Saturday Film School at Raindance and the pesky business
of 'magnifying trouts'
small plaque to the side of the stage in the Old Cinema theatre in the University of Westminster that says that the Lumière
brothers chose the venue to for the first public showing in England of moving pictures, back in 1896. Today, Raindance
is holding a one-day Saturday film school here. Because the Raindance Festival was founded to provide a platform for independent
film, this seems wonderfully appropriate. But nobody on the platform mentions it which I also like - it has a 'goes
without saying' feel to it.
Besides, Elliot Grove, the Raindance
founder and the main speaker has an awful lot to say about an awful lot of other things. In a lightning-speed morning, he
covers his Amish childhood in Ontario and his magical adolescent discovery of cinema, his early days working with
sculptor, Henry Moore, and on movies with a lovesick Richard Burton. He gives us a demonstration of the potential of making
films with a £100 Flip video camera and still finds time to share some fresh insights into basic story structure.
I wasn't expecting that. I've been writing professionally for years and
have, what I like to think, is a healthy distrust of the industry that often preys on aspiring screenwriters and film-makers
so I'd come to this event thinking that I'd probably doze through Elliot's opening bit on writing. But Elliot
Grove is a brilliant and charismatic speaker - nobody is likely to doze when he's on stage. I've got, what I
like to think, is a healthy distrust of charismatic speakers but Grove also seems grounded and full of common- sense. I take
so many notes and my pen flies so rapidly across the paper that I spend an hour after the session trying to figure out why
Grove claims that the writers in "Goodwill Hunting" gave Matt Damon's protagonist the "special trout"
of being brilliant at maths and that to add to a character's appeal, they made him the absolute best in his field which
is he explains, a writers' ploy of "magnifying a trout." Now why would they want to do that?
He said 'trait', of course. It was just one of many points he managed
to squeeze into a talk that included a look at high and low concept, and why Seinfeld helped bring down the Soviet Union,
before whooshing on to demystifying the business of film production. Simon Hunter came on in the afternoon and demystified
directing. If anybody walked into the venerable Old Cinema with the illusion that film is a glamorous business, they were
rapidly relieved of that illusion. But Raindance does emphasize the joy of film-making. And surely that's far better.