When I went to grad school at Boston University, I was one of the only American students in a screenwriting class full of international people. It was one of the most important experiences in my life. Not only did I learn so much from my classmates, but I got to watch so many amazing movies from different cultures that never would have crossed my path otherwise. 

The art of filmmaking transcends geographical borders and cultural boundaries. American filmmakers, who often dominate the global cinema landscape, are not the sole pioneers of cinematic innovation.

Let's face it, sometimes Americans have a big blind spot for cinema from elsewhere. 

From the poetic storytelling of the French New Wave auteurs to the raw intensity of South Korean thrillers, the world of cinema offers a rich and diverse array of perspectives that can inspire and elevate American filmmaking.

So let's take a look at some lessons we can learn from around the world when it comes to filmmaking. 

Ready? Let's go. 

The_seventh_seal_game_with_death'The Seventh Seal'Credit: AB Svensk Filmindustri

Introduction to International Filmmaking

So what do I love about international filmmaking? 

The world of international filmmaking is vast and diverse, encompassing the works of renowned film directors and emerging talents alike. In recent years, the best modern directors from around the world have made significant strides in breaking down barriers and bridging cultural gaps through cinema.

As an American filmmaker, it's essential to immerse ourselves in the rich tapestry of international filmmaking. By doing so, we can gain new insights, challenge our assumptions, and ultimately, create more meaningful and engaging stories. In this article, we'll explore some of the most important lessons we can learn from the best film directors today, as well as some of the greatest foreign films of all time.

French_new_wave_definition_examples'Jules and Jim'Credit: Les Films du Carrosse/SEDIF

The Importance of Cultural Diversity in Film

Expanding your horizons will make you a better filmmaker. The faster you realize this, the better. 

One of the key lessons American filmmakers can learn from their international counterparts is the importance of cultural diversity in film. By representing a wide array of perspectives, filmmakers can not only create more authentic and relatable stories but also challenge stereotypes and promote empathy among audiences.

You can learn so much by watching things that do not represent you, but could shine a light on a blind spot you have,. 

For instance, filmmakers from countries such as Iran, South Korea, and Mexico have consistently produced films that shed light on their unique cultural experiences while still resonating with global audiences. By incorporating diverse perspectives, these filmmakers have been able to create deeply engaging films that transcend cultural boundaries.

Moreover, embracing cultural diversity in filmmaking can also lead to more innovative storytelling techniques and unique artistic expressions. By broadening our horizons and engaging with different cultures, we can enrich our own filmmaking practices and strengthen our ability to tell compelling stories.

And you might make some friends along the way. 

Cinema-paradiso-f65knw-copy'Cinema Paradiso'Credit: Titanus

Storytelling Techniques from Around the World

I became a better writer when I started admitting how much I don't know. 

One of the most enriching aspects of studying international filmmaking is discovering the myriad of storytelling techniques employed by film directors across the globe. These approaches can offer fresh and unique perspectives that can help us reinvigorate our own storytelling practices.

Imagine just seeing new ways characters and plot points could be crafted. 

Let's get into some of my favorites. Some of these are generalizations.  

Scandinavian filmmakers are known for their slow-burn, character-driven narratives that focus on the complexities of human relationships. And some Indian filmmakers often use elements of melodrama and theatricality to tell their stories, while some Japanese films frequently employ themes of spirituality and the natural world.

By studying these storytelling techniques, American filmmakers can expand their narrative toolbox and find new ways to engage with their audiences. Additionally, incorporating elements of international storytelling can help us create films that are more universally relatable and emotionally resonant.

Satire_in_parasite_'Parasite'Credit: CJ Entertainment

International Approaches to Film Genres

Another valuable lesson we can learn from international filmmakers is the unique ways in which they approach various film genres. By examining the different treatments of genres in international cinema, we can gain new insights into how to create fresh and engaging stories within our own films.

For instance, some South Korean filmmakers have become renowned for their innovative approach to the crime thriller genre, combining elements of dark humor, social commentary, and visceral action sequences. Similarly, some French filmmakers have long been celebrated for their unique take on the romantic comedy genre, often incorporating elements of existentialism and philosophical introspection.

