Much has been written about the abolition of the UK Film Council and the uncertain future of British film. Don’t young Brits need the Film Council to help them develop their cinematic talent? Don’t we need the Film Council to help build the foundations of a thriving British film industry?
Elliot Grove doesn’t think so. He believes everything Britain needs to make a great film is in this very room – The Old Cinema on Regent Street. In 1896, the Lumiere brothers gave their first London film screening here. In 2011, thanks to a Groupon voucher, I find myself attending the first ever Raindance Saturday Film School and lapping up every word Elliot has to say.
A scenic artist and film producer, Elliot founded Raindance in 1992 to provide filmmaking masterclasses in central London. In 1993, he started the Raindance Film Festival to showcase the newest and boldest talent emerging around the globe and in 1998, launched the annual British Independent Film Awards to honour the achievements of our finest filmmakers.
Everyone has to begin somewhere though, which brings us to Elliot’s latest project, the Saturday Film School. The course aims to “explain the basics of screenwriting, directing and shooting a film and launching your career – in one day”. As a film buff and cinema critic with ideas beyond my station, I couldn’t resist – and I wasn’t disappointed.
As I arrived at The Old Cinema, friendly faces distributed handouts which included a professional script format guide, storyboard templates and glossaries of directing terms. I was ushered through to the main auditorium, where I nervously took my seat alongside 350 other budding writers, directors, producers, actors and filmmakers.
From the grand stage, an animated Elliot delivered a series of detailed lectures, explaining how to write, produce and budget a film – and how to break into the industry. With a dry wit and an endless supply of cinematic anecdotes, he explained what everyone on a film set does, which camera to choose and why you should never send out a script unsolicited.
Later on, Elliot was joined by a guest speaker, stage and screen director Patrick Tucker, who gave one of the most entertaining lectures I’ve ever seen on the secrets of directing and what you should never say to your actors. He is a hugely engaging character and his tales of camera cheats, acting anomalies and sound secrets have ensured I’ll never look at my favourite films in the same way again.
These were no ordinary lectures. While Patrick delighted in directing interns to film audience volunteers on stage, then replaying the scenes instantly on the big screen for immediate illustration of his points, Elliot treated us to screenings of shorts which had featured in previous Raindance Festivals and a reel of surprisingly entertaining 15-second films.
Both seemed to love answering any extra questions we had, but by far the most valuable parts of the day for me were the frequent moments when Elliot asserted his absolute confidence in his audience’s ability to make films.
As someone who suffers from, as he would put it, “colossal lack of confidence in what I’m doing”, receiving such unwavering encouragement meant a lot.
And Elliot Grove knows what he’s talking about. Edgar Wright was his first intern. Christopher Nolan, Guy Ritchie and Gareth Edwards are all former Raindance students.
Through Raindance, Elliot has been investing in the future of British filmmaking for decades. The outlook for British film may not be that bright now, but we should certainly all be glad there’s a chance of rain.
Saturday Film School costs £119. To book on to a session on 9 and 16 April, or check out other Raindance courses, head to their website.