An Interview with Raindance Film Festival founder Elliot Grove

Elliot Grove is the founder of Raindance Film Festival, an independent film festival that was established in 1992. The Raindance Film Festival supports and promotes independent films and filmmakers from the UK and around the world. Elliot Grove answers some questions for Performance Reviewed.

What is the criterion for participants to feature in the festival?

We have to like their film!

What we look for is the real question.

Firstly, we seek a story, and a story that is about exceptional people, extreme circumstances or a story told in a new, bold, fresh and innovative way.

Secondly we look for filmmaking techniques – and they don’t need to be traditional filmmaking techniques either

And lastly, for a film to be selected for Raindance it needs to be extremely good. If a filmmaker’s film doesn’t make it into Raindance there are plenty of other really good festivals like Sundance, Cannes, Toronto and Berlin.

We’ve been so conditioned to expect the Hollywood formula that anything outside of it represents a challenge for the stereotypical mass market watching public so that then represents a challenge for the film makers. The challenge is, do they produce films that art considered ‘arty’ and just for the critics who like non formulaic artistic film product with all the commercial implications of this?

Here is the common misconception about Hollywood.

Hollywood is not a filmmaking industry – it is a marketing business. And they create products that they can market using their formidable marketing ability and budgets. And of course they use the stars – actors that they have created with their marketing machinery.

Hollywood occasionally gets blackmailed by a filmmaker like Terrance Mallick (Thin Blue Line) or Chris Nolan (Inception) to make arty films, but they do it because they are forced to do it (by the filmmakers), not because they want to do it.

What are the festival’s 3 biggest commercial successes using ‘the Raindance route’?

Blair Witch Project

Down Terrace (Ben Wheatley)

Old Boy

If investors wanted to back one of the films with a modest amount of money, how would they go about it?

All independent filmmakers create business plans which include budgets, schedules and marketing and promotional plans. An investor can secure a ‘slice of the cake’ de[ending on what percentage of the budget they are providing. Additionally, if the investor is a UK tax payer, their film investment can be substantially de-risked utilising the current UK Tax laws known as Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS)

The first step is to get to know the work of a filmmaker they are interested in (usually at a festival like Raindance) – meet them after their screening at the bar or dinner and simply ask “What are you doing next?”

As a follow up, if a book publisher wanted to turn (fund) one of their scripts into film with a fairly modest investment, how would they go about it?

The first thing any screenwriter, or holder of intellectual property needs to do is to find a producer. The producer will assess the market value of the finished film and then create a business plan and seek appropriate finance, supervise the making of the film and its eventual release.

Usually it’s the other way around -a producer will seek out the screenplay rights to a novel or manuscript from the rights holder – in many cases the publishing company.

Obviously the silver screen has a huge potential to influence the public. With it comes a huge responsibility. What does the inclusion of somebody like Julian Assange on the Jury for the Raindance festival say in relation to that responsibility.

Previous jurors like Iggy Pop, Marky Ramone, Lemmy and Mick Jones have each had their own brushes with the civil and moral codes of western society. Julian Assange is no stranger to civil actions – he has been charged some two dozen times for hacking offences. His life work however will become known as textbook case studies on the use and power of social media. This does not mean that I or Raindance condone his personal life.

How do you reconcile your Amish background with what you do now? Will you try and popularise film-watching among the Amish community (the question is based on the assumption that they have not changed substantially from the way they were represented in the film Witness with Harrison Ford)?

The Amish community is well aware of my life work and they are proud of the way I have managed to make many people aware of issues around the world. It would be a futile mission to actually get them to watch movies. Having long since left the community, we watch each other with pride from afar. Much of what I do is firmly rooted in my Amish background. You can take the boy out of the Amish community, but you will never ever take the Amish out of the boy.