On Being a Disruptive Filmmaker - Raindance

The film and TV industry is changing as we speak. Traditional institutions, financiers, broadcasters, sales agents and distributors are rethinking their models of developing, resourcing, buying and screening films, but changes can be slower than some creative innovators can tolerate.

In this Disruptive Filmmaking article series, we look at new ways independent filmmakers and creative entrepreneurs are simply doing things differently, bucking the system, blazing a maverick trail or creating their own self-directed masterclass to get their media and film projects made and noticed. This isn’t film school. It’s film bootcamp.

We’ll break open recent projects by Raindance members and our postgraduate students, and ask disruptors who’ve made When They Awake produced in association with Raindance Toronto and Western Arctic Movie Pictures, and We Still Risea film documenting the Womens’ March in London, why and how they did it differently. We want to inspire and provoke your complacency about why you make film and media content, how you make it, and who you make it for.

CAVEAT: Not for the feint of heart, those with weak convictions or poor stamina, disruptive filmmaking occasionally involves blood. But speak to any independent film and media creator out there making consistent content year over year on their own terms, and you will meet reflective, confident, energized, creative problem-solvers with a style, purpose and urgency, willing to work within constraints but not willing to compromise on why or how they get there.

No surprise these outliers find Raindance, which has been screening and promoting unique stories through its annual Raindance Film Festival; or they find the Raindance Online Postgraduate Film Degree, where they design their own accredited MA around media projects, build international connections and carve a 21st century career path; or they stumble upon Raindance Hubs in cities around the world like Toronto, Vancouver, Los Angeles or Berlin. At these training and networking centres filmmakers new and used find their souls, their genre and a fresh local network of support.

If you are an outlier, square peg, disruptor, iconoclast, non-traditionalist or non-represented, no need to explain yourself. Raindance probably has you covered, because you had us at hello.

Making a film within the system is perfectly legitimate, but not immediately accessible to everyone. It’s particularly a tricky first step for those emerging creators just trying to ‘break into the system.’ (How many people did you bump into at TIFF or Cannes this year still applying and waiting and pitching and waiting and trying and waiting…to get their project into production after several years of…well, trying and waiting?)







What are you waiting for?

Traditional systems and funders are by definition, not risk-takers. It’s not their job to take risks. So you or someone else needs to take the first risk on yourself and on your project. If you execute it and it works, no matter how you go about it, guaranteed those funders will be all over you. So think of risk-taking as your own responsibility as a filmmaker, and your risk-strategy, whether it’s how you approach your genre, how you raise finance or build an audience for it,  becomes your own industry audition, de-risking you for future investment by funders.

Access to public funding entails compromises that may or may not be acceptable or synergistic to what you plan to do or how you plan to do it in your maverick film project. So you might want to take a risk and do things in a less structured way.

Stubbornness and a person’s innate desire to do things on one’s own terms is what characterizes innovators. Most of us want it our own way but few of us choose an outlier path.

Recent press for Raindance’s disruptors and independent trailblazers:

When They Awake – Opening Gala Announced; Filmmakers Cross Canada to Celebrate Indiginous Musicians

We Still Rise, Vice; A Documentary in the Works



Tiška Wiedermann is a film producer and the Programme Director and head of academics for the Raindance Postgraduate Film Degree, an innovative negotiated Masters Degree designed in negotiation with industry mentors.