21 trends filmmakers track in 2021 | Raindance Film Festival

Reflect on 2020. Was it a terrible year? Or a year filled with tough challenges tinged with exciting creative opportunities. I wrote a blog post on how filmmakers can celebrate Christmas during a Tier-4 Lockdown. Whether you consider yourself as ‘creative’ or are just a news-crazed junkie, here are the 21 trends filmmakers will track in 2021.

I’m not going to look at the obvious filmmaking trends, like ‘more social distancing’. I’m trying to share the trends that I think will impact and inform a filmmakers career and with it, one’s livelihood.

Trend spotting is an ideal way to come up with new ideas. Whatever nor whoever you are, Enjoy my compilation.

21 Trends Filmmakers Track In 2021

1. Eco shame

Eco-status used to be the norm of activists. Legacy eco status projects include:

Since then, Tesla has become the leading luxury car seller in America. Adidas manufactured 11,000,000 pairs of running shoes from recycled ocean plastic. And the Vegan Impossible Burger is now served in 7,000 American Burger Kings.

The filmmaker’s dilemma:

Here’s why I think the green / eco movement is going to change. You see, there are 2 extremes of eco-status: the high end, and the affordable. When trends become common they lose their cache and uniqueness. When eco-options become as affordable as traditional ones, there is no reason not to chose them.

My prediction of the top trend to watch in 2021? Eco-shame. Movements like Extinction Rebellion, Strike for Climate and Greta. So, from eco-status I believe we will move to eco-shame. One impact is Increasingly obvious: widespread shame at air travel – or flygskam in the original Swedish – impacting businesses everywhere.

What can you do to use this trend in your storytelling?

2. Civil Media

The social media giants have wrecked so many people’s relationships. They have also been tied to social and political conspiracy theories as well. Currently, the Trump ‘ Stop the steal’ and the insane anti-vaxer movements are just two of the many that thrive on social media.

Furthermore, the giants have showed us all is they are only concerned for their big bucks.

The brutal fact:

This must stop. Lets find and champion independent journalists who can earn our trust the good old-fashioned way – by telling the truth. Civil media – by and for civilians. I’m going to be there. the question is: will you be there too?

Can you start your own CIVIL space? A safe house where you and like-minded can discuss your likes and dislikes. Last year the soft drink Sprite partnered with Google to identify issues of concern to teenagers. Forums were created on Reddit and moderated by influencers. Topics included still being a virgin or coming out as transgender.

This platform illustrates the value and role of agony aunts. The only difference now is these beings live on the internet and can interact with their audience. Unlike the paper and typeset bound agony aunts like Ann Landers of the past.

Consider what your long-term goals are. Ask who would you like to meet.

Connection and self-expression are fundamental human needs. We will continue to seek to meet those needs online forever. If you are to create a new CIVIL media you will need to find out how to create something that the big social media companies do not. And if you create this just for the sake of profit, we will smell this and run a mile. The challenge to us today is how to create communities that are truly relevant and useful.

Two new civil media initiatives:

Collab Writers – a community of creatives who hold monthly networking sessions.
Paus.TV – a web platform that allows viewers to tip the films they watch. It’s a new way for filmmakers to monetise their short film content.

Both of these are worth checking out.

3. Brand Avatars

The rise and rise of digital channels is overwhelming us. The next few years will see brands, both large and small turn to avatars to lead their social media influencing.

The trick is to create avatars that respond directly to their audience. It’s all very un-nerving to filmmakers to think that they too could be replaced by an avatar. It is imperative that filmmakers understand where this is going, and how important this trend becomes.

At Cannes Lion Advertising Festival last year, SK2 Cosmetics introduced their new avatar – Yumi.
Have a look at this avatar welcoming you to this new product.

Freaky gets weirder too: Check this out:

Relationships that go way beyond Alexa, order me some washing powder, and that encompass wellbeing, creativity, and even the human need for companionship. Now Amazon are working on a wearable that will understand and respond to the emotions of the user. The rise of these VIRTUAL COMPANIONS is priming consumers to expect branded virtual entities that connect to them on a deeper level.

With branding being so important why not check out the brand [NEW] Self-branding Filmmaker Intensive that starts January 7th 2021?

4. Escapism

With the COVID crises and political turmoil hitting nation after nation, escapism is going to be a big story for 2021. And guess what? The trendy Trendhunter website has unearthed up a dozen or more ways the travel industry is branding escapism.

Could you invent a new way to escape?

5. Femme films

Women are taking control of their filmmaking careers both in front of and behind the camera. And they are proving to be as shrewd if not shrewder than their male counterparts.

No longer is a leading female consigned to the femme fatale role. They take creative and commercial control.

if however you harken after a femme fatale movie, look no further that Linda Fiorentino in what many, including myself, believe to be the finest of that genre: The Last Seduction by John Dahl.

6. Remakes & Reboots

The film industry has been fantastically successful. What other industry takes a few pennies worth of raw materials in a DVD and sells it on for hundreds if not thousands times the cost of its ingredients.

