What with the constant influx of foreign competition, and the falling dollar, you'd love to beef up your company's presence overseas. But the idea of setting up foreign distribution, hiring a new sales force, and trying to keep an eye on performance "over there" scares you to death. What to do?

Think like Michael Lepiner. The president of Los Angeles-based Telecom Entertainment Inc. has come up with a way to make international business less daunting: find a foreign friend, and have him buy in.

Telecom makes television movies -- such as The Attic: The Hiding of Anne Frank, which appeared on CBS in April -- but Lepiner's approach could work for almost anyone. When developing a movie script wit international appeal, Lepiner searches for overseas broadcasters and offers them a piece of the action. In return, he gets more than money -- he gains knowledgeable foreign contacts and help with distribution, production, and advertising. There is no need for brokers or other middlemen.

Although in most cases the arrangement works like a joint venture, Telecom often retains the final say, which can be part of the deal's appeal. Also appealing is the potential for reciprocity. Says Lepiner: "When your foreign partners are looking to do business here, they're likely to come to you."