7 Key trends that independent Filmmakers and Screenwriters Embrace

What a crazy two decades since I started Raindance - way way back in the days of celluloid in 1992. Now, of course, celluloid isn't the only thing to go. Most of how we make, watch and consume entertainment has changed beyond recognition in the past rwo decades.

Here are 7 Key trends that independent Filmmakers and Screenwriters need to embrace in order to stay afloat in the next year:

3 Painful Lessons Of Independent Film

As the year end approaches with astonishing speed, I am reminded of all the mistakes I made. Mistakes made not just in 2012 - but since I launched Raindance on the unsuspecting public in 1992.

It's true I suppose that one learns from one's mistakes. More polite people would frephrase the word 'Mistakes' and say soemthing uber positive like: "I learned from trial and error".

That may make the pain a little more bearable, but after all these years I realise that it's taken me since 1992 to learn the 3 Painful Lessons Of Independent Film.

7 Ways To Create A Film Career Brand Strategy

The great thing about working in the creative industries is you get to create a brand around yourself and what you do.

Just like Sherlock Holmes wouldn’t have gotten too far without a strategy, so too your film career will hit a brick wall until you construct a plan of attack.

You might be able to hoodwink a spy or two, or finesse a lucrative job, but you could awake one morning wondering how you had gotten from A – Z when really all you wanted to do was to go from A – B.

The strategy for your own personal brand works almost the same as the strategy for a company brand.

Read: 7 Ways To Create A Film Career Brand Strategy

4 Habits Of Successful Filmmakers

I have had the great pleasure of meeting and working with some of the country's top independent filmmakers. Observing their development and their careers has taught me a great deal.

I have written an article called the 4 Habits Of Successful Filmmakers.

If only I was astute enough to learn from teh uscesses of others!

Filmmakers: Making A Plan Works

It's been a long time since I started the British Independent Film Award and even longer since I started Raindance film Festival.

This summer we moved office to our new home in Craven Street, just off Trafalgar Square. When you don't move very often, one accumaltes loads of stuff, and as I was unpacking a box the other day I cam across the origianl one page mid mapbusiness plan I made in 1993 for the first Raindance Film Festival.

It's uncanny how much the team and I are doing today hasn't changed a bit from those early days.

You can see the entire business plan here:

10 Routes To Financing Your Movie

Don't listen to the nay-sayers claiming film funding is impossible. We just screened 105 features from 42 countries and every single one was financed using on or more of the Ten Routes To Funding Your Film.

Curious? Read the article here: Don't listen to the nay-sayers claiming film funding is impossible. We just screened 105 features from 42 countries and every single one was financed using on or more of the Ten Routes To Funding Your Film.

Curious? read the article here: http://bit.ly/cyjETM

Raindance Film Festivals opens for submissions on November 1st.


Ingredients To Creating A Successful Brand Strategy

I met another amazing batch of people at yesterday's Saturday film School here in London. People came from all over, and from all different walks of life, sharing a common passion for films and filmmaking. The group also came together with a host of skills that are very transferable to work in the film industry.

Getting work in the creative industry is not difficult. It's getting paid that's tough. Getting paid really means you have to present yourself in the correct way and learn how to manage your own brand. By that I mean you need to manage and promote what you want people to think about you.

I put together an article called: 7 Ingredients To Creating A Successful Film Career Brand Strategy

Why Filmmakers and Screenwriters Fail

I was sitting around contemplating the careers of so many of my friends and acquaintances, when I had a moment of clarity:

Why not write up the mistakes and pitfalls so many filmmakers and screenwriters fall into? I know I am going to get into a lot of trouble here. You might not like or agree with me - and that is totally fine. I might even offend you. That is not fine, and I am apologising in advance.
Perhaps you'd rather not read Why Filmmakers and Screenwriters Fail.

Things Screenwriters Need To Know About Filmmaking

Screenwriting and script development are the two basic building blocks of the film industry, and unfortunately, the least considered.

