An Interview With Raindance Film Festival Founder Elliot Grove

The Raindance Film Festival was founded in 1992 by Elliot Grove as a thought experiment: can you make a film with no money, no training and no experience? Based in the heart of London, Raindance combines Raindance Film Festival, training courses — which are offered throughout the year at 10 international hubs — and the British Independent Film Awards. The first Raindance event was a masterclass with Dov Simens held in London in April 1992. Past students of Raindance’s film training courses include Sacha Baron Cohen, Sadie Frost, Oscar-winning screenwriter Julian Fellowes, Christopher Nolan, Guy Ritchie, and Tom Hooper.

I met Grove at the Raindance Independent Filmmaker’s Ball & Fundraiser back in May, and we finally had a chance to reconnect. FRONTRUNNER meets Raindance.

Raindance Film Festival founder Elliot Grove emcees the
6th Annual Independent Filmmaker’s Ball
Café de Paris, London
May 2019
Photo credit: Roger Alarcon Photography

You’re originally from Toronto and you grew up in a Mennonite community. How do you think that your distant past has shaped your present not only as a filmmaker, but an artist?

I’m a farm kid. I used to hate the fact I came from such a simple background, but now I base nearly every decision based on my farmed days. Firstly, as a farm kid, you need to be aware of patterns: patterns of animal behavior and of nature. I always looked for the patterns. And of course, farmers are the best entrepreneurs. My granddad used to go out to the fields late winter and try and judge that summer’s weather to know whether [or not] to plant more oats or barley. If he got it wrong, we would starve! I think producing and responding to trends is key to anyone’s creative survival.

Over the noise of the Raindance Independent Filmmaker’s Ball back in May, you mentioned that Easy Rider (1969) was a breakthrough experience for you in film. Tell me more.

Easy Rider changed my life. I saw it on 22 consecutive Fridays with my mates. I had no idea that such movies existed. Then there was Pi, The Blair Witch Project, El Mariachi and a host of others, many of which have become staples of the Raindance Film Festival.

I have to admit, I had never been “papped” before I stood with you in front of the step-and-repeat. A surreal experience! What is it like for you being in the spotlight after founding the Raindance Film Festival 26 years ago?

Being the centre of attention takes a lot of getting used to – and I have become the face of Raindance – which is cool. Except, it wouldn’t be at all possible without the excellent team working tirelessly behind the scenes making Raindance and all we stand for possible. So its always with a sense of guilt that I get the pictures!

The author (left) and Grove (right) at the 6th Annual Independent Filmmaker’s Ball
Café de Paris, London
May 2019
Photo credit: Roger Alarcon Photography

Raindance currently has hubs in London, Toronto, New York, Los Angeles, Brussels, Vancouver, Paris and Berlin. Are you considering expanding/catering to other locations?

We are seriously considering Beijing, Mumbai and Tokyo. Watch this space.

Despite a recent wave of critically and commercially celebrated British independent films such as Disobedience, Stan & Ollie and last year’s runaway smash The Favourite, you’ve cited an estimate that nearly 95 percent of under 25s in Britain have never seen an independent film. What do you think is an important step in changing this statistic?

It’s education, and responding to the decreasing spend young adults have for film and music. Terrific – people say – that Avengers gets 2+ billion. It’s great if you own a cinema and sell popcorn. Terrible for everyone else, because it takes money out of the audience indies try to reach.

Image courtesy of Raindance Film Festival

Tell me a bit about the training courses offered at Raindance.

We don’t teach filmmaking. We make filmmakers!

What is the one piece of advice you wish you’d received as a young artist? What is one piece of advice you’re glad you ignored?

Do what you love, and never ever listen to No!

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