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Today’s guest is the legendary film author and founder of the Raindance Film Festival Elliot Grove. Elliot is not only the founder of Raindance Film Festival and the British Independent Film Awards. He has produced over hundreds of short films and also five feature films, including the multi-award-winning The Living and the Dead in 2006. 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).
He has produced over 700 shorts and 6 features. I sat down to talk shop, what the state of indie film is today and all things Raindance. Enjoy my conversation with Elliot Grove
Alex Ferrari 1:53
So today's episode, we have Elliot Grove on the show and Elliot is the founder of the rain dance Film Festival in England. And it's actually now a worldwide Film Festival. He's got festivals from all over the world, as well rain dance, la rain dance all over the place. So I wanted to bring Elliot on because not only is he the founder of a rain dance, but he's also a best selling author. And he has just been a champion of independent filmmaking independent filmmakers, education for filmmakers through his rain dance banner, and he has just a ton of knowledge bombs to give the tribe today so I wanted to bring them on the show and talk to him. And just on a personal note, I've been a fan of his for a while I've known about his stuff. When I was coming up as a filmmaker in my early days. He's been doing this for many, many years. So without any further ado, here is my conversation with Elliot Grove. I'd like to welcome to the show Elliot Grove How you doing my friend? Thank you so much for taking the time to come on the show.
Elliot Grove 2:59
My pleasure, Alex. Great to be on indie film hustle. Yeah, the first time ever. I'm a virgin?
Alex Ferrari 3:06
Yes. Well, I've been I've been a fan of yours for a while and I've been looking been looking at what you guys do on on your website. And we're gonna get into more about the social media and the blogging and all that kind of stuff. What you do with your website, but first before we even get into it. How did you get into this business?
Elliot Grove 3:28
Well, I grew up in a farm outside Toronto. My parents told me I should never go to the movie theater there. Amish extraction. I was always told that the devil lived in the movie theater. And they cautioned me and I said, you wouldn't want to be caught in the movie theater when Jesus came back now, would you so I pretty much ignored it. And then I went I ended up going to art school in Toronto and ended up working as a scenic artist on loads and loads of stuff first of all Britain in the mid 70s. And then back in Toronto in the mid 80s. And I've worked on dozens and hundreds of TV shows and really, really bad movies in Toronto, the kinds of movies with the word slime or Gore, or massacre in the title. And in London, I was a stagehand and some of the iconic TV shows like Monty Python the last year and Doctor Who and so on. And then I did all kinds of other stuff. my CV has about 60 different jobs that I applied for with STB and got work, including I was the project manager on the Kennedy Space arm that was made in Montreal for the space shuttle. And then, in London in the winter of discontent when everyone was broke, I was actually stooped to being a debt collector for a few weeks until I got that. And then I decided to go back into film and I really knew nothing at all Alex, I mean, my knowledge of filmmaking is based on my onset experience, which is, you know, when you're a painter, a scenic painter, you really By the time they start filming, and then I just started at one day, and we started doing training courses with one in Los Angeles iconic film teacher, Deb Simmons way, way, way back. And then I started the film festival, and I had no idea what I was doing. And I've been very, very fortunate. I've always been surrounded by people who knew more than I did. And we're happy to share with my naive, naive self, what to do to the point now, 25 years later, with the rain, that's one festival, people look to us as being sort of, you know, we know what we're doing, supposedly, I still, I still marvel at that.
Alex Ferrari 5:42
We've been around long enough to a certain point where like, Well, they've been here for so long, they must be doing something, right. Yeah. No, no, how did rain dance come to be?
Elliot Grove 5:54
Well, I just started one day, I just just said, let's do it. I went and booked a local cinema right in the center of town in London, England, and opened up, I got that year's can product guide. And at that point, I'd never been to Canada and I circled about 100 films that I sort of admired. And because they had the fax number, in the days before email, I wrote a one page press release. And at that time, I was sharing office with a graphic designer. And the phone bill was a pound per page for an international fax. And I had exactly 100 pounds, but $150 to my name. And I spent it that day until the money ran out. And to my amazement, half of them came. And so that's how we started the festival. And it was completely crazy. But I don't think I could do that now. Come out, we've survived. The third year was an iconic year, we had absolutely no money. And one of our venues bailed because we couldn't afford to pay the deposit. And in those days, we're charging two pounds, but three bucks per ticket, and we're practically no at that sales and ended up screaming on the bed sheet in the basement of an arts theater club right in the center of town. Much, much to people I meet who are there the few people who still tease me about that. But hey, we survived. And this last year is this year 2017 or 2015. We were in Leicester Square and one of the prime cinema locations I suppose in the world and beautiful, gorgeous cinema. Screening five screens simultaneously 2020 shows a day. So that was that was cool.
Alex Ferrari 7:36
Now, I thought I read somewhere in but please forgive me if I made a mistake or not. Did you have something to do with Chris Nolan at the very beginning of his career with the following?