At a recent open forum at the BFI, the leading literary agent Julian Friedman stated publicly that, as far as he could tell, scripts in general have not been getting any better over the past 20 years that Raindance has been running.

Can this be true? That scriptwriting and script development are still the least funded in the industry? That script training is woefully inadequate?

Let me try and focus on some basic issues I have determined and see if there can be some sort of debate on this, with the intention of improving the quality of screenplays.

5 Things Screenwriters Need To Know About Filmmaking

A Screenplay in 55 Words

Here's a challenge:

Write a script in 55 words:

Here's one:

"Careful honey, it's loaded," he said ,re-entering the bedroom.

Her back rested against the headboard. "This for your wife?"
"No. Too chancy. I'm hiring a professional."
"How about me?"

He smirked. "Cute. But who'd be dumb enough to hire a lady hit man?"

She wet her lips, sighting along the barrel.
"Your wife."

16 Things Film Festivals Hate About Filmmakers

I reckon that there are about 49 other people in the world qualified to write about this since Variety Magazine called Raidnacne one of the top 50 film festivals in the world.

Variety Magazine's endorsement of Raindance is significant, becausue there are over 3,000 film festivals in the world and because Variety is the Number One trade paper.

Read : 16 Things Film Festivals Hate About Filmmakers

Film Publicity's 3 New Rules

Online distribution, VOD, day/date screening, transmedia and of course the threat of piracy are all part of the new frontier.

I am presently revamping the Raindance website and revisting our marketing an PR strategy. The author and marketeer Jeff Bullas highlighted several key factors in his excellent blog. A survey of nearly 2,000 companies rated the optimised press release as the most effective way to release news. Optimizing press releases for news search engines is now called "SEO-PR".

If you are a filmmaker, you better get tooled up - because this is where it is all starting to happen. The tools that relate to marketing in general pretty much all pertain to a successful film launch.

Read: The 3 New Rules Of Film Publicity

Head and Shoulders Above The Film Crowd

Yesterday I presented the Saturday Film School with my good friend Patrick Tucker for Raindance - it's always a fun day.This one was extra fun because we were at the Salvation Army on Oxford Street.

Many of the questions I had after the class at the pub, or doing the break concerned how to get work. Everyone is worried about their next job. film work ios pretty much all freelance.

I was thinking about this and how best to answer this basic and acrtually quite simple question when I decided to do another of my list articles - the "x" number of ways etc. It is quite interesting how many times I get criticised for using a numeric in the title of an article. The reason I do it is because it generally means that more people click on it.

Here goes then. If you want to stand head and shoulders amongst the crowd looking for film work, read my latest article, 7 Ways To Make Your Film Career Stand Out

Cannes Wrap Up

My last morning in Cannes was spent with Daniel Kresmery of Raindance Budapest. we had a lengthy early Cannes petit dejeuner discussing some of the finer points of our new venture: Raindance Raw Talent. It's amazing how quickly you get a dozen quality projects together.

I arrived back in London last night to a glorious evening. I took Eurostar all the way back and the French weather was wet and murky until I got to Lilles. Suddenly I was in London's balmy weather. People were actually walking around in shorts and sitting outside at cafes - something I didn't see at all in Cannes!

Here's a great Half-Time Report: Cannes Film Festival 2012.

So, what did it mean for me?

The bottom line is that there is a golden opportunity for niche digital distribution. Getting films out there and monetised outside of the traditional Hollywood paradigm is what the next big digital opportunity is.

The question is: what business model, which trajectory/business plan and what time-line?

For me today, it's back to work in London!


Cannes Day 5

Rain-soaked Croisette in Cannes Film Festival2012
Brazil Drinks
Jazz Trio Cannes Cinema Club
My last full day of Cannes!

The time has flown by, and it has been a great five days. I deliberately left Monday free, hoping to grab a few hours and wander over to Antibes. Alas - the sky a blood red this morning (sailor's warning) and sure enough the rain falling relentlessly. No one can remember a Cannes this rainy - 4 consecutive days and no sunny weather forecast til Wednesday, long after I have left.

