If you have ever wanted to make a film or write a screenplay, you should check what is happening in London, England.
Independent film has flourished there since the early 1990’s when Raindance Film Festival was founded by the charismatic Canadian, Elliot Grove. His first intern was Edgar Wright. Elliot has worked with filmmakers like Christopher Nolan, Gareth Edwards, Guy Ritchie and Mathew Vaughn. Raindance Film Festival is now Britain’s oldest and largest independent film festival and has become the beacon of independent film in the UK and is known as the gateway for independent film to Europe. Raindance also founded the British Independent Film Awards.
The elements that have made Raindance flourish in London, England are a cutting-edge training programme with a bespoke and revolutionary Postgraduate Film Degree with over 100 students worldwide, a submission led Oscar-qualifying international film festival and a production company.
Now Raindance has a film hub in New York, joining LA, Vancouver, Montreal and Toronto in North America, and Berlin, Budapest, Brussels and Paris on the continent. For the first time, New Yorkers can engage with Raindance without crossing the Atlantic to London.
Should you want to take a peek at the indie film scene in London, or brave the journey to London, take a look at our handy independent filmmaker’s survival guide to London.
The New Yorker’s Guide To London’s Independent Film Scene
The first thing to remember about London is that it has become the world’s number one tourist destination. The city’s flourishing arts scene is a mecca for lovers of art forms from dance to music to theatre and to film. The second thing about London is that it is the most cosmopolitan city anywhere with people from every single nation crammed around the Thames. Local government officials can speak 151 different languages. In fact, you less likely to hear English spoken on the city’s streets than other languages. All this breeds a terrific sense of energy. It also means that accommodation is scarce and expensive.
Where to stay
For short stays, you are better off using one of the discount hotel websites like lastminute.com
For longer term stays, of a month or more, try the property website zoopla.com
You might also get paid to stay in London if you are willing to house sit. This relies on your references checking out and usually your willingness to care for pets and perform light domestic duties.
The public transport system in London is clean and safe. It’s not cheap though. Londoners get themselves a tap-in-tap-out payment card called Oyster and plan their journeys using the Transport for London website.
You will find eating (and drinking) in London about a quarter cheaper than in New York. London’s restaurants are as varied as the nationalities of people who live there. Explore. Enjoy.
Assuming your trip to London is more than to eat drink and be merry, here is our guide to independent film in London.
Nowhere has better funding for movies right now than the Brits. There is a special tax led incentive programme called the Enterprise Investment Scheme which offers British taxpayers 50% tax relief (if the total raise is less than £150,000 ($225,000) or 30% relief up to £5,000,000 ($7,500,000). Combined with other reliefs, British independent filmmakers often are able to derisk their film up to 98% depending on the profile of their investors.
Here’s more good news: your investors will never be taxed on the profit on their investment, and, the money does not need to be spent in the UK – it can be spent anywhere.
So, what do New Yorkers need to do to cash in?
You need to find a British partner who can raise the money for you, either by hiring a licensed money broker who charges 10-15% or, find a British producer willing to co-produce with you. To do this you need to network!
Successful filmmakers learn the fine art of networking. The film industry is a people industry. It’s not what but whom you know. In the Raindance New York film hub we have regular monthly networking sessions, as they do in London.
There’s also a good networking site shootingpeople.org – which also has a New York list. Shooting People is a bit like Craig’s List for filmmakers.
We have also put together a list of the UK and European film blogs, useful for news and connections.
Raindance has networking in each of its cities. Toronto’s is in easy reach of New York. So is Montreal. Out west there’s Raindance Los Angeles. London’s legendary Boozin’ N’ Schmoozin’ is on the 2nd Monday each month and attracts about 100 filmmakers to envy Post Production’s superb private hospitality bar overlooking Soho.
When you get to a networking session, make certain you don’t commit these three networking faux pas.
Filmmakers can always post notices in Raindance London’s free weekly newsletter that circulates to over 30,000 filmmakers around the world.
UK Government Organisations
Pretty much all of the UK government organisations are housed under the roof of the British Film Institute. You can find news of funding, training, government policy and much more.
For arts news and information in general, try the excellent website of the British Council.
Festivals and Distribution strategies
Theatrical distribution in the UK is pretty much impossible. A staggering 96% of British screens are owned by the Hollywood studios, and the remaining few are so desperate for cash they often run commercial films.
For British as well as American filmmakers, the route is to play at a major film festival, like Edinburgh, Cambridge, Frightfest, Sci-fi, Sheffield (documentaries) or London’s Raindance. If you attend a British film festival and meet a filmmaker there, here are 7 questions you better not ask them!
Alternative screening flourishes in London. While here in New York we have Rooftop Films, the whole concept of event cinema started in London in the late 1990’s with Secret Cinema – now a huge European brand. British cinema owners also use their screens for alternative content: everything from Wimbledon finals in a screen at VUE Piccadilly to the Raindance Tour.