Despite being originally from Toronto, Canada, Elliot Grove, founder of Raindance, Raindance Film Festival, the British Independent Films Awards and the Independent Film Trust and Raindance.tv
Despite being originally from Toronto, Canada, Elliot Grove, founder of Raindance, Raindance
Film Festival, the British Independent Films Awards and the Independent
Film Trust and Raindance.tv, has spent the last twenty years championing the British film industry and nurturing its new talent. He is also an author of an impressive list of filmmaking books (see list at end of article). Busy as he is teaching his filmmaking classes
– with former students that include Guy Ritchie, Matthew Vaughan,
Edgar Wright, Chris Nolan and Ben Miller, he found time to talk to FilmJuice Features Editor Heidi Vella.
You’ve given a lot to the Indie film industry, what if FilmJuice
was to start a campaign to get you a knighthood? Sir Elliot Grove has a
nice ring to it…
[Laughs] It does have a very nice ring to it. People do say I have
given a lot, but let me tell you – I have given nothing. I have taken a
lot, because in my job I meet the most incredibly talented and
interesting people anyone could ever hope to meet; and I don’t just meet
one, I meet many every day. Really, I should be the one giving British
independent film a knighthood and not the other way around.
Why did you choose to focus on the British Film Industry?
moved here in the ‘70s and then I went back to Canada for what I
thought was three weeks, but I ended staying for nine years and got
married and had kids. I came back in 1986. I did not do film at the time
and I went spectacularly bankrupt in 1991. I spent the whole year
feeling sorry for myself and I was living just outside London. I had a
tenant living at the house and he said to me ‘As long as you are feeling
sorry for yourself, no doctor in the world can help you’. So I thought
what do I really want to do? I want to get back into film.
So then I started thinking what do you British people really like?
You like associations and memberships. So I started a membership
organisation for £15 quid a year, then I started bringing people over
from Los Angeles to teach and I could make a little bit of money on
that. About nine months after, people here started making movies again
because, in 1992 when I started Raindance, only 6 films were being made
compared to 150 last year, and so I started teaching. Then I started the
festival because so many people were making films and it just sort of
Guy Ritchie and Christopher Nolan both attended Raindance course, do you still keep in touch?
I haven’t seen Guy Ritchie for about four years, but whenever Christopher Nolan is in town we often hook up.
Have you seen Guy Ritchie’s new film Sherlock Holmes?
did actually. I think he is very clever as a director. All directors
are different, but what he is really good at is assembling a really top
team; top stunt co-ordinator, top-set designer, top screenwriter, top
sound and so really that’s his trick. Other directors will have a less
experienced team and will still make good films. It’s a different
Do you remember your experience starting in the film industry?
I could tell you the first movie I saw because it’s kind of a story
that people like to hear. I grew up Amish so I was always told as a kid
don’t go to the cinema because the devil lives there. I believed them,
until when I was sixteen I got sent to the local village to get a part
welded at the local blacksmith and it was going to take three hours to
do it, so I walked down the high street and I saw the movie theatre, and
I thought ‘Oh, that’s where the devil lives. I wonder whether I can go
and see what he looks like?’
I went into this big room and it was like church. There was chairs
lined up, except the fabric on the chairs was all red, the colour of the
devil I thought. I had no idea what to expect and all of a sudden they
turned the lights down and the curtains opened and the first movie I saw
was Lassie Come Home. At the end I had no idea what was going on
I went up to feel the screen to see if I could feel the fur and the
rocks but it was all gone. From that moment I was totally hooked.
What has been your star-struck moment?
Every year, when I announce the British Independent Film Awards, is a star-struck moment, but this last December, on the 12th edition, I stood looking across the room and there’s Michael Caine and there’s Daniel Day Lewis and Ray Winstone
and there all looking at me, waiting to hear what I was going to say!
And I thought this is so cool. Also, last week I was walking by my
office and Mike Leigh was walking the other way and he stopped and went ‘Hey Elliot’. I thought that was pretty cool.
What would be your ultimate fantasy horror movie?
tell you a little story that will answer your question. I was in Japan
last year and I was doing a workshop and there was a very old
screenwriter who had written the script to over 50 yakuza movies, three
of which Tarantino bought and used as the basis of Kill Bill, and
he was asked the same question . He said ‘When I go to the cinema and
sit down I remember that ninety per cent of my body is water and that
ten per cent is basically organs, and when I see a movie I want to have
all or some of my organs squeezed so fluid spurts all over the place’. I
think if you do that with a horror film you’ve succeeded.
Are there any actors/ actresses in the horror movie you would like to see killed off first?
can’t get personal. A few years ago the head of ICM called me up and
asked if I have a horror film starring a female who got stabbed in the
chest and murdered. I said I do not have such a script, why? He said
because Emily Watson had just given birth to a child and was
suffering post-natal depression and was looking for such a project to
get her out of the house. He said, she has never been killed onscreen
before and if she were, it would allow him to put her up for more jobs
because it would show her versatility. It’s not really answering your
Tell us some industry gossip…
Gossip, gossip, gossip.
Well there is a lot going around at the moment that everyone is going
bust and this is actually good news for the people at Raindance. The
companies who are going bust, or have gone bust recently, are the ones
that have the nice big offices, the receptionists and all the water
coolers. So the fact the money is being squeezed out of the posh upper
penthouses and back in the street I think is a really good sign.
You’re building a very big empire with the Raindance organisation,
the British Independent Film Awards and the Independent Film Trust.
What can we expect next?
Empire would be a word that would make
my bank manager laugh. But what’s next on the horizon is I’m about to
open offices in New York, we’ve got a little one in Toronto, and maybe
Berlin and Budapest. I am getting older now I can’t keep doing this
forever. I’m sort of trying to figure it out, how to structure it so
that it doesn’t take so much, if any, of my time.
Check out the Raindance No To Lo Budget Filmmaking Course Competition, here.
Books By Elliot Grove