Founder of Raindance Film Festival paid a visit to Calgarians

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Elliot Grove is the founder of Raindance Film Festival, the British Independent Film Awards and Raindance TV.

 But how did this Amish farm boy from outside of Toronto become the man who has launched the careers of Christopher Nolan and Guy Ritchie? His first intern was Edgar Wright, director of Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and many others.

The story goes like this: Groves was sent from his farm to a small village outside of Toronto to get a part welded for his dad. It was a hot summer day and young Elliot seemed to become distracted. His mother and father warned him, “never go in to the cinema Elliot,” because “that’s where the devil lives.”

“I was wondering what the devil looked like and lo’ and behold, he had his own building — the movie theatre. So I went up and found out it only cost 99 cents to see what the devil looked like and I had no idea what I was going to see and my parents said never go in there,” said Grove.

“So I paid my 99 cents and went and sat in a big room, and then they turned the flipping lights off and then the first movie I saw, still my favourite, was Lassie Comes Home and at the end of it I cried like a baby.”


“I ran up to the screen to see if I could feel the texture of the bark or the fur and that’s when I knew I would work in movies, I was 16-years-old.”Elliot Grove was born and raised in a Amish community. He knew he would he would always work in film after he saw his first movie, Lassie Comes Home.

Photo Courtesy of Raindance Canada

That’s how his love for the cinema began.

“When I left the family dairy farm and took up the devil’s work in film my mother was appalled and she always offered me the chance to go back and manage the family farm and fortunately I have been able to make enough money to pay my bills in London or Toronto so I don’t have to go back to looking after the cows,” Grove explained.

Since the 1970s, Grove has been spending his time between Toronto and London, England. His first job was working as a stagehand on a Monty Python movie. He eventually returned to Toronto and attended art school. He later would work on 68 features and commercials while in Canada and found that London was calling.

“I moved back to London because my kids were little and I wanted them to have a proper education,” Grove said. “A tourist like me in the U.K., a Canadian, I thought what can I do to make some money.”

He then had an idea of starting a membership organization, a very exclusive group, he explained. He started out by printing off plastic membership cards.

“I thought, let’s print out some nice plastic cards and that became the birth of Raindance (Film Festival) of which there are 100 Canadians (as members) and about 1,500 worldwide,” said Grove.

In the early 90s he decided to start a film festival in London for British film for a simple reason — there wasn’t one.

“That’s what filmmaking is all about, perseverance, skills and stamina of course, don’t let anyone ever say no or don’t to you because if you do, you just won’t make it and never give up.”

— Raindance founder, Elliot Grove

“We had 32 short films the first year, lots of great films from the French and the Germans and it took about 10 years before the Brits finally went and I was like ‘my God this is actually big.’”

Raindance recently celebrated its 19th anniversary, where they showed 150 shorts from 36 different countries and 100 features films.

“I have shown roughly 3,000 films at the film festival over the years and I would hate to single out any of those because they are all my children.”

Variety magazine just acknowledged the Raindance Film Festival as one of the top 50 must-see film festivals in the world.

The difficulties in the world of filmmaking

The biggest struggle that young filmmakers discover is that they think they need a huge bank account and fancy film equipment, but according to Grove, they’re wrong.

“There are two ways at looking at a film career,” Grove explained. “One you need $10-20 million dollars, let’s get Ryan Gosling, let’s get Harrison Ford, we need all this money to make a movie but that’s one-sided.

“You know what, you can’t get Ryan Gosling, he’s booked up for the next three years, and we can’t get Harrison Ford, he’s too expensive. But what I do have is a little camera, it’s HD, it actually takes decent pictures. And guess what? You can actually make movies with it.”

Grove said that making films is not that difficult but is very hard work.

“You can shoot movies on cheap little cameras in cinemas like Paranormal Activity did,” he explained. “It’s not about image quality or about how many people, or how many lights but what’s going to make that film a commercial success is the idea of the movie, what is unique.”

11 years ago, there was a movie made in Calgary that did exactly that. It’s called Fubar and was hugely popular all around the world.

“What we need to do is get back to making movies with what you’ve got, not with what you want, but with what you have got and then the story has got to be something that people can relate to and that’s what Fubar accomplished,” said Grove.

Grove spent the weekend in Calgary over Nov. 19-20, discussing the basic steps of what people can do to limit the risk factor and to enhance their chances of turning their films into this year’s classics.

Grove considers one of his biggest accomplishments thus far as having the best job in the world.

“I get to travel, I tell funny and bad jokes, I get paid,” he said. “This isn’t work and when I get a chance to travel to places like Calgary, I know I am going to meet the next Guy Ritchie.”

Advice for filmmakers

• Get a script

• Get a camera

• Get a little bit of money


• Point the camera at the actorsElliot Grove speaking to a group of film enthusiasts. The Raindance Film Festival just celebrated its 19th anniversary.

Photo Courtesy of Raindance Canada

“That’s what filmmaking is all about, perseverance, skills and stamina of course, don’t let anyone ever say no or don’t to you because if you do, you just won’t make it and never give up.”

“Remember, quitters never win and winners never quit.”

Grove’s Sunday Film School, part of his film workshops, is a series of four 90-minute lectures on writing, producing, directing and how to break into the film industry, has already reached 4,500 attendees this year in Europe.

Each 90-minute lecture teaches people how to get out there, how to use the tools that professional directors, screenwriters, and producers all use.

“It’s based on my personal experiences of many, many trials, and many, many expensive errors that I have made,” he said.

Grove is currently working on a novel based on his experiences as a boy, a short novel.

“I’m working on another film believe it or not and my deadline was May 2010 and they keep hounding me.”

Looking back at his upbringing, Grove said that the parallels between farming and filmmaking are very similar.

“I remember my granddad licking his finger and holding it to the wind trying to decide to plant oats, barley or wheat, depending on the weather because if you got it wrong, you would go hungry,” Grove said, adding that just like a filmmaker, it is a big gamble whether to do Sci-Fi or comedy.

“Farmers, like filmmakers, are the best entrepreneurs and you need a strong entrepreneurial spirit and vision in order to succeed as a filmmaker.”

Raindance Canada is housed in Toronto and has just opened Alberta office in Calgary.

For more information on Raindance Canada, head to

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