The 10 Most Frequently asked questions of Elliot Grove, founder of Raindance Film Festival and the British Independent Film Awards.
1) What made you start Raindance?
I had worked as a scenic artist and set designer on over 68 feature films and 700 commercials, both here at the BBC Shepherd’s Bush 1974-77, and in my native Toronto in the early 80’s. When I moved to London in 1986 with my family, I entertained a fantasy of becoming a property magnate, and went bust in the 1990 recession. After a year of wallowing in self-pity, my neighbour, an elderly retired farmer (who served as a barber in WW1) said to me: “Elliot, as long as our are feeling sorry for yourself, no doctor in the world can help you.”
He was right, of course, but I no longer had any film contacts here or back in Toronto. So I hatched a plan of imported so-called gurus from Hollywood to give seminars and workshops enabling me to learn, make contacts and survive until something concrete kicked in. After a few months, mates of mine started making films, and back then, in 92/93, there wasn’t really anywhere special to show British films. So I started the festival, in Leicester Square, to showcase the works of British Filmmakers.
2) You have been running Raindance for nearly twenty years now. How do you manage to keep the festival and training that you do so fresh?
A couple of reasons I guess:
Firstly, we have somehow managed to stay true to our roots. I am blessed to be working with such an energetic, talented and passionate crew.
Secondly, since I have failed to get any government funding for Raindance, I don’t have to worry about any outsiders pulling strings and trying to tell me what we can or cannot do. This means our films are typically much more controversial and underground than the fare served up by other festivals. And by controversial, remember that we are never controversial for the sake of controversy. We are just trying to be true to ourselves.
3) What was the reaction of British filmmakers, and the British film industry when you started Raindance? Wasn’t John Major still prime minister then?
Raindance was pretty much ignored by the Brits until about six or seven years ago. It was the Japanese, French, German and American filmmakers who discovered Raindance well before the Brits.
4) Is it true you got into trouble over using the name?
It is. I was sharing a one-room office with a single line with call-waiting when the phone rang and The Man himself asked why I was stealing his name. I tried to explain that I was on a different continent, and would do everything possible to assist him in accessing the plethora of British talent for his marvellous festival when the line went dead. Later that year, in Montreal, the producer of Sundance threw a glass of wine in the face of Jamie Ader Bron, who at that time was scouting American films.
But there’s been no trouble since.
5) So why did you chose the name Raindance. Surely it creates confusion with Sundance?
Because of the ‘dance’ you need to do to make your film, and because it rains a lot in London.
6) Is it harder or easier to get people interested in Raindance Film Festival?
It’s actually a lot easier now to get people interested in Raindance for several reasons:
Firstly: we have a reputation for showing really excellent films. And films often never seen before in Europe. Distributors regularly come to Raindance to find new films, especially the Asian films.
Secondly, people are getting pretty tired of Hollywood fare with their routine formulaic plotlines, and thirdly, independent cinema, by its very nature, is about topics told by deeply passionate people who tell stories about worlds we haven’t seen before (where we can learn something useful) or show us the world we already know (where we can learn). And generally, these topics and stories are stories so raw and visceral that Hollywood doesn’t dare touch them.
7) How would you describe a Raindance movie?
Off-Hollywood! And extreme – extreme topics, extreme storytelling, extreme soundtrack and music, extreme filmmaking techniques and extremely good.
What makes Raindance different?
Raindance is unique because we rely on films submitted to us by filmmakers, we who work at Raindance are filmmakers, and most of our films are by debut filmmakers.
8 ) What is the most rewarding memory of Raindance so far to you?
There have been too many rewarding moments to single out a specific one – but to say this: Every so often an idea we have had here, worked hard and long on – and it works. The stars seem to all line up, and it seems to work. This yer it had to be the private dinner I had with Faye Dunaway and a dozen of our benefactors.
I also meet dozens and dozens of the most talented people in my work at Raindance – and that is a special privilege which you just can’t describe.
9) Where do you see traditional film festivals going?
With the advent of on-line films and services such Youtube, all film festivals, including Raindance, have to constantly evaluate their programme to ensure an attractive off-line presence. Some film festivals will fail to do so, and I suppose will fail. And any film festival without a on-line strategy is, in my opinion, doomed.
10) How have you managed to keep Raindance going all these years without any sponsorship of public money?
We have had many sponsors over the years. And this year we are building to a re launch of the festival in 2011 which I think will take everyone by surprise and present a terrific advertising and sponsorship opportunities for a select number of companies and brands.
Raindance is one of The May Fair Hotel’s official Partners and have said that we have the best private screening room in London.