Class Notes

A Foreign Concept

A Foreign Concept
Class Notes - A Foreign Concept - Summer 2007

Having spent the past decade championing Seattle’s independent film scene, writer/director John Jeffcoat ’94 does find it slightly ironic that his debut feature film, Outsourced, was shot mostly on location in Bombay. But Jeffcoat’s Eastern affinity has not caused him to stray too far from his Northwestern cinematic roots. You could say Jeffcoat’s canvas-backed director’s chair has two legs in Seattle and two in India.

It was Jeffcoat’s experience as a Denison student studying abroad in Nepal that eventually led to Outsourced, a cross-cultural comedy about a customer service call center manager who loses his job and must travel to India to train his own replacement. The American finds himself surrounded by unfamiliarity much like Jeffcoat did after hiking two hours to the Nepalese village in which he would live only to arrive and be asked if he plowed with oxen. After five months in Nepal, Jeffcoat returned to the states with a very different take on his native land. “When I got home I was finally able to see America for the first time as a foreigner,” he said. “I wanted to find a way to tell my story.”

Jeffcoat would find the storytelling device he needed in Seattle. He heard stories of local companies Microsoft and Boeing shipping jobs to India. In some cases, the soon-to-be-unemployed Americans were training their Indian replacements. Jeffcoat simply switched the dynamic around, sending the American overseas, and Outsourced was born. He found a kindred spirit in Seattle screenwriter George Wing (who had recently enjoyed some success with his script for the Adam Sandler-Drew Barrymore comedy 50 First Dates) and the pair went to work.

Jeffcoat and Wing pitched the script in Hollywood; they even had Matt Dillon attached at one point. But every studio balked at the idea of Jeffcoat directing. Selling the script would mean handing over creative control to people who had completely different ideas for the film. So the creative duo looked for inspiration in the one place that had never let them down— Seattle. At a script read-through, Jeffcoat and Wing received “really intelligent” script notes from a representative of Seattle-based Shadowcatcher Entertainment. The production company agreed to help fund the film with Jeffcoat behind the camera. “It turned out to be this really bizarre path that led back to Seattle,” said Jeffcoat.

Now Jeffcoat and company are working on securing distribution that could include a theatrical release. He said buzz in India suggests the film could become a hit at the megaplexes. And what about the reaction state-side? So far this year, Outsourced was named “Best of the Fest” at the Palm Springs International Film Festival and recently won the Audience Award for Best Feature at both the Indian Film Festival of L.A. and the Cinequest Film Festival in the heart of Silicon Valley, a region in which outsourcing is a looming threat.

Published August 2007