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The Raindance Kid speaks up!

DMovies's editor Victor Fraga talks to Elliot Grove, the man behind London's favourite film festival entirely devoted to independent cinema (which starts on the 27th); they talk about "downtrodden" movies, genre, the future of online screenings, and more.

Image by Bertie Watson

Canadian-born and London based film producer Elliot Grove founded what became the country’s largest and most diverse indie film festival nearly 30 years ago. Raindance started in 1992, initially teaching film courses such as cinematography, editing, directing and producing. The initiative quickly morphed into a much bigger beast, encompassing teaching, the film festival, industry events and much more.

Elegant and eloquent, suit-clad and with his dark shades permanently attached to his face, Elliot opens up and reveals the biggest challenge in putting together such a mammoth event for nearly three decades, the challenges and the perks of an online and a hybrid festival, where most of the film submissions come from and also what the future brings.

The 29th Raindance Film Festival takes place between October 27th and November 6th. Click here in order to check the programme and buy your tickets now (for both online and in-person screenings).

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Victor Fraga – You founded the Raindance Film Festival in 1992. Your baby is now nearly 30 years old. What would you have done differently if you started the Festival now?

Elliot Grove – Starting over I wish I knew what I do now! I was a complete novice with only a love of independent film. It’s embarrassing now to think of all the painful lessons I learned. I think the main lesson is, and still is: how do you market a behemoth that is Raindance – full of independent shorts, features and documentaries made by people that no-one has heard of?!

VF – Raindance 2020 was held entirely online. How did audiences engage with such format? And what lessons did you learn?

EG – The pandemic brought forward the acceptance of the streamers. In fact our 2020 online audience figures soared over 500% from the previous year’s in-person screenings. Engaging online requires a different marketing approach. And the software one chooses needs to carefully consider the customer’s viewing experience, to ensure lots of bolt-ons such as Q&As.

VF – Raindance invites audiences to see “the best of Independent Cinema at the heart of London”. What is it that makes a film truly independent in the post-pandemic world?

EG – All films are “dependent”. Dependent on finance, talent, cast and crew. By “Independent” film we mean film made outside the traditional film industry. These are the films about the downtrodden, the tales of social injustice and the stores of whistle-blowers. Independent films are made without the censorship pressures of the film industry. They are deeply passionate and personal stories about topics that truly matter. And they are inspiring and entertaining.

VF – Raindance 2021 has 11 strands, including two brand new ones created in response to the pandemic. Could you please tell us a little bit how these were created?

EG – Boomerang is a strand we created to host the quirky and usual stories. Comedy if you like. And God knows we need some light relief from these terribly troubled times.

The Icons strand tributes heroes from the past. There is always something we can learn from those who have trod the narrow path of creativity before us.

VF – Which countries or regions outside the UK tend to attract most film submissions?

EG – I think that there is something about Raindance in London that attracts filmmakers from everywhere. Traditionally, the top non-UK countries that submit are: USA, Australia, Canada and France.

VF – Is it correct to say that Raindance is not a genre film festival, and that embraces of types of filmmaking, regardless of language and content?

EG – There are three things that a Raindance film must have, regardless of genre.

It has to be extreme – and by that, I mean an extreme narrative. Secondly it needs to demonstrate extreme filmmaking ability – whether shot on a tuppence, made in a war zone or by utilising new technology. And thirdly, for a film to show at Raindance, it needs to be extremely entertaining – by that I mean: it needs to tell a story.

VF – Raindance is hybrid this year, remaining loyal to viewers outside London who cannot attend movie theatres in person. Is this the way into the future? Do you plan to retain, or perhaps even increase your digital capacity in the years to come?

EG – Raindance pioneered online screenings between 2006-2011. We used that experience to launch a fully online festival in 2020. The response has been overwhelmingly favourable. Raindance will continue as a hybrid festival into the future!

EG – What is your message to filmmakers in the UK and worldwide who would like to showcase their work at Raindance next year and beyond?

VF – Why not have a look at our festival submission site and enter your film into the 2022 festival. Our programmers are already reviewing films flooding in from the four corners of the globe.

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You can find out more details and book your tickets for Raindance 2021 by clicking here.

If you are filmmaker, you can find out how to submit your film by visiting FilmFreeway.


By Victor Fraga - 15-10-2021

By Victor Fraga - 15-10-2021

Victor Fraga is a Brazilian born and London-based writer with more than 15 years of involvement in the cinema industry and beyond. He is an LGBT writer, and describes himself as a dirty Latin immigran...

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