I thought I'd report how my casual meetings take place here in Film Land. For those of you not in Cannes, this is what you are missing:

Generally, you feel a tap on your shoulder, turn around and there is someone you haven't seen since Berlinale, or last year in Cannes. "Great to see you!" then, with great intensity "When did you get here?" then, "Wow the weather!" then, "When are you leaving?". It's generally in that order too. If you exchange business cards, the patter this year is: "Wow! I Really Love Your Business Card!" followed by: "If you aren't leaving til Tuesday, we should really hook up!". Then on to the next one.

Trivial as this may seem, us human beings love exchanging phatic conversation. It's how you add in those little bits of what you know about someone, and all important too. That is is in a truly spectacular setting with loads and loads of people having a great time, makes Cannes at the top of my "Must Attend" events.

My first meeting (10:30am) was with a festival representative. There are many such in Cannes, but only a handful of professional ones. It breaks my heart to see nieve newbies being conned by certain startup 'festival experts." It's one of the cons that filmmakers fall for.

I then went to see a couple other film sales agents who patiently went through their lists of new product, hoping that the titles would spark Raindance's interest - and many have. I now have a case full with over 150 DVD's and press kits.

With my last day racing by, and rain pouring down in buckets, I decided to abandon my stroll around the old town in favour of lunch followed by a tipple at the Brazilian drinks. Brazil has really upped their game at this year's Cannes, and the films and filmmakers pouring out of Brazil are as dynamic and as exciting as from anywhere.

Australian Jon Hewitt is another fab friend from many Raindance Film Festivals gone by and I ended up chatting to him for ages in the Marche with his producer Lissette. Jon is on feature number seven right now, and is a wonderful director. Jon is having a private party on Thursday, shamefully scheduled after I leave! Last year's private party was one of my Cannes 2011 highlights.

I was able to introduce Jon and Lissette to Zachary Miller, a Raindance regular since year one, and producer of one of last year's festival highlights: the award winning After Fall, Winter. Zachary has put his crew in a villa up the hill, and has scheduled his villa party on Tuesday - again when I am gone. I have got to get this better organised next year.

It was now approaching sunset, and by London standards had packed in another really successful days, but there were still 3 WOW factors about to spin me around.

The first was the IMDB.com dinner party up the hill in the Old Town - hosted by festival friend and ex BIFA juror and IMDB founder Col Needham. Col had a fascinating cross section of festival directors, journalists, producers, agents and new media experts including the Withoutabox.com team.
Idiotically I didn't take any pictures, but if you head over to the IMDB.com blog I am sure you can find some. Somehow it didn't seem appropriate to take pictures of a small intimate gathering of the net's film giant's inner circle.

The second WOW was the arrival into Cannes of Julian and Marion from our London office. They had driven down from Brussels With Maxime and FX of the Brussels office.

The third WOW was elevenfiftyfive's Cannes Cinema Club - a 1960's pastiche club filled with hundreds of film references, Stella Artois and one of the best and most entertaining Jazz trio's I have ever heard.

Cannes Day 4

I will remember forever this as the Raindance day at Cannes - and has it rained for over 10 hours now.
Morning crowd settling in the Palais to watch Vinterberg's Jagten (The Hunt)

All the evening plans were washed out  and I ended up back in my cozy hotel room watching festival submissions on DVD.

My day had four highlights.

Very first thing this morning I had a great meeting wtih Julian Richard's of Jinga Films. Just 6 years old, Jinga now commands a prime spot in the Riviera and has a slate of terrific independent films.

This morning I also managed to catch Thomas Vinterberg's Jagten (The Hunt) in the big cinema.

Then it was off to a cute restaurant off the main street where I co-hosted a lunch for 4 Brit and 4 Quebecois producers - the lnnch the brainchild of Laurent Gagliardi, Directeur au contenu et aux affaires internationales,  Société de développement des entreprises culturelles (SODEC for short).

