Raindance 2019

I attended the beginning and end of Raindance, using a Festival Pass (£99). Unfortunately, I turned up on the day of the gala and they didn't have the passes ready, so had to came back on the Wednesday, when the programme began. This was the 27th festival and ran for 11 days, offering a mixture of panels, shorts and features. I'd not attended before. Overall, it was an enjoyable experience although I'm glad I only did 4 or 5 days and not the whole run. These are independent films and although I enjoyed many of them, most suffered from a lack of strong story structure. Of course, this is not the only way to judge a movie but I think I've been rather sensitised to it, from the many courses attended/books read and having recently completed the Story for Screenwriting course run by John Yorke. To my non expert eye, the films all had good cinematography, acting and sound design.

I attended the first panel on Thursday 19th which focussed on music in film and tv. This panel, like those that followed, had a strong and varied lineup. I didn't take notes from most of the talks. It was agreed that the music budget is either too small or often raided. Standard levels are 10% of the total budget. Often music providers will ask for the budget of a movie in order to ascertain how much a client might have to pay! The following panel was a director/writer's experince of making Red, White and Blue (starring Noah Taylor, currently playing Hitler in Preacher). It was a great horse's mouth experience of shooting an indie film, although I had to close my eyes for the clip of the final bloody end. 

My first feature was Feral, a Mexican fake doc in the style of Blair Witch. It told the story of a priest who takes in 3 feral children with the intent to reform them through home schooling. I enjoyed the home footage premise, with all it's crackles, as well as the interviews with those that knew the family, but I found the end confusing. I returned to Bristol after the film, to attend some other workshops that I'll cover in a separate post. I returned on Tuesday 24th and began with The Planters, by two LA friends who shared Directing and Acting duties. The film had the feel of Wes Anderson with touches of Napolean Dynamite or Hunt for the Wilderpeople. It had some lovely shots, humourous moments and a good Q&A.

After the high of The Planters, I watched My Day. Keen on the premise, a teenage girl who was a drug courier girl who is attacked by a client, losing the drugs and money. It was shot in black in white, which felt unnecessary; even more so when a character referred to the colour of a jacket. The plot was confusing and the dramatic moments out of kilter with the character's desires. On Wednesday, I began with some Eastern shorts. The last two in the group were excellent. Pearl followed the fate of a daughter of a single Mum who is lured away. The young actor was phenomenal and the moment when she realises she been left behind, heartbreaking.

Stay Awake, Be Ready was a wonderful cinematic premise, a camera focused in the distance with voices heard 'behind' the cameara. It's a busy street corner in Vietnam (I think) at night. Motorbikes zip by, people smoke and drink. There's an accident off screen left, people rush to it as the camera pulls back to the table where the talkers were, only 1 remains. The other two, head to the crash before returning. More drama at the table and the camera moves forward onto the table finishing with a close up of an upturned beer bottle emptying its contents. 

I then had a run of 3 feature films. The first was Greener Grass. This was a bizarre, obtuse film which I struggled to enjoy. I did love D'Arcy Carden (Janice in the Good Life) as the teacher, Miss Human. I was reminded by the saying about you can introduce something odd in an ordinary world or something ordinary in an odd world but not odd with odd. This felt like the latter. Emma Peeters, followed which a lovely film and I got to speak to the writer/director Nicole Palo afterwards. It was a bittersweet romcom, a dark Amelie. I hope she makes her film much quicker than the 7 it took her to make this one. She's an exteremely talented writer/director. 

I did some networking over some free cider. I got to meet an extremely talented conductor/composer called Ed Farmer. After that, I saw Schemers. This was an autobiographer film by Dave McClean, manager of bands such as Placebo. Unfortunately, he was too ill to attend the Q&A. The film was a great story of some chancers who stumble into band management. It lost it's way in the final third, with the solution to their dire situation never fully realised. The first time lead actor was superb as was all the cast. Music played a major part and I'm sure Dave's contacts were more than happy to help. A sequel is being planned.

My final day was the Thursday. I went to the morning panel on Branding and Marketing. It was another strong varied lineup, with Amy from Rook's Nest being halfway through a crowdfunding campaign to the person in charge of the Stranger Things branding. They tended to agree that you need to start with the audience and work backwards. So it's important at the concept stage to consider:

  • Name of film - needs to be searchable
  • Where do we want to end up the film e.g. film festivals
  • Don't chase trends
  • Take photographs at all stages
  • Pay for a high quality poster

Other elements to improve your marketing:

  • Check your genre tropes to ensure that key scences are novel.
  • Use reference films
  • Be able to pitch in 10 seconds

If you get it right early, it can transfer through to the end e.g. The Witch's font stayed the same from conception to release.

When Stranger Things was pitched, it was clear it was like Goonies with it's kids 80s vibe. Through the data skills employed by one of the panellist's company, they found using affinity circles, that those people who liked Goonies liked Stephen King. Hence, the used his books for inspiration for the logo. In fact, the Stephen King font is licensable. You can use Facebook data to do this type of thing yourself. 

The Bros documentary was debated. The intention was always to serve the Brosettes first despite the team being aware of the humour. Two posters were made, one by the marketing team and another driven by the director. Both served different purposes. 

Consider the touch moments in your film and what do you want people to feel. How does that relate to the poster. Use a high resolution photograph, good typographics and spend £500-1500. For your trailer, don't give it all away, be a little vague. Amy spent about £100 on her poster by using a contact. Twitter generated interested but not donations. You often need 3-7 requests before someone will buy.

Well, there we are. I hope to go to the Lisbon Film Festival this year and maybe something even further afield next year.