Elliot Grove 7:46
Well, he my my office at the time was in Soho, and he needed a place as a base. And so he used my office as a base. Because he could store his equipment there. He was shooting on weekends, he shot weekends for nine months and many weekends. You start off as I give him the key on a Friday. And he collected for me, I collected back when I'm on a Monday. So yeah, I mean,
Alex Ferrari 8:11
How did that how does that relationship work out? Because obviously he wasn't Chris Nolan at the time. So you were just helping out another film, just filmmaker just helping them out?
Elliot Grove 8:20
Yes, sort of what we do at rain dance. And I know many filmmakers equally talented as Chris is, but have yet to achieve either the commercial or critical success because Nolan has and well deserved in his case, of course. But my first didn't turn back then was a guy called Edgar Wright who just hit the big time with baby driver. And sure, a whole host of people. I mean, many of the British filmmakers that you read about now have touched rain dance in some way or other press was our filmmaker in residence in winter 1999 or 2000. That was zero mental came out of the blue and the Blair Witch Project. So it was a bit of a struggle to decide which one we have as opening night. Was Blair Witch by now. I don't think he'd forgotten me. forgiven me at that yet. But anyway.
Alex Ferrari 9:14
Well, to your defense Blair, which was a monster film, you're gonna change the game in many ways. Now, do you have any tips? You know, you must first of all, you must see 1000s of movies a year. Is there any tips for filmmakers to get their film noticed by a film festival? You know when they're submitting or any in any any way?
Elliot Grove 9:38
Well, Windows is unique, I think for most film festivals in that we watch every single film at least once if not two or three times. So if you were a programmer, Alex and southcombe and really liked it, it would go on a shortlist. If you saw it come and really didn't like it. Someone else would watch it and if they didn't like it then would not go in the shortlist. But if someone else did, then it will be One Yes, one No. And we'll go to a third person and then we'll go on the shortlist. And then it comes down to scheduling. And we've watched every single film, we had a total of nearly 210 1500 shorts features that we do projects and music videos submitted last year. Here we are coming up to Christmas 2017, we probably had 1500 submitted for autumn 2018. And we pride ourselves on looking at work. And often, some of the films that come in, people might say no, like the your player, which I bet a lot of people. I mean, I saw that on VHS before the hike. And I thought it was you know, was showing that it didn't have the hype that it was just sort of another American horror film. But, and that every once a while we make mistakes, we show a film that really is we shouldn't have and oftentimes we say no to a film that we just didn't get. But to answer your question, a film from raindance point of view, needs to be extreme in three different ways. First of all, it needs to be extreme storytelling. And I underscore the word story because many films fail because they don't tell a story. And they don't get to the documentary or short or whatever. story first, but we're looking for extreme topics. That's what distinguishes wedding dance. films with social impact is exploring boundaries of what is currently acceptable or not, or teaching us something that we're overlooking. And I can't wait to see all the Americans on this you're referring to the rendus political atmosphere of America right now. The second form of extreme is extreme filmmaking to we've had films made under extremely dire circumstances in war torn areas or extreme filmmaking using pushing the boundaries of new techniques and so on. The third extreme, of course, because it is the entertainment industry and film, it needs to be extremely entertaining, as
Alex Ferrari 12:08
Simple as that. It's hard to tick all those boxes, believe it or not, no, it is extremely hard. I've seen many movies. It's not It's not easy to click all those boxes. Now you also have you like a, a friendly virus rain dance has grown throughout the world, and has infected many other cities. How many rain dances Do you have currently?
Elliot Grove 12:32
There's about 10, I believe. We're talking to people in Japan. And we hope to launch in Tokyo in April 2018. So that's going to be exciting.
Alex Ferrari 12:42
The one thing I've always you know, was so such a fan of with rain dance is the social media and the way you use your blog and content creation to spread the word on rain dance, and I don't think there are many festivals that do what you guys do in the way you've done and you were doing it before it was in. In Vogue, if you will, you were you were hustling back in the day. And in talking about things that now we take for granted. But if you even just go on YouTube and type your name and rain dance, you were talking about stuff in 2008 2009 11 that we're now taking for granted. But back then you're already we're seeing like this is where it's gonna be. There's this thing called VOD you know, very flattering Alex. And but it's true. It's true. It's true. But the thing is with with the social media and how you use social media and how to use your blog, Can you discuss the importance of of those things of content creation, using of the blog and social media to create and build your own audience and see well, and how we can translate that into to filmmakers.
