6 Things Filmmakers Should Stop Doing

I took an unheard-of 3 weeks off for a North American tour in November, and following the British Independent Film Awards on December 9th cut back my hours to about 30 per week from 85. And since the 21st of December the office has been closed. Strange what these days and even weeks of down time has done to my outlook. Being offline for hours and even an entire day at a time has made me realise how few emails are important.

As New Year's Day approaches I thought I would share my resolutions. This year it isn't going to be a list of What To Do, it's going to be 6 Things Filmmakers Should Stop Doing in 2013. My plan is to stop doing each of these cold turkey come the stroke of midnight on New Year's Eve.

1. Stop Checking My Emails Every Few Minutes

Every productivity expert in the world will tell you to check your emails every 90 minutes rather than do what I do: refresh, refresh, refresh. Problem is, it takes me ages to get anything done, because I am always checking my emails. And then answering them.

While I was away in November I would go 2 or even 3 whole days in between emails - and it is really amazing how few emails needed answering immediately. Well, none actually.

Is there really anyone who emails you who can't e-wait 90 minutes to hear from you? Think of all the extra work you can get done if you restrict yourself to as few as 6 email downloads per day!

2. Breaking Mindless Traditions

A good friend I hadn't seen in ages emailed me a 'hello' a couple weeks ago and asked if I had time for a catch up coffee or drink. I suggested we meet up at the Raindance Boozin' N' Schmoozin' - our monthly informal networking event. "Damn" he replied, "I'm in the middle of sending out my Christmas cards."

I'm reflecting on this now and wondering if anyone anywhere in the world has ever advanced their professional career by sending off a load of expensive Christmas cards. Surely there has to be a better way of letting your professional contacts know you are around and available. How about choosing another holiday for a greeting card? Or better yet, calling up and saying hi, or dropping in for a quick coffee?

These and other business traditions should be re-evaluated to see if they are really bringing in the results you expect them to.

3. Stopping Annoying Subscriptions

I am a pack rat by nature - literary wise. I'm the easiest mark for any 'cool' looking newsletter,  magazine or video channel. But while I was away travelling I realised how little time I actually spent reading all this stuff. Worse yet, I realised I had only subscribed in the first place so I wouldn't miss out on any new trend or topic. And in so doing, was losing the confidence to rely on what I thought would  be new or interesting. The stress was causing me to burn out.

I returned from my time away and reduced my subscriptions to the bare essetials. Can you get rid of any?

4. Underpricing Myself

When I started Raindance I pretty much worked for free for the first seven years. I justified this to my family using Malcolm Gladwell's 10,000 Hour Theory. The problem is, on my recent travels I realised that I have consistently undervalued my time and effort.

I'm not talking about the resources the Raindance team and I give on a daily basis - this is part of the Raindance work and mission. And I am not talking about generosity of spirit either.

I'm talking about making sure that I get a decent and fair reward for anything I do, be it financial or personal. These days I am turning down any engagement be it private or public, unless I think it is worth my time and effort.

5. Overcomplicating The Simple

A colleague I met on my recent travels convinced me that we could work on an iPad app for filmmakers. He suggested that we check in twice a week on Skype to compare notes and ideas and the estimate was that in 8 months we would have an app.

I just hung up after my first Skype call in which I asked 2 very simple questions: have you developed an app before? and, have you any idea what types of apps are selling right now?

The answer to each question was no. To which I asked: 'You need to find out what types of apps are selling before you make one. There surely must be a way to test the market to see if there is any demand (or not). From this research it should be relatively easy to see what kind of app to develop.

I reckon I have saved myself at leat 30 hours of pointless Skype conversations by insisting that my partner make sure we had a realistic chance of success before we each invested all this time into the project.

I guess its a basic rule of business: find out what people want, then build it.

Are there any projects you should research and evaluate before you have gone too far?

6.Stop Waiting for Finance

Oh my God! There are so many things I'd like to do if only...

If only I had the finance I would build a new Raindance website, resurrect my visual art career, move to better and bigger premises, produce that script I optioned 3 years ago. Oh my God! The list is endless. And the conversations with my mates about their and my own projects usually degenerate into a lot of chest-beating about how the government agencies won't finance us.

My self imposed exile to North America forced me to rethink a lot of projects I have been dreaming of, and usually have put off because I have been blaming lack of finance.

Not any more! I am going to pick something in each area that I have been seeking fiannce for, and I am somehow going to make it happen, BFI money or no money!

Have you such a project?

Fade Out

Getting rid of these 6 things should give me a whole lot more time this year. Now the fun part starts. How am I going to spend this extra time? Am I ready to make the move from hobbyist to professional?

Happy hunting!

Elliot Grove

Elliot Grove
Elliot Grove founded Raindance as a thought experiment: Can you make a film with no money, no training and no experience, he asked? When people like his first intern Edgar Wright started making movies he started the Raindance Film Festival to celebrate their work in 1993, the British Independent Film Awards in 1998. Elliot 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. In 2006 he produced the multiple-award winning The Living and the Dead.
In 2013 he relaunched the production arm: Raw Talent with the cult film director Ate de Jong. Their first venture was the psychological thriller Deadly Virtues: Love.Honour.Obey. finished late 2013.

Here you can watch the 2015 BIFA's from the red carpet to all the awards. Elliot's interview is at 1:27:00

He has written three books which have become industry standards: RAINDANCE WRITERS LAB 2nd Edition (Focal Press 2008), Raindance Producers' Lab: Lo-To-No Budget Filmmaking (Focal Press 2013) and 130 PROJECTS TO GET YOU INTO FILMMAKING (Barrons 2009). He was awarded a PhD in 2009 for services to film education. His first novel THE BANDIT QUEEN is scheduled for publication next year.

Elliot teaches several courses at Raindance including Lo To No Budget Filmmaking and Writer's Foundation Certificate.

Have a look at the 2015 Raindance Film Festival Opening Night sizzle reel:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D1xSDcsWxEI

Read articles by Elliot Grove.