Interview with Elliot Grove
Elliot Grove founded Raindance Film Festival
in 1993, the British Independent Film Awards
in 1998, and Raindance.TV in 2007. He has produced over 150 short films, and 5 feature films. He has written eight scripts, one of which is currently in pre-production. His first feature film, TABLE 5 (1997) was shot on 35mm and completed for a total of £278.38. He teaches writers and producers in the UK, Europe, Japan and America.
What is the biggest challenge to making a film on an extremely small budget?
If you wanna make a movie and you don't have any money well the biggest challenge is to figure how you can maximise the budget which means you can't use a lot of locations or actors. If you think of 'Paranormal Activity' that's one location and two actors. The screenplay that launches every single career of directors on a low budget run it's simply they still look for a dozen kids, they take them to a remote location like a farmhouse and they chop them up because it's limited location. I can think of movie after movie like that. But probably in this day and age, the largest challenge that one person has is marketing. How do you get the word out in a very crowded, very competitive, very noisy background, over 5,000 English language films made every year? How do you get your film to stand out? Which is why you need to understand your social media program and how you make it work. Social media is a favourite topic at Raindance. I was at Columbia University in Summer 2018, giving a lecture at the famous film school in New York and a woman said to me “Can you help me with my crowdfunding campaign?”, I said “Of course I can. How many Twitter followers do you have?”, she said “12” and I said “Call me back when you've got 1000”. Well, you would of I thought that I got punched. She looked at me and said, “ How does anyone ever get 1000 Twitter followers?”. Then I told her that Jesus only started with 12 followers. Understand social media, understand marketing and then ask yourself does your story fit in with the call to action you're going to need to initiate on social media.
What are some of your favorite films that have come out of Raindance?
I hate to pick my most favourite film or a film from the Raindance festival from over the years because in a way they are all my children. I know so many of the filmmakers and it would be wrong to choose one. But if forced to by putting a LAMA gun to my head it would be the ‘The Blair Witch Project’. Which succeeded not so much in the filmmaking, the content of the film is good, but the way they pioneered the use of social media and how they got a huge frenzy attached to that. Other films I've loved over the years that are so unique and so contemporary, distribution companies have failed yet to take them on. Which is a great shame, but also, which is why one of the big reasons that we run the Raindance festival is to give you, the discerning independent film lover, probably the only chance to see some of these terrific films in an actual cinema.
What's the biggest technical innovation that has affected your work in the past five years?
Well, it's got to be virtual reality, doesn't it? The thing about virtual reality is that all the manufacturers are throwing big money at it. But the difference between VR and technology vs the marriage between sound and pictures to movies 100 odd years ago is that way back then 100 years ago we had the theatrical tradition to fall back on the proscenium arch, it’s like the 2D screen that you have in the movie theatre or as VR creators call it ‘a flattie’. Now Virtual reality is a very different experience to watching a movie. In the cinema and when you watch a movie in the cinema, you’re watching but with VR you’re actually in the frame. Suppose that is the biggest technical innovation and something at Raindance that we're spending a lot of time and energy on is VR. I'm also noticing the innovation in the gaming industry and the film industry tend to merge. It's a new medium virtual reality but there are new rules and the rules of so-called ‘flatties’ do not work in VR which requires a whole new mindset rethink.
What is one mistake you often see young filmmakers make, and how can they avoid this mistake?
Oh my god what are the mistakes that filmmakers make? Several really. Well, one way that filmmakers screw up is that they make a film without properly looking at the marketability of it. They come up with a screenplay which quite frankly no one's ever going to be interested in, and of course, that's really hard to explain to them. The other big mistake filmmakers make is not properly clearing music rights. We had two young brothers that came to Raindance in 1996 called ‘Pieces’. Now, this was a gritty, comedy, Mafia type thing set in New Jersey and at Raindance, they were offered $150k for the film by a UK distributor. But they couldn't take it because they’d put ‘The Girl from Ipanema’ song over the closing title credits. So that's one of the most expensive places to put a song and they had not cleared it. I said to them “Why did you do that?”, and they said because they like and that they could of always change it. But the people who liked it, liked it because of that song because it perfectly integrated with the film. Because they can sell the film, they couldn't pay the money back to the investors, they had to go and do French theatre in New York for 5 long years and they started making films again in the early 2000’s. In March 2018, their latest film Avengers hit the box office cinemas and of course, by now they understand the problems and challenges of music rights, and of course there is that great script.
You've worn many hats throughout your career. How have you managed to stay productive and focused while working as a screenwriter and director, music festival organizer, and educator?
You know running Raindance everything else I do is demanding because there is no such thing as a job, It's a 24/7 thing. I'm surrounded by a great team and the challenge is to stay innovative. Raindance started as a disruptor and I will many different hats so I have to multitask. How do I stay productive? Every morning I meditate, nothing crazy, but I just make a list of all the different things I want to do in the day. Of course, I'm always distracted by boring admin. But at the end of every day, I try to tick off what's on my to-do list, The things that are really important, or the things that will make it better Raindance or a better British Independent Film Awards. If these things don't succeed I will carry them on until the next day. Some of those things that don't get done go on to the next day, even weeks or months, and sometimes years.
Could you please introduce yourself and your current projects to the LAMA community?
Hi, my name is Elliot Grove and I'm the founder of the Raindance Film Festival and the British Independent Film Awards. I'm sitting in the office that we use as a production office for the British Independent Film Awards. Enjoy.