Forget the Cannes sunshine – it's time for London's Raindance Film Festival


London’s independent film festival has become a must on the cinematic calendar

It’s organised by nine people from an office somewhere in Soho. Mick Jones of The Clash likes that “it’s young”; director Paul Greengrass says “it’s indispensible”; and Alan Rickman proclaims in his usually cynical drawl, “Long may it ‘rain’!”

London’s Raindance Film Festival launches today, and runs for the next 12 days. Cinema dons and Hollywood execs are flocking to Piccadilly Circus and the Apollo Cinema, clutching programmes and hoping to spot their next big investment in the UK. This country is the world’s third largest film market and employed 48,500 people in 2010.

Raindance is London’s answer to Cannes. It is Europe’s leading independent film festival.

Last year the British box office brought in £988m, 24 per cent of which was from British-made movies

Founded in 1992 by producer Elliot Grove, Raindance is hailed at the “filmmaker’s festival”. It is now in its 19th year. Having premiered cult classics such as Pulp Fiction, Memento and The Blair Witch Project over its history, this year it will be sure to find some cinematic gems among some of its 90 UK premiers.

It could well produce the UK’s next few box office hits too – which is great news for the economy at a time like this. Unlike our country, the UK film industry runs a trade surplus. This was a record £929m in 2009, according to the British Film Institute. In the same year, the UK film industry exported £1.48bn worth of services, of which £935m came from royalties and £541m from film production services.

All that exporting is no bad thing for London – and Raindance looks set to continue contributing to the economic productivity of the industry again this year.

A discovery platform

Last year the British box office brought in £988m, 24 per cent of which was from British-made movies – up from 19 per cent the year before. Raindance claims its aim is to nurture, support and promote independent films and filmmakers from the UK and around the world, giving London’s filmmakers a platform from which to launch their careers. The festival is known for being bold, edgy. It is the most notable European festival for launching debut filmmakers.

Tonight the festival will launch with the premiere of Another Earth, the critically acclaimed breakout hit from this year’s Sundance Film Festival.

The coveted awards

Once each of the films from as many as 36 different countires have had their moment, a panel of critics announces the best in the festival awards. Ewan McGregor has described the awards as “Better than a BAFTA.”

The panel, which includes actors, directors, presenters, journalists and members of the film and photograph industry, will judge the films nominated in each of the eight categories, with the winners to be announced on Saturday 8th October.

Raindance trains over 3,000 film students per year.

The eight categories are: Best International Feature, Best UK Feature, Best Debut Feature, Best Documentary, Best Microbudget Feature, Best UK Short, Best International Short and the Film of the Festival.

Raindance founder Grove said: “Our jury represents the spectrum of the film industry. From actors to directors and critics to programmers, they bring an in-depth knowledge of film to the judging panel and will have the difficult job of choosing winners from the outstanding titles nominated this year.”

The poster for this year’s event has been shot by fashion’s favourite snapper Rankin. According to the photographer, the piece picks up on the key theme of this year’s festival – seeing the world through a different lens and stars Rankin’s model wife Tuuli Shipster.

“We’re delighted that Rankin has provided the official image for the Raindance Film Festival,” said Grove.  

“In recent year’s Rankin own work has moved into film, with a strong focus on nurturing new talent, so we are thrilled to be working with an artist who shares the same values as Raindance.”

From awards to education – and revenue

The glitz and the glam of the festival bring an end to London’s creative season, which included London Fashion Week and the London Design Festival. But Raindance isn’t just about sparkling premieres and a week of hard-core film dissecting.

In 1998 Raindance launched the British Independent Film Awards (separate from the festival awards).

Raindance also makes revenue by training filmmakers in London, catering for over 3,000 students per year.

Among high profile alumni are Christopher Nolan (Batman Begins), David Yates (Harry Potter), Guy Ritchie and Matthew Vaughn – who actually met at a Raindance course.

Producing some of the top talent to emerge from London’s film scene? Let it rain indeed!