If I have my way you will be hearing a lot more about SODEC and Quebecois filmmakers in London. I wish the UK had something equivalent and even half as effective. Speaking of which, I am dying to see Montrealer Xavier Dolan's next film: Laurence Anyways. Watch the trailer here:

This afternoon I discovered one of Cannes special secrets - a magnificent house tucked down an alleyway off the market street near the old town. The occasion was a wine tasting hosted by Morris Ruskin of Shoreline Entertainment - truly one of the most switched on sales agencies with a strong festival strategy spearheaded by Tom Davia. Check out their website, and see how they handle filmmakers and their films.

Also at this get together was Sydney Levine and Peter Belsito - two for my favorite people. Read Sydney's Buzz on Indiewire.com.

Tomorrow (my last day ;-( the rest of the London team arrive so I will be able to kick back and enjoy a bit more. And I am meeting up with Daniel Kresmery of Raindance Budapest. We are going to put the finishing touches onto Raindance Raw Talent. I'm looking forward to that.

For now, its back to the next in a monstrous pile of DVD's
Bon Soir from Cannes

Cannes Day 3

Cannes Day 3

Yesterday passed in a blur and the trip to the Cote D'Azur which seemed so impossibly long a few days ago has passed by at lightning speed. Only 2 more mornings and I am gone!

At 11am I took a bunch of Raindance members on a tour of the market and showed them a few secret places to get freebies and those elusive party tickets. I doorstepped Gary Phillips of Moviehouse Entertainment who gave an impromptu 10 minute masterclass on the relationships between producers, sales agents and distributors. A poster for a film he is representing was just singled out by Hollywood Reporter as a terrific example of a poster. All this while trying to finish a press release. Thanks you Gary and partner Mark Vennis.

 We ended up as usual at my private stomping ground - the Media Pavilion - stand number 120 this year.

The Media Pavilion is really one of Cannes' best kept secrets - for the price of a Market badge - you essentially get an office - with WiFi, message taking and more importantly - meeting areas with free drinks for your guests. At the American or British pavilions, in contrast, the drinks are sold at normal prices, meaning that meetings are suddenly an expensive affair. And the staff at the Media Pavilion are cheerful and helpful.

Today I mainly toured the stands and spoke to some of the professional sales agents in the Marche. Meetings are structured as such:

Raindance's Director of Programming, Suzanne Ballantyne sets up meetings weeks in advance from London. On arrival you look up the company's Cannes headquarters in the  Marche guide and turn up at the meeting. The sales rep then goes through teh films one at a time, showing you the one-sheet, discussing the merits of the film and often showing a trailer. If the film looks suitable for Raindance, then one gets either an invite to the market or festival screening, or is given a DVD screener. Because of Raindance's excellent reputation and long history of launching films into Europe, we also report on the progress of previously screened films.

I then managed to take 90 minutes off and toured around the back streets at the foot of the Old Town. Cannes is a busy place even without the festival, and the back streets are full of treasure!

I bumped into so many good friends - Rinaldo - the energetic and passionate publisher of Moviescope Magazine being one. We swapped tales and yarns for a few minutes. Rinaldo and I have known each other since the start of Raindance - a really long time now - and we watch each others backs. Amazing to hear today how jealous and angry competitors and ex-colleagues are still trying to stick the knife into either Moviescope or Raindance. Geez!

I also ran into and had a brief catchup with LA based Shoreline Entertainment's Morris Ruskin - another of my favorite people.

Elisar Cabrerra manning the Highpoint Booth singlehandedly
Swarovski's Party Bar
Suddenly the Marche was closing and with nothing to eat since the morning with a couple of hasty croissants (courtesy of the Media Pavilion) I had to strategise on how best to max out the evening. Elisar Cabrara, our very first Raindance employee and now part of the Highpoint Media Group came charging to the rescue and led us down the Croisette - actually a very short way down the Croisette where we ducked in to Dutch drinks and snafued a couple canapes and then to the Swarovski party in honor of Romeo and Juliet. OMG what a party!

