Raindance Toronto’s Creative Director Tiska [teesh-ka] Wiedermann caught up with Elliot Grove on Skype and asked him why anyone would be interested in attending his one-day signature class, The Saturday Film School, in London and in New York.
TW: Can you tell us a little bit about your background and explain how it helped you as a filmmaker?
Nothing in my background had anything to do with me making a career in movies. I grew up in an Amish Mennonite community just north of Toronto and I was told never ever to go to the movie theatre because the devil lived there, and here I am doing the devil’s work!
However, there are two things from my background that have helped me enormously. Firstly, I grew up on a farm and learned how to work hard physically. That’s a real benefit. And of course I am proudly Canadian and from that, I have learned the virtues of organisation and good plain common sense.
If you’re asking me what qualities work for filmmakers remember that the film industry requires such an amazing array of skills that it is almost impossible for anyone NOT to have skills that are very transferable. The trick is to find out what jobs there are in the industry and from that the jobs that match up to your wants and desires. I have met almost no one in my quarter century running Raindance who did not have transferable skills.
TW: Why did you decide to give this class?
I get a kick out of sharing the countless mistakes I have made over my years at Raindance Film Festival. People are so busy and so time constrained that compressing my key learnings into a single one day class, with writing, directing, producing and how to break in, seemed like the most sensible thing to do.
TW: What is the main reason people don’t get their scripts made?
Usually, the reason scripts get turned down is not because the writers are poor, but because the way they have been taught is wrong and/or unhelpful. That’s why in the morning session I try to explain some story techniques that professional storytellers and screenwriters use – tools and tricks, if you like, that simply isn’t taught anywhere else. I’ve been told that the tools I reveal are extremely useful.
TW: Why is it that movies cost so much money?
Overheads, my dear. Overheads. It’s like when they’re repairing the Gardiner Expressway for millions and millions – right? There are all the consultancy fees and the legal and accounting fees, the contractor’s mark up and so on.
It’s the same in the film industry when you go through the big production outfits.
When we at Raindance make a film we do it outside of the so-called film industry which means we can be very cost-effective.
Independent filmmakers, I meet fall into two categories: Those who moan and complain how they don’t have enough money to make their films, and those who view not having money as a challenging creative opportunity. You Canadians are resourceful. Learn to use the tool of resource-based creativity: making movies with what you have and not with what you want.
Here’s the trailer for the 87-minute feature I made for about $100,000 which has been sold to over ten countries:
TW: Many people considering this class will be thinking of film directing. What does this day offer for them?
Directors have two challenges. The first is understanding the story (which is why the screenwriting element is so important), and secondly understanding the grammar of film directing. For example, the influence camera placement has on a shot.
TW: What are the essential ingredients to getting a career in the film industry?
The industry is looking for good communicators. If you are able to communicate your vision for your script or film you will be able to attract finance, cast and crew. On the last session, I explain how to communicate using both pictures and key buzz words. You’ll learn how to walk the walk and talk the talk like real big-time filmmakers.
All that’s left is to make your damn movie!