When I started the Raindance Film Festival in 1992, just about everyone I knew thought I was mad. I also had a curious hot-and-cold response form the British film industry – some loved the idea, most hated it. But I thought that making a plan works.
The history is simple: I had started off working as a stage hand at the BBC in London in the mid 70’s where I worked on classic British TV shows like Dixon of Dock Green, The Old Grey Whistle Test and Monty Python.
I returned to my native Toronto for nine years in the late 70’s where I worked as a scenic artist on 68 feature films and over 700 commercials, short films and stage shows. I also was a R&D project manager for several famous scientific and IT projects.
I needed a plan of action
When I returned to London in the mid 80’s, I had lost all my film and television contacts. Following a spectacular personal bankruptcy during the last great recession I fell onto hard times and started falling into the self-pity trap. It was then that a friend told me: “As long as you are feeling sorry for yourself, no doctor in the world can help you”. He was right. I asked myself what I really loved, and it’s movies.
In the interim I had lost all my contacts. I started film training courses in order to meet people and survive. Many of these very people I still know and admire. Edgar Wright was my first intern/volunteer, for instance. I then wondered what I could do to make a few more bucks (as Canadians are apt to do). I realised that what British people really like are semi-secret societies that issue plastic membership cards. And thus was born Raindance Premium Membership – which is still flourishing today.
Suddenly Brits started making films again after a drought of 25 years. To my astonishment, no British festival was set up to embrace new British work. With a spare £150.00 I faxed a press release announcing the first Raindance Film Festival in October 1993. One of the films we showed was the first European screening of a film starring Leonardo DiCaprio – What’s Eating Gilbert Grape.
Making the first plan
One night – a few weeks before the very first Raindance Opening Night, I sat down and drew the mind map of where i thought Raindance would go. I was pretty audacious of me. But for some reason I just did it. And it made me feel really good about myself and about my ambitious plan. And then I forgot all about it.
A whole twenty years later, almost to the day, I found the mind map one morning while unpacking an archive box during our office move. Strangely – it’s pretty much how Raindance ended up. Some of the names have changed. Some of the organisations have ceased to exist. But generally, the plan is still pretty much the same as it was two decades ago before I had done anything. And all Raindance was – was a glint in my eye.
With our nation and civilisation facing chaos and disruption, how are you going to plan your life, both personally and professionally?
Plans work. Try it. Believe me. Get it onto paper. Making a plan works. It’ll work out for you.
Yours in filmmaking,