I'm traveling right now, and as I write this I am currently sitting in the Raindance Toronto office surrounded by the hardworking Toronto team. A punter just called up inquiring about the terrific events planned here in Toronto, and wondered if you needed to have talent to attend Raindance.

Then on this past weekend, I did the Toronto edition of the Saturday Film School, and an attendee came up and asked how she could tell whether or not she has talent.

It's amazing how often I get asked about talent.

Let me debunk the myth of talent:

1. Talent is irrelevant

Do you really think the good Lord, or whatever you call the superior life force, attends at births deciding that one baby has talent, and the next doesn't?

I don't think so. I believe we all come into this world with an equal amount of talent. When I went to art school in Toronto, I had to study Picasso. He himself said he had a small amount of talent. He also said that at seven he could draw like an adult, and that it took him the rest of his life to learn how to draw like a child.

2. Talent is work flow

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I have been very fortunate at meeting dozens of artists in all different media: filmmakers, screenwriters, poets, novelists, musicians and sculptors. In fact, for a while in the early 70's I worked for the sculptor Henry Moore. Here was a man who used his talent, and then honed his craft. He developed a system to get the ideas out of his head and into bronze, wood and stone. The are many things that filmmakers can learn from Henry Moore.

My point is that talent is how an artist learns over time to apply their craft to their ideas and make them happen. It's no different for screenwriters and filmmakers.

3. Talent is passion

I don't want to sound like a patronising founder of Britain's largest film festival, but I love what I do. I walk, talk, dine and sleep Raindance. You know what? If I didn't I couldn't work the insane hours and commit to the travel schedule that I do. That's passion.

To attempt anything without passion means you will ultimately fail. And people will think you don't have talent.

4. Talent is confidence

Do you ever suffer from writer's block? Do you think writer's block has anything to do with talent? Absolutely not. It does have everything to do with confidence.

How do you build up your talent? Through experience.

Stop reading this right now, and go write, shoot or direct your short, feature of documentary. Power through.

Then do it again.

5. Talent is feedback

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So-called talented artists know how to learn from feedback about their work. I don't mean you need to heed feedback. Just learn to listen to it.

Talented filmmakers also learn how to enhance their craft skills to make their movies and stories sounder and stronger - which is why at Raindance we run so many film training courses in London and around the world, and why we say that we make talented filmmakers.

6. Talent is never enough

No one is born with talent. You can be born with an aptitude. But talent is something that one acquires. There are other nuances to filmmaking that can easily be acquired.

It's a bit like watching a jazz quartet where the 'talented' musicians talk to each other through their instruments. And 'talented' filmmakers understand the commercial realities of producing and marketing their films.

Fade Out

What talent is

The film industry is obsessed with money. It is a business after all.

If you want to impress the movie-business moguls, all you really need to do is understand exactly what the realistic income is for your movie. Then make it for less than that.

You will be deemed to have talent.

I have the best job in the world. I meet dozens of the most talented people every week.

Make my day: show me your scripts and films. Need help? What are you waiting for? I do a weekend masterclass called Lo To No Budget Filmmaking

Hope this helps,

Elliot Grove



Elliot Grove
Elliot Grove founded Raindance a quarter century ago 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 founded the Raindance Film Festival to celebrate their work in 1993, the British Independent Film Awards in 1998.

He founded the Independent Filmmakers' Ball in 2014

Elliot has produced over 700 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.

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.

Read articles by Elliot Grove.