I managed to catch up with former Raindance student Lord Julian Fellowes and BIFA sponsor Nadia Swarovski as well as tons of London friends I hadnt seen in ages, included Hamish MacAlpine who whispered a few secrets about his exciting future plans. I didnt realise that he re-edited The Proposition. Mums The Word on his amazing future plans.

By now it was 9pm, and Elisar trooped us to a secret cheap pizza joint where we ended sitting next to a Dutch DVD distributor.  We left to the Tokyo International Film Festival party in the glamorous Majestic Hotel Ballroom and finished up about midnight.

Cannes really is such hard work.

And the weather continues to suck, so be happy in your home.

Cannes Day 2

Waiting for the next round of celebs
Got off to an easy start - and enjoyed sleeping in til nearly 9am. It's strange that the hour time difference from the UK can mess with your head as much as a 5 - 8 hour transcontinental flight. Although 9am in Cannes, its only 8am in the UK and 3am in New York.

The weather sucks - it is pouring. Which means everyone is crammed into the pavilions along the beach.

First up was a meeting with our postgrad film degree students. They are doing some really exciting work, and in Cannes there are a series of projects that will certainly be strong enough to stand on their own two feet next year in either the Marche or Festival.

I then had a short but very effective meeting with the Raindance courses director, Rory O'Donnell. I have been inventing courses 'Raindance' since 1992, and today's meeting is no different: We are putting the finishing touched on an Creating A Web Series class at the end of June, something I promise you sounds like a winner.

Cannes Crew Prepping For The Brazilian Party
I am really enjoying Cannes this year for what it is: seeing old acquaintances and catching up on their news. Meeting and making new friends as well. It is remarkable how important face-to-face meetings are in the age of social media. I have already gone through 100 business cards. With 3 more days remaining I am going to have to ration them.

This afternoon was an afternoon of partying - first the Bulgarian drinks reception. There is some amazing cinema coming from Bulgaria. We featured some of their films last year in our Balkan strand.

The Les Arc Film Festival had a reception. I was invited to the festival last year but couldn't attend with a diary conflict. Les Arc is on of the industry's favourite festivals - not only is the programming superb but the atmosphere unparralled. I found out that last year's December festival was intrupted by a snowstorm with over a metre of snow. Screenings were cancelled and the awards ceremony took place in a pub because no one could get to the cinema. I bagsied a T-shirt reading: "I Survived The Snow In Les Arc". I'm pretty sure I won't see anyone in London wearing this one.

You might think I am a lush - but these parties are actually hard work. One is always pitching or listening to pitches, and if you are hungry or thirsty there is always a monster scrum in front of the bar.

Next up was the Swedish parry where I knew only one person at the far end of the room - we waved, but fortunately like Moses and the Red Sea - a gap opened to the refreshment table where I was able to grab some food and a cocktail.

The Brazilian Band
By now it was approaching 7pm and time to line up for one of the hottest parties in town - the Brazilian Party. Tickets were hard to come to, but I had mine organised weeks ago. And what a party it was - with an amazing 5 piece band, superb food and drinks - a BBQ in fact, as well as a look of the bay. The weather has finally cleared.

I then met up with a new acquaintance from London to discuss a more formal working relationship. He has an interesting production company with a leading international actor (who happens to be London based) and a solid background in the music biz. I don't want to say too much now, but if the wind keeps blowin' the right way, it could be great news for Raindance and our wider circle of writers, directors and producers.

I did few few street chats with friends on the way back to the hotel and got an early night. Tomorrow is going to be hectic with all the invites to the Japanese things ending very early Sunday morning.

Cannes Day One

I thought I'd try and do a bit of a diary about Day One

Our train down on Wednesday was a couple hours late which meant all I could do Wednesday was pick up my badge, walk around and grab a pizza. I did bump into the incredible sales agent Morris Ruskin and my good friend from Paris, Zachary Miller.

