My friend and I translated a French novel whose English translation has been out of print for many years. We have found no takers for our translation, but also have a screenplay, which we think could be a blockbuster for the right studio. The only problem is that the author of the original novel is dead and securing rights, let alone locating them, is a difficult task for two college students. Is it worth seeking representation in hopes that a studio would like the screenplay and do their own research to pick up the rights?
You need to hire an honest-to-goodness copyright attorney, preferably one that speaks French, and have him or her investigate the copyright situation on the original novel. Since you obviously speak French, you might be able to track one down in Paris or Montreal who could handle it. Another option would be to consult the French business league in either New York or L.A. and look for a contact there. One final thought would be to find a small American pubisher that specializes in French translations and try to sweet-talk their rights department into giving you a hand. It’s one case where being college students might help you out.
I think you’re much better off doing this homework at the outset, because no buyer will be interested in reading a screenplay based on work they may never be able to buy.