Elliot Grove 13:51
While you're the expert on that, of course, Alex, with what you've done, the amazing work that you've done. Thank you. Well, you know, people believe what they read. And so you have to be very careful that you put up stuff that accurate. And there's been times I know a whole lot over the years where we've said something that was incorrect or inaccurate. But having said that, it is amazingly useful for any filmmaker or screenwriter to have a blog, because on a blog, or maybe I should back up what is social media? Social media is fatik conversation. So for example, when we probably started recording, how are you like right now, so I can make some hustle, we talked back and forth. In the end. It doesn't really mean anything. That's fatik conversation. And that's really what your social media and your blog posts have to be fatik but interesting and entertaining, so you can't say I'm going down to the store to get another pack of bags or a bottle of beer. You have to say something always that's interesting. The second part of social media is every once in a while you can do em fast. compensation. In other words, a call to action or so called CTA, come see my movie, donate to my Indiegogo crowdfunding, or come to one of the events at raindance Film Festival. So that like when we finish the conversation or going to an extreme to say to my long suffering partner and Hi, Honey, I'm home, she might say You're late. I want a divorce. That's not a conversation, which is emphatic, juicy. Sure. And the trick is, is this in our social media is trying to make people aware of what we're doing. And this is my advice to filmmakers to make people aware of what you're doing, and especially building your your following. I had a woman come into the rain dance office here in London a few weeks ago, she said, Can you help me with my crowdfunding campaign? I said, Sure. How many Twitter followers do you have? And she said, seven. So did you say including your mom, I couldn't attend coming back when you said 1000. And speaking social media crowdfunding to having done a dozen more here, social media, the mistake that I see a lot of filmmakers making is that go to social media, and crowdfunding to get the money. And that almost certainly fails. You use your social media and you use your crowdfunding campaign to tell people what it is you're doing, and why you're doing it. And if they like it, then you get the money. So that's sort of back to from our blog to has many lists, you've probably seen 10 of this and seven about 14 of this. I don't even notice that. And that's a very good technique to because when people come to it, they know how much time they have to commit is it five points or 10 points or 15 points. And we use that while they hit the reason we started doing that was in 2009, it was a brilliant intern, starting a woman Federica. And she said to me Monday morning, what you want me to do, and I give a long list, hoping it would last her till Wednesday, but blow me down by lunchtime. She said, What do you want me to do next? She was so amazing. So I gave her another list of three cards, she was finished. And the third time she was finished, I'm scratching my head thinking oh my god, I'm not going to get anything done, I have to keep instructing this new intern. And as I stopped the third time, I realized I was going through my trash folder, which I do every now and again. And I paused on a sec spam. And I it was titled 10 ways to make her come every day. Okay. I was wondering why it stopped that. And I realize it's very emotive 10 ways to every day. So I clicked on it and open it up just to see what it was all about. And sure enough, was a very well structured article are bit sec spam. And so what I did is I did a find, I copied it into Word, did a Find and Replace, replace carpet for filmmaker, I send it to this wonderful person. I said, Could you please rewrite this. And she wrote it, rewrote it basically word for word, except with film instead of sex word as 10 way attend things a filmmaker needs every day. And for about two years. So it was one of the top pages on our website. So then I discovered the Lister base thing. And then another thing happened maybe three, four years ago, there was a very famous Dutch filmmaker in London. I've known him for a while by the name of Arthur, the young. He made a British classic comedy some 20 years ago called the drop dead Fred with req mail. It's quite popular here. And he just had a commercial disaster column the worst. The worst reception ever in his long is tragic 20 odd films and produced with Mick Jagger and so on. And I said, you know, you need to reinvent yourself as a cultic filmmakers, I can't do that. I don't want to dye my hair purple agent away. So he went back to Amsterdam That afternoon, and I wrote a blog article called 10 called film directors. You should watch it, you know, Evelyn's globe, and then I put his name in. And I send it to him. He got it the next morning, so Oh my god. I think we can we can have this out here. People gonna read it. So that's the whole point. I said, I wrote it, you didn't write it. So for example, I could do 10 film blogs, you should listen to I could put you down. For example, Alex, I can say that. You can't say watch me because it's crazy, right? Anyway, three days later, he's in Amsterdam, getting a big award. And he was introduced as the film director known as a call to film director in the United Kingdom, showing the power of of your blood, you know, you know when to start saying it and setting the right way. And since then he's produced Let me think three cultic movies, micro budget movies giving away from the five and 10 and $20 billion movies that he has been doing having more fun. He tells me one thing he didn't any the big budget films
Alex Ferrari 20:26
I've asked, I'll say from, from firsthand experience making a micro budget film, it is so much more fun than working on big budget projects. It's just so much more fun. So yeah, that and that was the thing I saw that you continue to use that I don't think there are any other Earth there are there, they don't, they haven't made the noise that you've made able to make, that at least that caught my eye. That you know, festivals, I'm sure other festivals have studied what you've done, because what you've been able to do over the course of, you know, almost a quarter of a century now is to build the brand of rain dance to it is one of the big brands around the world around the globe. And even all the way over here. You know, when I was living in Florida, I knew about rain dance, you know, and heard about that, because it was if you just go online, anywhere you would hear about rain dance, you know, like, oh, rain dance, it's, it's the Sundance of London, you know, the Sundance of, of England. And that's the way I always considered it. So it's amazing the power of good branding, good marketing, is pretty remarkable. You've been able to do
Elliot Grove 21:37
Well, that's very flattering coming from you. But branding, it's all about branding. And as a filmmaker, you've got two different types of brands you need to manage. One is the brand of your film, is that a horror? Is it a rom com? or whatever or social impact? And the other of course, is your personal branding? What kind of person are you? and branding has got nothing to do with the logo or website? All branding means is what people think about you. Are you punctual? Are you honest? Are you fun to be with? Are you smart, you know, you can have the best logo in the world. And I'm thinking of an American film production and distribution company to start with another w that had good branding that has been totally destroyed by the fact that the co founder, Harvey Weinstein, has completely ruined the brand that people think bad things about him. And likewise, he is probably going to fold I think,
Alex Ferrari 22:34
Oh, no, it will it can't make it under it would have to change the name. And even if it changes the name, the industry would still know it's them. So it's gonna be real difficult for them to ever come back from that. But it's true. It's all about branding and before Weinstein's name was the ultimate brand in independent film, because of what he did in the 90s. You know, and, and, you know, he brought up Robert Rodriguez, Tarantino, Kevin Smith, and the list goes on and on. But now that same brand is now the albatross around the companies.