Thursday I had a 9:15 at the Palais and managed to nip into the ticket booth and got tickets to the 10:30pm red carpet. I guess that tuxedo will come in handy after all

I am based in the Media Pavilion - it has free WiFi, and more importantly - croissants, coffee juice and water for guests. They also take messages and accept parcels. Between 9:15 and 4pm I met filmmaker after filmmaker. One of the most interesting meetings was with London BIFA colleague Martin Myers who outlined a great new project.

Back to the hotel to change grab a short rest - then in tuxedo - several hysterical calls from London office - more on that later I suppose -  off to the Scandanavian Kitchen Party on the Croissette - lovely food and drinks including a sample of a brand new Swedish whiskey that launching today in France and mid September in the UK - so naturally I met the Marketing manager, exchanged cards and told her to compliment our opening night

Off to the red carpet and the 10:30pm screening - Egyptian film in Arabic - got a ten minute standing ovation at the end - went back to the hotel via the kebab shop and picked up a fallafel - next to a friend from London who was totally wrecked trying to pay for a fallafel with a credit card

Got to bed about 2pm

Ready to leave the hotel for day 2

10 Google Tips Filmmakers USe Every Day

We are doing a ton of research on the film festival right now, and use Google in the office a zillion times a day. We sat down this morning and pooled our Google search tricks:

Read: 10 Google Shortcuts Filmmakers Use Every Day

7 Mistakes Rookie Screenwriters Make

I taught myself how to read and analyse screenplays when I started out running this film festival, Between 1992 and 2003 I read and wrote critiques on over 2,500 screenplays including Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, and 51st State.

Only a handful of these 2,500 screenplays ever got made. Of the remaining scripts, they most likely will never get made, and not because they were a bad idea for a screenplay. I never once found a bad idea for a screenplay reading 2,500 scripts. did find poor execution of the ideas time and time again.

I'm no expert. All I have is a body of experience working with rookie writers. Here is a crib sheet of the basic mistakes debut screenwriters make.

Read 7 Mistakes Rookie Screenwriters Make

Film Publicity's 3 New Rules

Online distribution, VOD, day/date screening, transmedia and of course the threat of piracy are all part of the new film PR frontier.

The Raindance website is currently undergoing a revamp and I am revisiting our marketing and PR strategy. The author and marketeer Jeff Bullas highlighted several key factors in his excellent blog. A survey of nearly 2,000 companies rated the optimised press release as the most effective way to release news. Optimizing press releases for news search engines is now called "SEO-PR".

This is where it is all starting to happen. The new PR tools that relate to marketing in general pretty much all pertain to a successful film launch.

Read: The 3 New Tools Of Film PR

5 Cons Filmmakers Fall For

It's the 20th year of the Raindance Film Festival and we are open for submissions.

Like last year, and every year before, we start getting arm-twisting telephone calls from self appointed experts calling themselves festival 'consultants'.

I dont know about you, but we are sick to the death of consultants!

With Rotterdam's excellent IFFR underway, and with Berlinale starting on the 10th of Feb, you can bet your bottom dollar that there will be a whole new wave of newbie festival consultants infecting these two fine events.

But this is just one of the cons out there.

Do your research:

Read: 5 Cons Filmmakers Fall For

Bingham Ray

I was stunned to read of the untimely death of one of the great independent film champions. Bingham Ray.

I first met him at the very first Raindance Film Festival in 1993.

We met in the cinema lobby and swapped glasses - me his wire rims and he my shades - a tradition that continued for the next 5 years.

Bingham would always take me aside and offer advice and most importantly, encouragement. When he came to the first British Independent Awards, he told me knew it would be a winner. Funny how now such words mean so much.

To Nancy and his family: my condolences.

6 Lessons Porn Has For Independent Filmmakers


It's really competitive out there in movie land. Getting an audience for your film is not going to get any easier.

Then, a flash of late night inspiration following a cruise through porn land. These guys 9and girls) might just be on to something!

Read: 6 Lessons Porn Has For Independent Filmmakers

The Raindance Film Festival Team
Submissions now open!