Monday, July 28, 2008

Foreign Markets

I still haven't made it out to see DARK KNIGHT. I know, I suck. I'm probably going to go tomorrow morning or afternoon. I was in Tahoe last week with my writing group working on the novel. It's going pretty well, but there are still tons of things to do. Anyway, as I work on my pitch document for this remake idea, I've been thinking a lot about foreign market concerns.

The reality is that the movie business is 60-80% driven by foreign financiers who are purchasing rights for sale overseas. Movies that don't have a strong foreign appeal are far less likely to be purchased and greenlit. What are the elements for a globally-appealing film?

First and foremost, genre. Action films don't require very much by way of translation. Sub-genres like heist films, gangster movies, detective stories, thrillers or horror films are all solid bets. As an artist, it's important to keep these things in mind when deciding to spec out a story, since you're spending months at a time on something with no idea where the market will be once you complete it. Also a strong genre sample helps a baby writer to get re-write gigs.

Movie stars run a very close second to genre. Most films are marketed with pictures of the lead actors on the poster. These actors do not have to be stars in the US, in fact, when casting is done on films supporting roles are often re-written, or created with specific foreign stars in mind.

Budget -- the US is still the only country that creates mammoth spectaculars like DARK KNIGHT as a matter of course. Studios sell of pieces of films (usually as part of a slate) to foreign financiers, but very few foreign financiers venture into the blockbuster movie-making business themselves (and, yes, I know about CHRONICLES OF NARNIA and ERAGON, but those are specific cases that have strong US executive elements driving them). This means that another important element is understanding the budgeting process and what different talent elements will bring in terms of a market return.

All of which is way down the road for me and my little pitch document. I'm still doing competitive research reading and trying to decide if I'll bring in a writer or writer/director before I go back in to visit the studio.....

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