Elliot Grove 23:05
On the company. Yeah. Yeah. It's it's a it's a it's an interesting, it's an interesting case study. And by the way, Donald Trump is blown into social media, like his politics are not, which I'm assuming you don't. The way he he manages that. Is, is probably going to be a media core study in university a year or two after he gets kicked out of office.
Alex Ferrari 23:32
Oh, without without question, I mean, what he you know, regardless of your politics, and regardless if you like him or not what him and his team were able to do with social media. And the, you know, how he targeted the brand that he was going after, and the people he was going after? It is, is very, you have to study it, regardless if you like it or not, it is what it is. But what he was able to do with social media is a case study without question, without without question. Now, can you talk a little bit about, in your opinion, because you've been around the block a couple times? What do you think the future of independent film distribution is going to be in the sense of how we're going to get our movies out there, how we're going to be able to make money and so on?
Elliot Grove 24:19
Well, there's three different ways you can make money. First of all, stop thinking of yourself as the 120 minute 90 minute feature film maker, and see if you can chapter in your story. And not also not all stories suit chattering. And then use the the Webster's model where you earn supposedly earned money from advertising on a web server. So that's one way. Of course, self distribution is the very, very big way to do it. It's a bit like you either go to that ropes in LA the big department is big supermarket, Ralph's. Yeah, right. You either buy your vegetables straight from Ralph's and pay a premium or You pay the same price to the farmer by driving to the countryside and buying drugs from the farmer buying drugs from the filmmaker. So that's the second way you make money. And the third way is through branded content where you get a sponsor to do something. Sorry, you get a sponsor who agrees what you're doing, thinks what you're doing suits their brand values. And they will then fund your, your, your program be short feature web series, documentary, a bit like Ewan McGregor with Charlie Borman, he did to round the world motorcycle trips.
Alex Ferrari 25:36
I love that I love that series. It was amazing.
Elliot Grove 25:40
Yeah, well, each logo on the gas tank was a million dollars or a million pounds or something hugely expensive. Right? But that was branded by Harley Davidson, the clothing company. Not that he's a Harley bike guide, but it was Harley Davidson clothing.
Alex Ferrari 25:55
It was hard leaving the girl I think he was if I'm not mistaken, he was driving BMWs or whatever. He was driving BMWs because I remember that whole conversation with BMW. I love that series. For anyone listening. I'll put it in the show notes. There was this great series by Ewan McGregor and his buddy who decided to take a rat go around the world on a bike. And the I think he started in, in it was in in I don't know where he started somewhere in Europe, it was either in London or Paris or somewhere like that. He literally drove all the way to LA if I'm not mistaken. Right? That's right. Yeah. It's insane. But yeah, that was a great, yeah, he branded that. But he has the star power. And that helped out and, and it worked. But
Elliot Grove 26:36
He he had the personal brand. He had the branded you McGregor, this actor who does big, big, like Hollywood movies and does small indie, British films. So he had the brand name, which again, points to the value of a personal brand. We've married it up with a brand a brand. And then he had the branding of the show. So branding is really what it's all about. And I think filmmakers also have to remember that they are communicators. And what is it you're communicating? So what message? Do you have be a narrative drama of some genre? Or a social impact? statement of some sort? And then of course, who's your audience to hear any other? Where did they go to look for stuff, and how to access it. And you were very flattering earlier about the branding of rain dance and a blog. But we've got a problem. There's no one single demographic, our age range goes from 18 to 80. All very diverse, all different religions and nationalities and even languages, just like our postgraduate some degree, or some of our students come straight out of the normal ba program. But there's a guy now like David work, the cinematographer who shot Clint Eastwood's first two films, graduated last summer at the age of 75, or 76. So when we're trying to find out where our audiences we can, say, by Facebook ads, and targeted on to 18, to 24, whatever, whatever, we have to go very broad, which makes our advertising budget astronomical.
