Christmas Filmmaker's Toolkit From Raindance Film Festival

Put down the Christmas cake! Make movies!

There’s no reason to delay your movie. Move from amateur to professional. Stop making excuses. Stop blagging the blag. Get off your couch and start doing something meaningful! You don’t need no film school! You’ve got the Christmas Filmmakers Toolkit!

1. Know your plan and make it realistic

There’s no point in telling your friends that you are going to make a film, or to tell everyone you are going to make it your way and reinvent the industry. It just ain’t that simple.

Try doing what Shane Meadows did when he was starting out and make a series of short films – one a week – until you get really good. I asked him what the budget was for a short of his that we screened at Raindance Film Festival in 1997. His answer? £1.69. The main actor was mildly diabetic and was having a sugar low, and the cost of the cheese sandwich he needed was £1.69.

Good businessmen make business plans. Why don’t good filmmakers make business plans, too? It doesn’t need to be complicated or extreme. Just attainable. Bite-sized chunks or even chunkettes are far more sensible than signing up to an imaginary project so large and unrealistic that not even your top trust fund baby filmmaker could pull it off.

I’m not bragging here, but I recently found a business plan I did a few months before the first Raindance Film Festival in 1993. To my surprise, Raindance today is pretty much how I planned it. Have a peek and see for yourself how my plan worked out.

2. Get a screenplay and make sure it’s great

How often do we say it? “How did they get the money to make that movie?” Here are the three basic ingredients of filmmaking success: Script. Script. Script.

We spend nearly half our teaching focus at Raindance on screenplay. It is that important. Until you get a script, you are a nobody.

How do you know what to write about? Here are 8 Questions Writers Must Ask When Developing Audience Profiles

John Truby has become one of America’s most influential screenwriting analysts. In 2010 his 25 years of study finally paid off, and he is now visited by a stream of top story and development executives from the biggest production companies in the world, including Warner Bros and Pixar.

Read his movie story advice here:
Why 3 Act Story Structure Will Kill Your Writing
10 Story Techniques That Sell Scripts

I am shamelessly plugging his upcoming Anatomy of Story teaching gigs in New York and London, too. John is an excellent teacher.

3. Get your social media going

In this day and age, there is no excuse for not developing your own social media profile. Your blog, Twitter, Facebook and Youtube accounts are essential ingredients to filmmaking success.


It’s always been about the people that watch or read your stuff. This is how you get people to watch and read your stuff in the age of social media. Just do it.

start with the basics
learn how videos go viral
lose the new media phobia

See how we do it: Raindance has the world’s 10th largest Twitter profile of any film festival.
Follow Raindance on Twitter! Want our free weekly newsletter?

Another great way to build your lists and your audience is to comment on relevant articles. Have you commented on this article?

4. Get some money

Now that you have your excellent script and business plan, you need to get some money. But how much money? There are loads of things you can do without much money at all. Consider development money.

There are 10 ways you can finance your film. Each investor you approach will want to know what’s in it for them, and how you can de-risk their investment. The more you can learn about the flow of money and the different ways you can finance your film, the better off you will be.

You can get big tax inducements from British taxpayers who invest in your project. You don’t need to be a British taxpayer to access this money, either. Read up on the Enterprise Investment Scheme. Use the EIS risk assessment tool here.

Maybe you want to crowdfund your film. You can see how we crowdfund here.

5. Get going

Enough is enough. At some point you just need to take a deep breath and do it. You will never have enough money. You will never be totally happy with the cast and crew. You just need to take the plunge and do it. Practise makes perfect! That’s exactly what the Christmas Filmmaker’s Toolkit is all about!

your basic low budget kit and crew guide
don’t ‘cross the line’
how film directors screw editors

6. Be submissive!

Once you’ve finished your film, it’s time to get it seen at a film festival. But what festival to choose? There are thousands around the world. Film festivals fall into 5 types or categories. To help you wade through the myriad of film festivals, here are our recommendations for the top 100 film festivals around the world.

There are 4 reasons to submit to film festivals. The main one is to get a distributor to see it and buy it. But beware of creepy people preying on naive festival newbies. Don’t fall for one of these 5 cons filmmakers fall for.
If you have made a short – here is a short film distributor list – this should save you tons of time. Read out list of the top 100 film festivals for shorts, too.

Raindance Film Festival is open for submissions until June 1st.

7. Trouble shooting

Are you making these deadly filmmaking mistakes?
What about your screenplay? Have you forgotten the basic elements of a storytelling?

Fade Out from the Christmas Filmmaker’s Toolkit

What are you reading this for, anyway, when you could be out shooting, writing, or planning?
But wait, before you go, here are 7 things successful filmmakers eat for breakfast.



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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