I-MAGAZINE Interviews Elliot Grove, Founder of The Raindance Film Festival

Few people know more filmmakers and screenwriters than Elliot Grove. Elliot is the founder of Raindance Film Festival (1993), the British Independent Film Awards (1998), and Raindance London Film School (2007). He has produced over 700 short films and five feature films: the multi-award-winning The Living and the Dead (2006), Deadly Virtues (2013), Amber (2017), Love is Thicker Than Water (2018) and the SWSX Grand Jury Prize winner Alice (2019). He teaches screenwriting and producing in the UK, Europe, Asia and America. Elliot has written three books which have become industry standards: Raindance Writers’ Lab: Write + Sell the Hot Screenplay, now in its second edition, Raindance Producers’ Lab: Lo-To-No Budget Filmmaking and Beginning Filmmaking: 100 Easy Steps from Script to Screen (Professional Media Practice). In 2009 he was awarded a PhD for services to film education.

2022 will see the 30th edition of the Raindance Film Festival. What have you learned during all this time?

OMG – What haven’t I learned! I started out as a complete nobody. My formal training proclaims me an expert in ‘Cire Perdue’ – lost wax bronze casting – the ancient art of the Greeks. My first job was working for Henry Moore. I had no idea a festival had so many moving parts from adjudication to hospitality, to securing film rights to acquiring sponsors, from marketing to publicity, plus the demands of managing a volunteer force of a hundred. 

And Raindance now does all that. Not because of me but because I have managed to secure a talented, hardworking and passionate crew. Each of the people I work with feel free to express their opinions and ideas, and together we have managed to make Raindance the success it is today. 

What would you say have been Raindance’s greatest achievements to date, and if you could go back and change anything what would you have done differently?

My biggest regret is not archiving the early years. The first website, one of the only UK websites anywhere in 1995. The many filmmakers talks at the festival that vanished into the thin air of the moment: wonderful talks by the likes of Ken Loach, Mike Figgis and Stephen Frears are all lost in history now. And the photographs! I have thousands from the mid-1990’s and I have no idea who they are! It’s amazing how people change in 30 years!

Another regret is that I failed to properly network. I was always torn between the effort required to keep Raindance afloat, family life, and the fatigue my own body was suffering from. As a result, I feel I have missed a lot of opportunities to collaborate.

I am immensely proud of the filmmakers we have helped along the way at the start of their careers. Some have immensely recognisable names, but there are others who have yet to achieve the critical and commercial success that they deserve. To each of the filmmakers whose work we have showcased I feel an immense satisfaction in tracking their careers.

What have been the most significant changes in the British film industry over the past 30 years – and how have those changes impacted festivals such as Raindance?

Thirty years is a very long time in a technologically dependent industry like film and new media.

Thirty years ago, you shot on expense 35mm film stock. You edited on an analogue editing table like a Steenbeck. And you needed about a million to get the thing made. Once made it would almost certainly get a theatrical release, followed by a home video release, and then terrestrial television.

And then BANG in the early noughties we had digital. Which meant filmmaking became democratised due to the relative inexpense of hiring or buying camera, lighting, sound and editing kit. And the marketplace was flooded with independently produced films. For a while it worked, until the market became saturated with product.

And then WHAM BANG a second time – the streamers came in. The streamers theoretically meant that newcomers could bring their independently produced product to market and commercialise it. The reality is that the film/streamer relationship to filmmakers is almost exactly parallel to the relationship the music streamers like Spotify have with musicians. It takes many many eyeballs on your films to turn a simple buck. And the streamers rake in a sinful and decadent amount from advertising and subscriptions

Which brings me to my last point. It is not a wise decision for a filmmaker to call themselves a filmmaker in this day-and-age. With so many different outlets asking for so many different types of film, I think it is far better to be known as a multi-format visual content creator. You could be doing corporate ads. You could be doing web series. You might be aiming at episodic series for the streamers or terrestrial tv. Or indeed a feature documentary or narrative feature.

The rest of this editorial will be published at a later date.