Today I welcome a Stage 32 member that really needs no introduction, producer, writer, director and the Founder of the Raindance Film Festival, Elliot Grove. Elliot has been around the industry for over 20 years through his festival and has helped debut many critically acclaimed independent films including What's Eating Gilbert Grape, Once, and even Christopher Nolan's first film The Following. It's Elliot's undying love for independent cinema and the independent filmmaker that has earned him the reputation of one of indiefilm's biggest champions.
In this entry (and if you know the man, par for the course), Elliot takes us on a ride that includes Syd Field, Mick Jones of the Clash, and, wait for it, Julian Assange! Belly up to the bar and enjoy!
I was at loose ends in 1992 - everything I had been working on had failed. So I decided to start Raindance as a thought experiment: Could you make a movie with no money (I had none) no experience (I had experience as a scenic artist) and no film training (I had no training in film at all).
The British film industry was in the doldrums in 1992. Everyone thought I was crazy. Our first events were training events with the great and good film school gurus from Hollywood: Syd Field, Dov Simens (a fellow Stage 32 member!), Christopher Vogler and the like. My first intern was a very young and eager Edgar Wright. I then met Christopher Nolan when he was a university student making short films using the Film Society's free equipment.
Suddenly British filmmakers started making films, guerrilla style like their American colleagues. The trouble was there was nowhere to show them unless they showed at the London or Edinburgh Film festivals. And if you submitted your British film to either of these great film festivals, it was such an oddity to have a British film the festival programmers didn't know how or where to programme these new British films - so they programmed them amongst the Japanese, French and American films in the ‘New World Cinema' strands.
I decided to start the Raindance Film Festival to celebrate these new British films, but then discovered something quite, well, nasty about British film goers - they were snobs. They didn't see any government or big brand logos on the early Raindance Film Festival posters and they assumed Raindance was just another money grab by a visiting tourist. I'm Canadian by birth!
Who did come those first few years were the Japanese, the French and American films and filmmakers. In 1993 we had the first ever public screening of a film starring Leonardo DiCaprio - he was just 14 when he made What's Eating Gilbert Grape. It took another five years before British filmmakers realised that having a major international film festival in the heart of London celebrating independent cinema was a good thing.
In my first few years of Raindance I shared an office with a graphic designer and had a single line with call waiting. Glamorous I tell you. The telephone rang that first year and to my surprise it was Robert Redford himself asking why I had stolen his name 'Sundance'. I spent a few minutes trying to convince him to allow me to lead him to the plethora of talented filmmakers in Britain and Europe. I explained I had named it Raindance because of the dance you need to do to make a film and because it rains in London. The line went dead, and when Sundance finally appeared in London in 2012 I was left off the guest list!
Since back then, 23 years ago, Raindance has grown. We had an astonishing 4,300 submissions from 73 countries in 2014 - a sum total of some two million minutes. We are only showing 50,000 minutes. We look for extreme films, and by that I mean: Extreme topics, extreme filmmaking techniques and because it's Raindance - extremely entertaining.
Of the thousands of films I’ve seen over the years, how do I pick my favorite? It's really hard for me to single out a single film from the thousands we have now shown. There have been so many debut films by filmmakers of acclaim, people like Christopher Nolan's first film, The Following for instance. The Raindance team and I champion new and undiscovered talent. I think of each of the films we have screened like my children and it would be wrong to single one of them out.
I’ve been fortunate to have met so many amazing and talent people along the way. Being of the stage in life when I remember too clearly the punk rockers of old, I suppose meeting Mick Jones of The Clash is a personal highlight. He was on the jury the year we showed the Irish film Once (now a West End musical, Tony Award winner in America and took a run through Los Angeles last year) - and I sat next to him at the screening. A particular thrill was meeting him in Soho a couple weeks later when he said 'You know that song 'Falling Slowly?' I just can't get it out of my head!' That song went on to win the Oscar for best song. Also I have to admit in 2013 it was a real pleasure and honour to interview Julian Assange. Polarized as most people are about him, it was a thrill to get to interview him.
I’m looking forward to this year’s Raindance Film Festival. We have partnered with RB Botto and Stage 32 in an effort to give Stage 32ers exposure in the Stage 32 Shorts Program that we will be screening. I’m also proud to have RB as one of our esteemed judges of Festival this year. If you are planning to come to the festival, meet me at the Vue Piccadilly, the home of the Raindance Film Festival, and I will be the fatigued-and-harried one in the corner having a series of palpitations hoping that the audiences will love the same films as I and the Raindance Team have chosen. We sleep when it's over.
The film industry is a people industry. it's not what you know but whom. So much has changed since 1992 when I started out. It was so difficult to know where to go to meet like minded people. Fortunately social media has changed all that. And very fortunately, RB had the vision to start Stage32.com - to build a community of like minded film people determined to make their own movies at all costs and to share their learnings within the Stage32 community. Where were you in 1992?
At the end of the day, I do all this because I love it. I can't imagine doing anything else. I want to make more movies. We've made three features in 2013/14 with another few in the pipeline through our production entity Raindance Raw Talent. Most film schools and film organisations spend their time tell people how they can't make their films. Raindance has always been about making movies.
I think the next Christopher Nolan or Edgar Wright, the next big film talent is more likely to come from someone reading Stage 32 articles than from the hallowed halls of academia. The film industry is changing dramatically right now, but we have yet to have the prophetic vision of someone like the person who invented sound or colour. When that person comes along they will grab all the headlines. And that person could be you!
We at Stage 32 are honored to offer our Stage 32 filmmakers the opportunity to have their short film screened at the 23rd Annual Raindance Film Festival in London. If you have short film under 25 minutes and would like the opportunity to have it screened theatrically to an international audience, click here to find out more details about the Stage 32 Short Film Contest!
Like this blog post? Please share it on social media (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, email etc) by using social media buttons at the top of the blog. Or post to your personal blog and anywhere else you feel appropriate. Thank you.
As always, Elliot is available for thoughts and remarks in the Comments section below...