What can foreign filmmakers do to increase the demand for their movies in the United States?

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Foreign films typically do not play well in the United States, although there are occasional exceptions. One of the most notable was Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon , which was a spectacular hit both critically and financially when it came out in 2000. However, though this movie was filmed in Chinese...

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Foreign films typically do not play well in the United States, although there are occasional exceptions. One of the most notable was Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, which was a spectacular hit both critically and financially when it came out in 2000. However, though this movie was filmed in Chinese with Chinese actors, it was an international production. The primary writer was American, and the director, Ang Lee, was a Taiwanese-American. Still, collaborative efforts are one way that foreign productions can become more popular with U.S. audiences.

If foreign filmmakers hope to become popular in the U.S market, they certainly need to at least collaborate with U.S. distributors. Large distributors such as Miramax, Sony, and Universal Studios are for the most part reducing their support of foreign films. They prefer, in fact, to do remakes of popular foreign films in English with well-known actors. Examples of these include The Magnificent Seven, which is a western remake of the samurai classic The Seven Samurai, and the Scorsese film The Departed, which is a remake of a Hong Kong film called Infernal Affairs. The exceptions are those that have done well at festivals, won awards, or sustained intense marketing efforts. Filmmakers presumably always do their best work, but there are many competitors for few awards and positions in festivals. This leaves marketing, which puts the onus on filmmakers to come up with sponsors with deep pockets.

Another dynamic area in which foreign filmmakers might be able to gain ingress is in online streaming platforms. Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, Apple, and others are all emphasizing high-quality original content, and it's possible that foreign filmmakers could obtain a significant piece of this lucrative action. One example of a highly successful foreign film on a streaming platform is Roma, a 2018 drama by Mexican writer and director Alfonso Cuaron, which won the Golden Lion at the Venice International Film Festival and then went on to win the Academy Award for best foreign film. Netflix acquired distribution rights for the film, and after a brief theatrical run, it ran exclusively as a streaming product on Netflix's worldwide platforms.

In the long term, what would also make a dynamic impact on increased demand among U.S. viewers for foreign films would be greatly improved dubbing capabilities. In the case of foreign films imported into the United States, dubbing is a post production process that replaces foreign voices with English ones. Until now, U.S. audiences have typically not been satisfied with the quality of the dubbing of foreign films, but if the dubbing could seem much more fluid and natural, acceptance of this might improve. Most foreign films currently have subtitles, and U.S. audiences for the most part seem averse to these. Dubbing would solve the subtitle problem.

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One thing that foreign filmmakers could do to increase the demand for their movies in the United States would obviously be spend more money on advertising. American films are heavily advertised and promoted by other means in the U.S., especially through the use of public relations specialists. If money is spent on advertising, the print and television media will respond by giving bonus coverage in the form of reviews, news items, and interviews. There are many Americans who like foreign films and would be likely to go to more of them if they were aware of them; but many foreign films come and go so quickly that people miss them.

Many foreign films are only shown in New York and Los Angeles. There must be American cities where there are big populations of immigrants who speak the languages used in the foreign films made in countries like India and Iran. These people could be targeted through research into demographics and specialized media.

Foreign filmmakers could pay more attention to the writing that goes into their products. The stories are often weak and pointless, lacking in continuity, suggesting that the director and the cameraman believe they can turn out a good movie without a good script. They ought to study the films of directors like Alfred Hitchcock and John Huston. They ought to refer to a book by Lajos Egri titled The Art of Dramatic Writing.

College campuses all over the U.S. might be good markets for foreign-made films. Getting the films to young people would be a good way to cultivate interest which would continue throughout their lives.

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