The old and safe has always been the big safe money making zone of the film industry. But could this be a signal of its decline?

Here’s a summary of a terrific article written in The Movie Blog: Remakes, Reboots, Variants: How the Old Continues to Trend as the New

Some dislike the idea of classics being remade for the modern audience. Still, the practice has become so commonplace across entertainment that reboots, remakes, and variants class as brand-new releases in their own right, allowing the custom to trend as well as each ‘new’ release.
Elliott Hopper

And a brilliant vlog by BeKindRewind:

7. Social impact

Nothing beats the power of film. Films bring about change, both positive and negative. The copycat murders that plagued America after Natural Born Killers an example of the negative.

Those of you who have heard me speak will remember that the value of film is social impact. This is going to be a huge watch word for 2021.

Thankfully there is some considered and valuable advice out there for anyone seeking to make an impactful film: The Impact Guide. This is funded in part by Bertha and the Ford Foundation. really useful stuff here.

8. Comedy

Funny is money. And no amount of public health crises is going to diminish that! While researching this article, I found the perfectly phrased summary of where comedy is headed and why it is so important.

Commonly used as a source of expression in modern day society, humour and satire is being used by both brands and consumers to showcase status and pop culture awareness. Showcasing trends in pop culture satire, online humour and modern parodies, this category highlights a much more lighthearted approach to consumer-brand interaction.

This ad was based on when Harry Met Sally and shows the power of satire. There are some warm words of encouragement at the end.

Of course, Raindance has responded to this new need by offering a Mastering Comedy class on Februray 2nd 2021.

9. Old Spice

Australian ad agency Thinkerbell launched Thrive@55 this summer. It’s an 8 week paid internship for those aged 55+

There are precious few 50+ workers in the creative industry. As people’s working runway keeps getting extended, along with the increased flexibility of home working this age group will be more and more welcome to bring in their ideas, energy and experience to the film industry.

10. Plant-ed

Raindance tutor and award-winning Director Simon Hunter believes the next generation will reflect with horror at how we allowed thousand after thousand of animals to be slaughtered in the 2020’s. He thinks future generations will recoil in the same way we now recoil at pogroms like the massacre of Jews in the gas chambers of World War 2.

Watch for the rise and rise of plant-based food. We will see plant grown meat too.

I call this section Plant-ed because another major trend will be de-forestation and re-forestation. Watch and see where this trend could be amplified by your filmmaking.

11. Social justice warriors

Nearly everyone has now heard the term ‘social justice warrior’. It now has a bad reputation. How, you might ask, can someone fighting for justice possibly be anything but good?

Anyone championing a cause could be called a warrior. And just because you are a champion doesn’t mean you believe in the cause. Take a mercenary, for example, who fights the cause his / her paymaster is championing.

And now with the far-right and far-left groups all being considered social justice warriors, the moniker has taken on a negative connotation.

Take this definition from Know Your Meme

a pejorative label applied to bloggers, activists and commentators who are prone to engage in lengthy and hostile debates against others on a range of issues concerning social injustice, identity politics and political correctness. In contrast to the social justice blogosphere at large, the stereotype of a social justice warrior is distinguished by the use of overzealous and self-righteous rhetorics [sic], as well as appealing to emotions over logic and reason.

Semantics and politics aside, the world needs social justice champions. And we need the movies about the unjust, the downtrodden and the abused. We all need to champion the whistleblowers that bring justice.

12. Norm recalibration

We have heard about the ‘new normal’ until we nauseate. But the truth is – everything has changed. and if you don’t jump on the new bandwagon you run the danger of being left behind.

Broadly speaking, the old ways don’t work any more. Don’t fear change. Embrace it. As filmmakers we must heed three changes:

  • storyline
  • filmmaking techniques and technology
  • sales and distribution

The future belongs to the fearless and the bold.

13. Virtual events

The accelerated race to champion virtual events has only just begun (hint: ZoomHopin), with plenty of space left to perfect immersiveness, accessibility and interaction, and to create add-on services and useful tools for both participants and organisers.

14. Diversity

We are seeing tougher and tougher regulations concerning diversity and employment. Companies are creating business plans that rely on diversity rather than merely playing lip service with their ‘core values’

In the film industry too, cross cultural pollination is creating fresh new movies featuring fresh new voices.

Prejudice and discrimination of any kind, be it cultural, ethnic, sexual or racial has no place in our world. We must champion diversity and support the front-line workers fighting the good fight.

In 1962 To Kill A Mockingbird came out – showing us the horrors of discrimination. It did so without being preachy. Proving again the power of cinema to educate and inform.

15.15 Minute cities

How about a city where everything you need, from shelter, food, education and employment is within a 15 minute walk of where you live?

Enter three exciting new companies:

  1. Reef Technology transforms industrial brown sites into community spaces in America.
  2. Future City brokers cultural partnerships between commerce and the arts. London’s English National ballet and English National Opera both have fabulous new homes created by commercial property concerns .
  3. And now for something completely different!
    The Apple Tree Pub in London’s trendy East End is a non-conformist and LGBTQ+ friendly venue where everyone is welcome. A warm welcome to all and a home to the LGBTQ+ communities and to those living an alternative lifestyle.

