Jeremy Kopp
Director of Development, Altar Identity Studios

International sales markets in the movie industry not only play an important role in film financing, they are also integral to the potential revenue of a project. The box office is increasingly going global, as evidenced by predictions of China becoming the biggest film market in the world by 2018. It’s clear that film investors who can capitalize on foreign market opportunities can increase their ROI substantially. The key is having a team that understands all aspects of marketing films to an international audience and can target the best markets for a particular project.

Pending projects with a solid production team and recognizable writers, directors or actors are often pre-sold to foreign markets to give the film’s finances a boost. This strategy minimizes investors’ risks by shoring up the costs of making the movie, while also providing additional revenue once the film hits theaters overseas.

Participating in Film Festivals
Film festivals often act as foreign sales and distribution marketplaces, with contests, screenings, and other events. To be successful in foreign markets, production teams have to not only get their projects in front of the right people but also showcase them effectively. Major foreign film festivals, such as the Cannes Film Festival, the European Film Market in Berlin and the Toronto Film Festival, present the best opportunities for major foreign distribution. Depending on the project, producers can also find interested parties at regional film events or more specialized festivals, like the International Documentary Film Festival in Amsterdam.
At these events, creators screen trailers, scenes or even entire films and discuss the needs of various markets with foreign distributors. Creators must be able to present the film effectively, even if it’s not complete. This means providing scripts, listings of distinguished personnel on the film, edited segments, early reviews or any other preliminary material that will make distributors take notice.

Understanding the Market
A large part of a favorable foreign debut is understanding the landscape. In addition to a strong script, projects need to have recognizable cast or director, as well as a marketable story. The Passion of the Christ was one of the highest-grossing movies distributed across international borders. However, it received no play in Israel, where distributors refused to market the film.
Foreign distributors also prefer to partner with production teams that have multiple projects going on at once, as this gives them more to offer their audiences and provides additional streams of revenue.

Utilizing Video-on-demand Aggregators
Streaming video-on-demand services are quickly becoming the most popular ways to view movies and TV shows in the U.S., and this trend is holding steady in foreign markets, too. Digital video platforms have international reach, making them essential to success in foreign markets. VOD aggregators serve as intermediaries between producers and platforms, with the ability to get films placed in VOD queues. Once there, the film is introduced to a global audience, fulfilling foreign market needs even if it never reaches theaters.

Hiring an International Sales Agent
An international sales agent acts as a liaison between a project’s creators and foreign distributors. They assist with marketing, pitching and negotiating foreign distribution rights in a number of media, including theaters, television, home video and VOD. An agent’s basic duties include developing marketing material, determining a strategy for approaching foreign distributors at film festivals, open calls for film content and other sales-related situations. International agents can act as long-term partners for a film production team, introducing you to additional distributors within a particular market and opening up opportunities in similar markets.

Foreign markets are rife with competition, and success isn’t guaranteed. However, a firm grasp of film finance and keen insight into the international movie market will provide substantial benefits when it comes to global opportunities. Film investors who have backed the right team can be confident in their project’s ability to excel at home and abroad.