Alex Ferrari 28:16
Yes. It's, it's for a film festival must be very, unless it's a very specific kind of Film Festival. But yours is and you're not just a horror festival or not a, you know, a niche festival, you are much more broad spectrum festival. So getting to that audience is very difficult. Hence, why your social media, your blog, and what you do is a smart way content creation is a smart way of gathering and getting those those leads, if you will. Now with in today's world, as far as filmmaker brands, which I want to talk a little bit about filmmaker brands, Alfred Hitchcock was arguably probably the master of it, who's probably the first real first filmmaker brand that people really recognize was that fair statement?
Elliot Grove 29:02
Yeah, I'm not that film scholar or historian. But if you told me that your film was like a Hitchcock film, I would have a very clear idea of what to expect,
Alex Ferrari 29:12
Right! Exactly, exactly. As Hitchcock. And he was one of the first if I'm not mistaken. first film makers that like, you know, I'm going to go see a Hitchcock movie in, you know, as we might now today, go, I'm going to go see a Tarantino film, which brings me to Tarantino, who arguably is one of the more interesting branded directors that come out of the 90s. He was the first rock and roll. They call him like the rock and roll director because he was the hip and cool because before then directors were not hip and cool. It wasn't hip and cool to be a director other than people in the industry, but after Tarantino came out with reservoir in Pulp Fiction, he branded himself very shrewdly, about as this kind of this this this character almost that he plays in his In his role Woody, what do you think? What do you think about the branding of Tarantino but in general, like you know Chris Nolan has a brand Fincher has a brand now every, every of these big directors have their own brands. If you say Chris Nolan film, you get it, you say a Fincher film you get it? How? What's your feeling on that? We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.
Elliot Grove 30:29
Well, I think the difference between Tarantino and the other two amazing directors you mentioned is the fact that he was a lifestyle brand. In other words, if you made a movie, so many people in the early 90s when I was starting running that wanted to make a movie to be like Tarantino to be the cool dude with all the girls, not the turntables known for that. But it just became, I think he was a lifestyle people. I mean, not many people would like to brand themselves personally, like say, Chris Nolan, instead of waiting for or is it now five kids? I don't know, David Fincher, I guess the other director possibly with the lifestyle brand and it might have been some like john john Walters, yeah.
Alex Ferrari 31:16
To a niche to an audience, but yes,
Elliot Grove 31:18
To a niche audience. So Tarantino sort of made the role of contractor glamorous, I suppose. And brilliantly done and, and stumbled very rarely.
Alex Ferrari 31:34
Yeah, he only on the movies standpoint, he only stumbled to his own. He admitted himself was the Death Proof that that that film we did with Robert Rodriguez and that Grindhouse film, but other than that, he doesn't stumble very often you write it. He's a very interesting character study as far as branding is concerned. And, and I know, you know, he he was such a rock star that he literally does Japanese, you know, soft drink commercials and stuff like that. Because over in Japan, he's he's literally can't walk the street. Yeah. I mean, it's interesting, because you were there at the beginning of that. You were there during the heyday of the independent film movement, which arguably started in 89. as we know it today with Steven Soderbergh, with Sex, Lies and videotape, when Sundance finally came on the scene, then every year, it seemed like there was just this new it was Tarantino Rodriguez, Kevin Smith, Richard Linklater, you know, all this kind of stuff. You were there at that time? How was it from your point of view at raindance? When you were you were because you were in the in the thick of it?
Elliot Grove 32:37
Well, a bunch of us were trying to make movies for no money, because we're all broke back then. At the right time film, which I helped out a bit on called at festival of fingers, which no one's ever seen, a very few people have seen. And of course, Nolan was doing the following. And no one, no one, no one got what we were doing. And many other films that remain for next to no money, the following and look, the one that got out, of course, remade. 18 months later, it's momento. But we're all trying to was a friendly combat, camaraderie, we're all sharing. But each of us trying to secretly outdo the other. So it was it was fun. It was it was a great spirit. And I like it, possibly to make what I envisioned the music scene to have been in the 60s 70s with the Beatles, and the stones and all those people. Sure. We all kind of hated each other, but we all kind of love each other. And we all shared, completely shared with each other. Any tip or trick. And of course, the other big change back in that time. When you get up to about 95 with the advent of video videotape, and people starting to make movies on without, without the expensive film. In 1994, we showed a wonderful film by the American New York filmmaker by the name of Sarah Jacobson, called Virgin Mary's not a virgin anymore. And because no one has ever screened any video and cinema that I was aware of, we had to get someone's home video projector and the VCR in the day. And hardwired into this one of the seats and protected on the screen was a total fiasco really sure, but we pulled it off. And of course, 1995 you had dogma 95 of the games making movies show the, you know, unusual data. By the way, dogma. 95 was a simple marketing exercise to get people to watch their films and worked. It sort of showed it. And then in 96 panavision gave me a gold 35 millimeter kit and I found some bunch of weekends and we had six different directors shooting a short each day. The seventh day all went through the lab quickly edited together. And that was our closing my film that year. One of the directors was a guy called Nicolas Winding Leffler. Yes. done very, very well since then Dr. ours. Yeah. And we would none of us had gone to film school. We're all a few of us have gone to film school. We're all just trying to look at the, the techniques and how can we do it differently? And by doing it differently, could we do it better? Anyway, I don't want to sound too pompous here. But remember, I knew nothing that none of us knew anything much. Chris Nolan didn't spend a minute in film, school and resolve. You're just like when you're learning to drive a car you learn by driving, you don't learn by sitting in Les Paul. And Chris Nolan and Nick. Right. And everyone else. We can find a camera, but some film stuck in it and exposed it to actors. And made every mistake under the book. Oh, my God.