It is initiatives like this that will become more prominent.

16. Gaming

The gaming industry is expected to gross $200 billion next year. What’s more, the role of education in gaming is immense.

For an excellent article on the future of gaming, as well as super-intelligent thoughts on AR and AI look to this thoughtful article in Forbes.

17. Occulture

This promises to get closer to the main stream.

Occulture includes astrology, alchemy, palmistry, and other spiritual pursuits, with motifs ranging from the cosmic to the demonic.

Blend of “occult” and “culture,” coined by Professor Christopher Partridge.

Hidden culture. A sub culture within Western modern culture. The appropriation by a subculture of occult themes (New Age, etc.) in opposition to the dominant culture. A culture influenced by modern and post-modern literature and art, originating from the occult sciences – as understood by pre-Christian and subsequent unorthodox interpretations of the gospels, esoteric writings and Eastern sources.

An area of music, writing, visual art and para-religious practices stemming from the the occult. Heavily influenced by occultists such as Aleister Crowley, Gerald Gardner, Dion Fortune, Anton LaVey, Robert Anton Wilson, Austin Osman Spare and Brion Gysin.
Peter Pendragon

18. VR

Virtual Reality is still struggling to make a foothold. This might be due to the lack of penetration of headsets. This will likely change as manufacturers reduce their prices.

The software technologies created have found their way into cinema post-production, and of course, gaming. To say nothing of the way VR creators are pushing the boundaries of storytelling, as best witnessed in the Gallery of Immersive Stories.

19. Gritty realism

Ken Loach is often associated with gritty realism. His movies are shot entirely on location. His films often depict the affect of social environmental issues on the characters in his stories like the award-winning I, Daniel Blake.

With the film industry in turmoil due to COVID restrictions, filmmakers who can use their local locations to tell empowering stories will find their stories achieve notice in 2021.

20. Event cinema

The pandemic has heaped pressure on movie theatres world-wide. Pre-pandemic cinemas were coming under pressure, and the health crisis has likely brought the crises wrought by online streaming forward as much as a decade.

This doesn’t mean that cinemas will become obsolete. It likely mean that their role will change.

There are two models I see:
Community based cinemas like Genesis in London have a variety of film programming as well as a host of community based events and festivals. Their space also includes bars and restaurants.

Event based cinema which can take place in non-theatrical venues like parks, art galleries and public squares.
Modern Event Cinema is a London-based company that specialises in creating one-off events related to a film or filmed content that are shown live from a venue and into cinemas nationwide via satellite link-up and / or afterwards in the form of encore performances. Their projects vary from music to family, art to history, fashion to world cinema, and beyond.

Traditional movie chains can use their locations to host live sporting events piped in from venues like Wimbledon, boxing matches and the like.

Raindance held a COVID-safe film production panel discussion. You can watch it here:

21. Streaming

The big change of 2021 is how a filmmaker’s revenue will originate. Until now, a filmmaker sold their movie rights territory by territory. The local distributor would then recoup by selling the movie to cinemas, home video and television as the film passed through a series of windows.

Online streaming has changed the way movies are monetised by reshaping and reordering the windows. The online model depends on selling the movie to viewer after viewer meaning the financial recoupment relies on revenue per viewer rather than revenue per window.

How this impacts cinemas is interesting.

Small and nimble cinema chains with visionary leadership like Britain’s Curzon Cinemas used this new model to revamp their online delivery Curzon Home Cinemas with great success. They deliver their immense catalogue of arthouse and indie films to a discerning audience.

Sales agent Visit Films played their library of films into their own on-line distribution through their sub-brand Monument Films. Similar to Curzon – except they partner with local arthouse cinemas and offer their catalogue of edgy indies to local arthouse cinemas on VOD, splitting the revenue with the local theatre.

There are many other interesting models, too numerous to mention here.

The key point is this:
Yes, it’s great to get your movie on Netflix or Disney. But that will only happen if the film has had a decent social media profile. and that, as ever, starts with film festivals like Raindance.

Fade Out

Remember, trends mean nothing if you don’t use them to make what you do – and the world – better. So absorb these trends. Take them to your team, share, discuss, argue and conspire.

But most of all, act.

Let’s make movies!

Ask how Raindance Film School can further your career




Photo Credit David Martinez / BIFA 2018

Few people know more filmmakers and screenwriters than Elliot Grove. Elliot is the founder of Raindance Film Festival (1993) and the British Independent Film Awards (1998). He has produced over 700 hundred short films and five feature films: the multi-award-winning The Living and the Dead (2006), Deadly Virtues (2013), AMBER (2017), Love is Thicker Than Water (2018) and the SWSX Grand Jury Prize winner Alice (2019). He teaches screenwriting and producing in the UK, Europe, Asia and America.

Raindance BREXiT trailer 2019

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.

  • facebook
  • linkedin
  • skype
  • twitter
  • youtube