7 Things Not To Ask Filmmakers - Raindance

7 Things Not To Say To filmmaker At A Film FestivalIf you added the running time of all twenty Raindance Film Festivals, one day after another, you’d end up with over 9 months of festival. That’s a lot of standing around talking to independent filmmakers.

Submissions to this year’s film festival (the 22nd) are flooding in to a wave of terrific publicity and record breaking interest in the festival, it’s films and the attending filmmakers.

I make films too and have had the pleasure of standing the in cinema lobby before and after screenings of my films, the hair rising on my neck trying to be civil and answer cringe worthy questions without losing my cool.

With the crowds of film lovers set to descend on Raindance, I thought it best to delineate a few sensitive areas and establish correct protocol when meeting and talking to filmmakers you will meet at Raindance, or at other film festivals.

7 Things Not To Say To Filmmakers

1) I really liked your film

This is probably the worst insult a filmmaker can hear. Because if you really liked their film, you would either be at a total loss for words, or be enthusing superlatives. A cousin to the “I really liked your film” would be:  “Your film was interesting.”

Please. No.

2) How did you make it?

Like – what is that supposed to mean – how much money did you need? Or how did you do a trick shot?

Unless you are specific you are likely to get an answer like “T’was a bit of movie magic.” Or be treated with total disdain. And you wouldn’t want that, would you?

I’d advise you to drop this question from your list entirely.

Raindance Film Festival3) What’s the budget?

Everyone wants to know how much money you had to put those images on the screen.

There is no right way a filmmaker can answer this. If they tell you the actual budget, they are worried you will think you could have done it better. Worse, they might think you will be thinking that the entire enterprise was a waste of money.

Ask this question to any filmmaker and they will usually answer: ‘What’s it worth to you?”

 4) When is your film screening again?

Entirely please? I mean, this project has been in my head for months, and you can’t remember the screening time? To a filmmaker, asking for the screening time is almost as bad as asking them what the name of their film is.

Better, say “I really hope I can make your screening.”

5) Can you lend me a fiver?

How do you know if a filmmaker is broke? Ask them if their film is finished. They can’t lend you a penny, and if they had a fiver they’d spend it on something for the film. Films are never finished. They are abandoned.

6) Is that your mum?

Even filmmakers have mums (and dads) And usually it’s mum and dad that help out on the set, behind the scenes providing moulah and shelter while their prodigy attempts to become the next Spielberg, Lucas or Loach. Filmmakers also have egos and prefer not to be reminded of their parental units.

I can remember following Christopher Nolan and his mum up the steps after the screening of Memento at Raindance and overhearing Mrs Nolan whispering into her son’s ear: “Great film, Chris. What was it about?” And Christopher going “Mum? Shhh.”

7) You and the lead actor (actress) still together?

You wouldn’t ask any two people who worked intensively over a long period of time if they were still together, would you? And if you heard a rumour that the director of such and such was shagging the actor so and so – how would you know if it were true (or not?)

A better strategy would be to slow down and see who is holding whose arm after the screening.

Fade Out

Want to get noticed by a filmmaker? Just say, with conviction: “I really loved your work.” And be prepared to follow up with specific scenes and references which will demonstrate you have seen and studied their film.

You will have a friend for life.

Hey. And I’m still learning.

Happy Filmmaking.




Photo Credit David Martinez / BIFA 2018

Few people know more filmmakers and screenwriters than Elliot Grove. Elliot is the founder of Raindance Film Festival (1993) and the British Independent Film Awards (1998). He has produced over 700 hundred short films and five feature films: the multi-award-winning The Living and the Dead (2006), Deadly Virtues (2013), AMBER (2017), Love is Thicker Than Water (2018) and the SWSX Grand Jury Prize winner Alice (2019). He teaches screenwriting and producing in the UK, Europe, Asia and America.

Raindance BREXiT trailer 2019

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).

In 2009 he was awarded a PhD for services to film education.

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