Friday 26 October 2012

Filmmaking with the Raindance Film Festival

On September 15th I attended the Saturday Film School in London, hosted by Raindance Film Festival. I'd been planning on going for a year, ever since I found a discount off the price via Groupon (£39 instead of £119; a pretty sweet deal!)

During the day, there were four different tutorials. The first was about screenwriting, which is something I've been interested in for a short while. I love watching films and thinking about how someone has created a scene on paper, and then how an actor and director might interpret it.

The tutors were excellent, well established industry people, and had some fantastic tips. The main speaker was Elliot Grove, who is the founder of Raindance. He first told us some of his personal history: growing up in a Canadian Amish family who tried to make him believe that talking pictures were the devil (!), how that led to him falling in love with film, his decision to move to the UK, and then founding the festival.

After that, Elliot talked us through the basics of screenwriting. Here are some interesting bits I wrote down:
  • Writers love to procrastinate (definitely me!)
  • Screenplays should be very easy to read. If your screenplay is complicated, you're doing something wrong.
  • The best way to learn is to read as many scripts as you can get your hands on.
  • Copying directly from one screenplay is called plagiarism, but copying from two is called good research (not sure how far this is true, but it made me chuckle!)
After the screenwriting session there was a short break, during which I was bribed into forking out £50 for Raindance membership! Okay, so I wasn't exactly bribed. They just made an announcement that instead of the usual price of £1000, membership was put down to £50. Then, the rascals threw in a massive messenger bag (I'm a sucker for bags), and a data CD with about 50 screenplays on it! They also included a production paperwork data CD, but I didn't have much interest in that. Still, since the whole thing was worth nearly £1,100 altogether, how could I turn it down? Exactly.

So even though everything was pretty interesting and entertaining, my favourite part of the day was when director Patrick Tucker took the stage to give us a tutorial on acting and directing. I don't really have any ambition to do either, but it's intriguing to see how these are put together. Patrick's energy was also very infectious; he led the tutorial with a massive amount of humour while still teaching us useful insights. Many times he asked for volunteers to come up on stage to aid various demonstrations (but I will admit that I ducked down in my seat each time so I wouldn't get chosen!)

Other subjects were covered, for example how to break into the industry, and the legal aspects of filmmaking. We were also shown a few short films which were intended to demonstrate just how easy it can be to make one ourselves – as long as you have access to a camera (even just on a mobile phone), you can make a film that people will enjoy.

If you want to learn more about the Saturday Film School, including future dates and timetables, click here. I'd highly recommend it to anyone interested in filmmaking – the course makes it sound so simple! Well, simpler than you would normally be led to believe. I enjoyed it so much that I'm thinking of going back for a second dose!