My name is Elliot Grove.
I grew up in an Amish Mennonite community outside Toronto and was taught that the devil lived in the cinema. One day, when I was 16, I was sent into town to collect some welding from the blacksmith and had three hours to kill. So I walked up and down, and decided to see what the devil looked like. I paid 99 cents, went in, and sat down – it was a bit like church. Except the fabric on the seats was red – the colour of the devil. Then they turned the lights off. The first movie I saw was Lassie Comes Home, and I wept like a baby. At the end I went up to touch the screen to see if I could feel the rocks or the fur – but it was gone, magic. And I was hooked on cinema forever.
I started Raindance in 1992 during a personal low. I had just gone bust in the previous global recession and I spent a long time feeling sorry for myself. I decided to re-tool in film – I had lost all my previous film contacts made while I was a scenic artist. I first started a film training programme here in London. A year later – in ’93 – I started the Raindance Film Festival, and in 1998, when the British film industry was wallowing in self-pity, I started the British Independent Film Awards.
My typical day starts by unlocking the office. More often than not I am the first one in. I love switching the lights on, It reminds me of that first frame of Lassie Comes Home that hit the screen. I open up my email to see if there is anything urgent or exciting. A colleague or two usually show up a few minutes later, and while they are settling we have an informal chat which covers these three really important things: what happened yesterday that could be better, what’s happening at home (a couple Raindance workers have small children, a couple others are single – so there is always plenty to discuss) and lastly: what’s on the agenda today.
These are really special moments, and if someone is late, or away – you really miss them.
The interns start arriving – we usually have four. I try and give each person a special project that plays to their strengths. Some interns excel in physical/practical things, others are really good on the telephone, and others have good web skills. I then have my second meeting of the day – with the interns, and again we discuss yesterday/last night at home/today.
I then check the social media metrics: the number of new Twitter followers, unique visitors to our website and how many people have opened our emails from the day before. It gives me a perverse pleasure to check these statistics – I’m never sure what they mean, but it is fun. It’s something I will check like a maniac when we are doing something special like a press launch for the festival, or launching a crowd funding campaign for a movie.
I have three problems each day. In fact, I don’t like to call them problems – I prefer to say that in general I face three challenging creative opportunities:
1) As an art based charity, we need to be very focused on earning enough money to cover our overheads
2) Administering our hectic training programme and oldest, largest independent film festival in Europe
3) Political issues. This area has started to demand a lot of my time, partly because we have grown in stature, partly because our competitors persist at taking cheap shots at us, and partly because of my own ego. I am terrible at politics – perhaps it is the pacifist teaching I got at a youngster – the ‘turn the other cheek’ that Mennonites are known for. I try to assess the challenge and delegate our response to a colleague more adept and astute than me.
I know I have had a good day when everyone in the office has been totally immersed in their work. I love it when someone, intern or staff member, shouts “Whoppee! Look what I found!”
Of course Raindance as a company has financial targets and goals like any other business, from dry cleaning to dentistry. But an important aspect of our goals, and my goals personally, is to help other filmmakers.
Every once in a while we get a big slobbery thank you, and that really makes it all worth while.
After the interns go home, I either have a speaking engagement somewhere in the city, or, I go home to catch up on writing (like this) or I twitter, or watch yet another independent feature or short by someone, perhaps exactly like you, trying to break in. When I find something special, I feel like I have had the best day ever.
It doesn’t get better than that.