By studying these genre-specific approaches, we can develop a better understanding of how to create films that both challenge and expand upon genre conventions, ultimately resulting in more engaging and unique cinematic experiences.

The world is your oyster!

Waking-ned-1998'Waking Ned Devine'Credit: Film4

Unique Visual Styles of International Directors

One of the most inspiring aspects of international filmmaking is the unique visual styles employed by some of the best modern directors from around the world. From the dreamlike imagery of Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul to the vibrant colors and kinetic energy of Indian filmmaker Anurag Kashyap, these directors have consistently pushed the boundaries of visual storytelling through their innovative techniques.

There's a whole history of filmmakers out there for you to draw from. 

By studying the work of these visionary directors, we can learn to experiment with our own visual styles and develop a more distinctive cinematic language. This not only helps set our films apart from others but also allows us to communicate our stories more effectively and memorably.

Felix_kammerer_in_all_quiet_on_the_western_front'All Quiet On the Western Front'Credit: Netflix

The Art of Collaboration in Global Filmmaking

One of the most critical lessons we can learn from international filmmakers is the importance of collaboration in the filmmaking process. In an increasingly globalized world, filmmakers from different countries often work together on joint productions, sharing resources, knowledge, and creative ideas.

By collaborating with international filmmakers, we can gain new insights and perspectives that can help us grow as artists and storytellers. Additionally, working with diverse teams can help us develop a more inclusive and open-minded approach to filmmaking, allowing us to create films that resonate with a broader range of audiences.

Find someone from another culture and work with them or have them give you notes or note them. Most importantly, find a diverse group to work with. 

No Film School, Akira Kurosawa, Rashomon the movie, Akira kurosawa advice,'Rashomon'Credit: Daiei Film

Funding and Distribution Strategies in International Cinema

How many times have you been stuck without film financing? Money is the hardest part of all this.

Navigating the world of film funding and distribution can be a complex and daunting task for any filmmaker. However, by studying the strategies employed by international filmmakers, we can learn valuable lessons on how to secure funding and distribution for our own films.

And there may be other opportunities abroad. 

For example, many European countries offer robust public funding options for filmmakers, often tied to cultural and artistic merit. Meanwhile, filmmakers from countries with more limited funding options have turned to alternative methods, such as crowdfunding, to finance their projects.

In terms of distribution, international filmmakers have increasingly embraced digital platforms and social media to connect with audiences and promote their films. By adopting similar strategies, we can increase the visibility of our films and reach a wider audience.

Pan's Labyrinth high low fantasy Fandor video essay no film school justin morrow'Pan's Labyrinth'Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

The Impact of Film Festivals on International Filmmaking

Film festivals play a crucial role in the world of international filmmaking, offering exposure, networking opportunities, and the potential for critical acclaim. By examining the impact of film festivals on the careers of some of the best film directors today, we can gain valuable insights into how to leverage these events to our advantage.

For instance, filmmakers such as Bong Joon-ho, Asghar Farhadi, and Céline Sciamma have all gained international recognition and success thanks in large part to their films' performances at major film festivals. By strategically submitting our films to festivals with a strong track record of championing diverse and innovative voices, we can increase our chances of garnering attention and building a successful career in the industry.

La-et-cam-palm-springs-film-fest-mustang-deniz-gamze-erguven-20160103'Mustang'Credit: Ad Vitam

Embracing Global Perspectives in American Filmmaking

As American filmmakers, embracing global perspectives and learning from our international counterparts is essential for our growth as artists and storytellers. By incorporating diverse voices, storytelling techniques, and visual styles, we can create more engaging and impactful films that resonate with audiences around the world.

Furthermore, by fostering collaboration and learning from the successes and challenges of international filmmakers, we can develop a more inclusive and innovative approach to filmmaking. In doing so, we can continue to push the boundaries of cinema and contribute to a global community of film lovers united by their passion for the art form.

So, as we embark on our own filmmaking journeys, let us remember to remain open to the lessons and inspiration that our international peers have to offer. In doing so, we can not only become better filmmakers but also more compassionate and empathetic global citizens.

We're going to get better movies and TV because of it.