story of a local legend, which will be a biographical sports drama. We are also considering a sequel to “Narco Sub.” We deliberately left the door open at the end of the current movie for that to happen. We’re also tackling some extremely serious issues with a documentary that exposes the issue of sex trafficking in Houston. I plan to continue to focus on compelling stories in any genre. For that reason, we are always welcoming scripts or even rudimentary story ideas.
Where do you see the film industry headed?
I’m hoping we will see a trend toward more independent films, made locally. I think people will realize that great films can come from anywhere, not just Hollywood. It is time Houston is recognized as a great film city. Through these last two movies, I’ve had the privilege of working with some incredibly talented people, almost all based in Houston. That’s why we intentionally chose Lee Majors, a prominent actor and Houston resident, to star in the film.
Cover photo courtesy Ray Kuglar
Bob Valleau is a freelance writer living in McKinney, Texas.