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Anyone close to the organisation of Raindance will wonder; time and time again, year after year, why the tireless staff at the Film Festival subject themselves to the stress of organising this annual event. The answer is simple. We at Raindance believe strongly in the importance of film festivals.

1. Expose independent cinema to new audiences

Most of the general public are bombarded with marketing messages about mainstream movies. A good festival shows films and related content that are resistant to the commercial pressures of the standard mainstream fare. It is through independent films made by independent voices that new ideas are expressed. A great film festival champions these ideals at its core.

2.Test screenings

Over the decades we have seen many filmmakers use the platform of our festival as a test screening. They attend and canvas the audience in much the same way as commercial film production companies test screen their films. After weighing and gauging the audience reaction at a film festival screening, the filmmaker may choose to re-edit their film prior to a commercial release.

3.Marketing exercise

The importance of film festivals to a filmmaker rests in the marketing nous of the film festival they attend.

Any filmmaker, large or small, needs to raise awareness of their film. Large studios use large-budgeted public relations and marketing campaigns out of the financial reach of an independent filmmaker.

There are three ways a film festival strives to assist the filmmaker in their film’s marketing:

a. Awards
Winning an award is a great reason to put laurels on a festival poster. Of course, the stature of the festival will determine the importance of the award. But does a passerby really read which festival has awarded the film? And if the laurel comes from a prestigious festival like Raindance – wouldn’t the filmmaker make the important laurels larger? Raindance Film Festival has a wide range of awards, from its features and (OscarTM qualifying) shorts, to its dynamic Virtual Reality strand.

b. Reviews and interviews
One of the great reasons to attend a festival is to start the hype of the film. Getting local bloggers and reviewers to view and comment on a movie is one way filmmakers start the buzz about their latest projects.

c. Selling the film
Certain festivals are really good at attracting film acquisition executives and commissioning editors to their screenings. These film buyers attend hoping to discover and acquire the latest hot property before their competitors do.

4.Learning

Many festivals have engaging panel discussions and masterclasses on aspects of filmmaking. These are of interest to both filmmakers and to the general public. Events like these are a useful way to promote the filmmakers and their films, as well as to help attendees learn about what goes on behind the mysterious black curtains shrouding the film industry.

A good series of learning events at a festival will also strive to create debate about important issues facing not only filmmakers, but humanity in general. At Raindance festival past we have engaged on panel discussions on a wide range of general interest topics: everything from climate change, to racial and sexual prejudices and social injustices.

5.Networking

The film industry is a people industry. It’s not what you know, but whom!

Attending a festival with an audience of like-minded people from all walks of life is a great way to expand your circle of influence, underscoring again the importance of film festivals.

Whatever your position in the film industry, or whatever your interest in filmmaking, a film festival is a terrific place to meet new people.

6.Platform for new talent

Festivals have traditionally been the place where professionals and filmmakers alike go to spot new talent. I can remember the first time I went to a film festival in my native Toronto and was completely swept away by Jim Jarmush’s debut Stranger Than Paradise. The fact that he attended in person, adorned in black with a mop of prematurely white hair was an added bonus to his 1984 TIFF screening.

Raindance itself has championed new filmmakers like Edgar Wright, Christopher Nolan and many others since it’s launch in 1993.

7.Tourism and the local economy

Any community with a successful film festival prides itself in the artistic, cultural and commercial kudos a festival brings. For a local community, it’s not just the red carpet and all the hype surrounding a festival. It’s the jobs the festival creates, the hospitality provided to visitors and the buzz around the commercial establishments in the festival area. Not to mention the hotels, snacks and meals festival attendees use while at the festival.

With 20,000 attendees in 2018, Raindance estimates that the boost to the Central London economy to be in excess of £1,000,000. In 2019, for example, Raindance has engaged with the local businesses to amplify the festival, and to bring business to the local area of London’s Leicester Square that hosts the festival.

8. De facto theatrical release

Distribution expert Jonathan Sadler will confirm how difficult a theatrical release of an independent film has become. He has assisted many filmmakers who use the whirl of excitement surrounding their festival screening as a precursor to their home video and/or online distribution release. And why not? Film festival run in movie theatres. And it’s a great opportunity for a filmmaker to strut their stuff in front of the public. And who knows? They might win an award as well!

9.Community engagement

Film festival are a great way to unite a community. A festival can get a wide range of people to enjoy films, engage with the filmmakers, as well as celebrating the stories told with the verve and enthusiasm of the filmmakers. Festival create a sense of community, where locals mingle with visiting filmmakers and share their experiences, and react to the work they have seen.

10.Celebrate diversity

We do live in very troubled times. Polarisation is a trend best opposed. And what better way to break down prejudices than through cinema. Is it not that most of today’s troubles are caused by misunderstanding of how different people live? Or how they love, work or pay in different cultures with different religions? And what better way to break down this misunderstanding than to take an audience to these different world and show how life really is?

Why we Raindance

We love cinema at Raindance. And we love when an audience comes out form a screening feeling as if they have seen something cutting edge, or something just plain straight entertaining. Raindance is known for showcasing issues and ideas that cannot be mass-communicated due to local laws and cultural taboos. And thats why we continue, year after year, to bring the very best of independent cinema to the heart of London.

If you want to help is continue to expand our programme or our reach, please have a look at our Benefactors page , or call us on +44 (0)2 207 930 3412 for a chat.

About 

Photo Credit Jay Brooks / BIFA 2015

Elliot Grove is the founder of Raindance Film Festival and the British Independent Film Awards. He has produced over 700 hundred short films and also five feature films, including the multi-award-winning The Living and the Dead in 2006, Deadly Virtues in 2013 and AMBER in 2017. He teaches screenwriting and producing in the UK, Europe, Asia and America.

Raindance trailer 2017

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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