Question from Nancy in ND: What is the foreign market like for screenwriters? How does a screenwriter approach foreign directors and production companies? Is there a book that talks about the overseas film industry?
I'm a business writer who publishes articles in foreign magazines and I'm working on a couple of screenplays that I think may be of interest to film executives in France and Sweden. Thanks for your advice!
Karl Iglesias responds: The foreign market can be lucrative for American screenwriters and yet, many aspiring writers don't include it in their marketing efforts. I have heard of several struggling screenwriters who found steady writing gigs in Europe, and I'm aware of screenwriting instructors such as Syd Field, and Lew Hunter who also teach abroad.
As you probably know, it is not a fluke the U.S. are the number one exporter of movies and television, which tells you foreign prodcos respect our storytelling style. With regards to how does one approach foreign directors and prodcos, it is pretty much like it is here: networking, referrals, and a high dose of being at the right place at the right time. In my case, French director Juan Luis Bunuel came to the U.S., looking to attach actor Edward James Olmos, and he needed a rewrite before presenting it to him. I was referred to him by Olmos¹s director of development; we had a pitch meeting with my rewrite notes, Bunuel was enthusiastic, and we got to work. So in this case, it was pure luck, and knowing the right people (and them being confident enough about my work to recommend me).
I'm not aware of a book that deals with the overseas market, but getting in touch with foreign directors and production is not as difficult as it may seem. It's just a matter of research and a little legwork. And with the Internet being such a global community, a lot easier than it used to be. Keep an eye on foreign entries at most film festivals, especially the foreign ones, like Cannes, Berlin, Venice, Toronto, etc., and check out the production credits, like director and production company. Check out 'The Ultimate Film Festival Survival Guide' by Chris Gore for information on over 500 festivals.
Another tip is to check out the Annual American Film Market (AFM) convention, which brings together most foreign distributors and production companies, not to mention directors and actors in late February in Santa Monica, CA. The Hollywood Reporter always prints a Special Issue around that time, which lists all foreign prodcos attending with contact information. If you¹re serious about the foreign market, this is the most valuable resource you can buy. And if you can't attend the convention itself (too expensive for most aspiring writers on a limited budget,) you can always attend a couple of screenings and check out the audience for anyone with AFM badges to network with.
Best of luck!!
Karl Iglesiasis is the author of The 101 Habits of Highly Successful Screenwriters