Alex Ferrari 36:03
I saw Yeah, I saw Nolan's for sure. One of his first short films. Doodle doodle bug. And you watch it and you go, wow. And then you can start seeing it's always fascinating, like watch Scorsese's first, you know shorts and stuff like that. And you can start seeing their their style. But it's so crude in the way that just doing like the visual effects. And that was so crude. When he was able to do something of that level at that time. With that technology was pretty amazing.
Elliot Grove 36:32
Yeah. And he was pushing the envelope. Everyone was pushing the envelope. And yeah, I mean, but you know, we've got a similar situation in the last, where are we December 2017, two years ago, and one month ago, 25 months ago, Alex, there was something equally dramatic. And that was when the New York Times on a Tuesday launched their VR app and YT VR. And that that Saturday, they lived on the east coast. And by the New York Times, you got free Google Cardboard that you pulled up and put your phone in and watch that stuff. And even though VR has been around with us for 4050 years, kept alive, ironically, by Disney, NASA, and the American military. Suddenly VR jumped from Geekdom into the mainstream, and virtual reality now with Oculus and Facebook and Samsung and everything. And the energy being that I made amongst VR, great creators here at the festival in London, which we've had VR pot for four or five years now. And we've had the VR arcade for a couple years, sort of the first in Europe, where you walk into big room and try 2030 different experiences. That's awesome. Or rides in, in Japan, you don't see an experience, you go for a ride right? on whatever type of helmet is. And again, the sharing and caring and sharing of techniques and excitement when your competitor your rival does something new and go oh my god, and they tell you how they did it. And then you're often trying to outdo them in a very friendly competitive atmosphere reminds me of what it was like in the early 90s. When I my dad, Alex, Princess Diana was double alive.
Alex Ferrari 38:23
Yeah, I remember that. Yeah. Yeah, it's Yeah, it's, it goes back a bit. Now, in your opinion, how can filmmakers today make film make filmmaking into a viable business? Where they're not just making one movie and hoping and praying that it's actually going to do something? How can what is a business model to be like a not a rich filmmaker, but like a sustainable filmmaker? In your opinion?
Elliot Grove 38:54
Yeah, well, that is the real trick. First of all, I think we have to realize that the traditional feature film, hour and a half, two hours long distribution, cinema, whatever, that that's pretty much broken. So one has to think of yourself as a multi format, visual content creator doing shorts, documentaries, music videos, and everyone will fall into a niche. But if you limit yourself to make making a two hour two hour feature film, I think the days sadly, of the new Sex, Lies and videotape. Steven Soderbergh, I think those days are over. I mean, I shouldn't say that because every once in a while someone gets down lucky and hits a home run and makes it but see the cinema, the cinema, the cinemas, the article owners, they're they're in great peril because they're afraid people aren't going to want to go to the movie theater when it's so easy to see a film on Netflix sure that Netflix and Amazon are spending all kinds of money and movies but only those with stars. So how do you I mean, that's the business model, can you get a well known actor to be in your low budget movie? Can you give them a much a piece of the back end? So that could work? Or can you get known as someone who can take really good video? If you're really brought me to a grand? Can you do your next wedding or high school graduation? Whatever? Yeah, that's kind of boring. Or can you come up with a series of short, punchy mini darks and sell them to one of the broadcasters or do your own web series on YouTube or Vimeo to make money on the ads? Can you get known as someone? This is where your branding comes in. What kind of filmmaker are you? We have on our ma program we have a woman comes from a very strict Asian family. She's 27 and single lives with her mom and dad and brother and sister Baba chip shop in East London. And she joined the program last year to write and write for a feature. But a few months into the program. Her parents started hassling her because she was single and in their culture and shooting beyond marrying age. And she came into my office a while ago in tears. Because mama dad has said that she's got to meet this guy Friday night. He knows this guy from the religious services on the weekend just can't stand him. But it's got to keep mom and dad happy. So what she decided to do was to change her ma thesis from writing and writing a horror film into writing and directing a web series called Gawain. And for the next few weeks, she will go out with a camera crew to each of the Friday night dates. Let's see. She's not she's not doing she's got a few episodes, she's now taken some time off to expand her social media. But it's the kind of program that you might watch be a Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, you might just want to watch that, because that's an iconic moment. When do you meet the first person, Mom and Dad are always hassling you to find someone. Right? Right. And she's she could parlay that into a very interesting personal branding expense of someone dealing with women's issues living within this certain cultural stereotype.
Alex Ferrari 42:18
So in your opinion, then it's it's not about and I've said this too, as well. But it's not about just doing the 90 minute feature film, or the two hour feature film. And just being that filmmaker, just being a feature film director, you've got to be able to venture out as a content creator and multiple revenue streams, if you will, whether that be the wedding, whether that be the shooting this or shooting that or creating branded content, or shooting stock footage. And again, those are just multiple things using the skill set of a filmmaker. Yeah,
Elliot Grove 42:50
I think so. And then, of course, if I was starting out, I wanted to make good money as a digital content creator, I would ditch the so called clarity and focus on virtual reality because there's not enough technicians to handle the work.
Alex Ferrari 43:05
Yeah, in 360 video, and in the VR world. There's a lot there's a lot of potential in that environment without question, and there's less, less competition for sure.
Elliot Grove 43:15
Yeah, and gaming and augmented reality and VR and Mr. And xR and all the different forms of that. I mean, it's it's that whole people say, 3d and VR kind of fad. That's not true. VR is not a fad. It's the biggest thing that's happened to visual images since the marriage I think up sound picture.
Alex Ferrari 43:37
It is it's going to, I'm very curious to see where VR goes, I'm curious to see what how it's going to impact our day to day life as as the moving image and sounded, you know, to
Elliot Grove 43:50
And no one's figured it out. And it could be that someone listening to this show will start focusing on that figuring out how to use VR, and do to their career. What I don't know Lucas, or Hitchcock did to their career, because it's a brand new thing, and no one really knows what the hell's going on. And the difference between movie and cinema and VR is, when we had cinema, we were looking at a flat screen a bit like the plus arch of a theater, and we had stories from theater that would work on cinema. But in VR, you see, we have the technology first but we don't have there's nothing to base it on. Unless possibly you look around. But I am digressing terribly from the original topic,
Alex Ferrari 44:36
Which is how to make money as a viable I make filmmaking viable business. No, but it everything you've said, Lee, it definitely helps in answering that question without without without question. Now, you've met I'm sure a handful of filmmakers in your lifetime. And you've seen a handful of first time films. What is the biggest mistake you've see filmmakers make with their first movie Or it may displace two part question with their first film or project. And with their career as a general statement.
Elliot Grove 45:08
From a film point of view, no story, no story, no story, no story at it. And if you look at the first films that have succeeded, like Chris Mullins or 10 teams, they did tell a story, a very compelling story. And the second thing that most filmmakers forget is that making the film it's only 10% of the of the process. 90% is selling it. So either as personal and dead as the right hook up with a producer who knows that side of it, so you can then go back and focus on the creative side, or you damn I'll learn how to do it yourself. And most film directors I've met new film directors have Not a clue about the business side, make or have ideas to make films that are so unrealistic in the marketing aspect. But even if they did, coerce their relatives to mortgage their houses and give them this huge sum of money, they would have absolutely no chance of recouping. So. So it's an interesting thing. filmmakers need to be part mathematician, part scientists to part artists, but above all entrepreneurial,
Alex Ferrari 46:16
Yes, I preach that on a constant constant basis. Now, what are some tips that you have for no budget filmmakers?
Elliot Grove 46:27
Well, first of all, you need to do something that is in one or two locations that most of the budgets that I work on, go up every time you have to move the camera and crew from one part of the city to another. So if you can think of the something that's contained, as buried was the mark as Reservoir Dogs was when Michael Madsen was at London, he said they parked the the equipment that in the warehouse, you could walk to the restaurant and walk to what was Tim Ross apartment all within 1015 minute walk. So that's one one thing. The other tip is, don't I mean, make the movie with what you've got, not with what you want to have. And whatever the amount of money you have, no matter how modest the amount of money is. There's always a way to do it. With what you've got. I've worked as my life on the scenic artist, I've worked on Close Encounters of the Third time, I've worked on huge budget films, and I also worked on very micro budget films. And on every single firm I've worked on, and I've worked as a scenic artist, Alex innovus, 68. I think it's 68 feature films. Not Not once Do we have enough money. So no matter how many 10s of millions never had enough money, isn't that the case always. And the differences with micro budget or no budget? is you really need to spend an awful lot of time pre planning. Because unlike a big budget film, if you screw up, you cannot throw money at it.
Alex Ferrari 47:58
Right? No money has.
Elliot Grove 48:00
Yeah, it's big money, films that they have to reshoot the constant 5 million, they just go and do it. We can't do that in a low budget realm. And I guess my final bit of advice would be get several strangers to read your script. Like it a whole lot. Anyone ever tells you as a writer that your script is good? It probably means it's shitty.
Alex Ferrari 48:25
Right? That's a great piece of advice, honestly. Now, I have a few questions left, I asked all my all my guests. What advice would you give a filmmaker just trying to break into the business today?
Elliot Grove 48:39
There's a two letter word in the English language that you have to delete from your vocabulary. And it starts with the letter and Oh, just get rid of that. You're gonna hear that so many times, you just have to completely ignore that word. Okay.
Alex Ferrari 48:57
Can you tell me the book that had the biggest impact on your life or career?
Elliot Grove 49:03
I, God I put so many I had to pick one. It would be I even forget the author's name. It was called reading for living. It was written in 1974. And it was advice on how to analyze scripts and manuscripts. And they gave you this grid that you filled in plot structure and so on. God, I can't remember the guys name. American and my dad was reading for a living it cost like $8 and Amazon. Okay. But I remember looking at that and suddenly realizing how important it was to look at it with an houseless at the strip. So I think I learned more from that.
Alex Ferrari 49:44
And now what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life?
Elliot Grove 49:50
Alex Ferrari 49:52
Same, that's my that's mine too. And what are three of your favorite films of all time?
Elliot Grove 50:01
Well, I only have one really. I grew up this Amish guys called never go to movie theater and one Hot August harvest day, I had to. I was sent to the local village outside Toronto to deliver a product to the blacksmith. My dad couldn't fix it and they really needed it. When I found out the blacksmith was going to take three hours to repair this, it wasn't worth me going all the way back home. Having bad, hot summer's day was 16 I had a few coins in my pocket, Alex and I was wondering what the devil looked like. And lo and behold three doors down my husband, Lord with the house of the devil, the movies theater, and I walked up trembling, and I found that back then, they only they only charge 99 cents to see what the devil look like. paid my money. I walked in now remember Alex, I've no idea of what happened in in movies, right? There's only told never ever go in. Oh, you were pretty brave. So there I am. 16 two o'clock in the afternoon hot summer's day walked in. You know, it's a bit like church chairs lined up facing the front. But I noticed the color of the fabric and the chairs was read. Sit down. A couple other people that had summer's day, they turn the flip the lights off. And the first face of the devil I saw at the tender age of 16 was last he comes home. And I cried like a baby in the band. I brushed up to see if I could feel the texture on the stream that was all gone in a twinkling of eye. And that really changed that moment changed my life after after I was in love with movies. Wow.
Alex Ferrari 51:44
And I'm assuming you didn't tell your parents when you got home? Of course not. That's an amazing story. Actually. That's a really great, great story. Now, where can people find you and the work you do with rain dance.
Elliot Grove 51:57
Lovering dance.org is our website. And I'm pretty easy to find those signposts all through the website. And if any of your listeners have an article they'd like to write about anything about their experience or something they've learned. Please send it in and and we'll we'll publish it and lots of people will look at it. We're getting eight 9000 people a day looking on our website. And it's not by any means the biggest, but it's bigger than most in Europe.
Alex Ferrari 52:23
Absolutely. It is. It is a it's a great a great resource, a great hub of resources for filmmakers as well. So definitely check it out. And again, Ellie, thank you so much for being on the show. It's been an absolute pleasure. finally getting to to chat with you and talk shop.
Elliot Grove 52:40
Well, thank you very much, and congratulations on all the great work you've done as well. And by the way, Alex, we were talking before we recorded this, but please let's let's work together. This is the spirit of filmmaking, true filmmaking. It's not enemies. We're not rivals we are working together. So let's see how much we can share with each other and with your listeners. And with all the viewers from rain dads.
Alex Ferrari 53:07
Absolutely. Thanks again, my friend.
Elliot Grove 53:10
Alex Ferrari 53:11
Thank you, Elliot so much for coming on the show and dropping some major knowledge bombs for the indie film hustle tribe. I hope you guys really enjoyed that episode. Elliott is a rock star and the indie film world. So again, thank you, Elliot for sharing some knowledge with the tribe. If you want to link to anything we discussed in this episode, just head over to indiefilmhustle.com/223 for the show notes. And I do have an announcement. Monday is the day that I will finally be releasing the information about my top secret project. I cannot wait to show you guys I've just been in the lab working hard, hard hard on this top secret project and I cannot wait to share it with you guys. So get ready for Monday to hopefully have your minds blown. Until then, keep that hustle going. Keep that dream alive. And I'll talk to you soon.
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- Elliot Grove – IMDB
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