JF: It seems that most people are either aware of niche, independent film or they stay with the mainstream. Did you always have an interest in niche film?
XR: I picked up an interest for alternative film when I started volunteering at Raindance a few years ago. ItÂ’s not exactly niche, because the films shown arenÂ’t Â‘differentÂ’ in a sense that they try to be Â‘differentÂ’. When you meet the filmmakers you learn to realise theyÂ’re making what they love, they are putting their own ideas and stories out there for all to enjoy.
When you compare that with mainstream or Hollywood film which are Â‘censoredÂ’ in the sense that theyÂ’re made to appease every single viewer and thus deliberately avoid any sensitive issues or subjects (which usually are commonplace in everyday life – say drugs, sex, fetish, depression, politics) so as not to offend anybody or make you think too hard.
In that sense IÂ’d say mainstream is niche and made for those who see film Â‘as a hobby, not a passionÂ’.
JF: So your passion must have led you to Raindance. How did you get involved with the festival?
XR: I used to freelance as a photographer at premieres, snapping celebrities for magazines and websites. One day I started working at Raindance, then their British Independent Film Awards, and have been involved since.
JF: Did you have any experience in film before this?
XR: Before and between Raindance Film Festival IÂ’ve been involved with the British Independent Film Awards and otherwise have had publications in trade magazines Variety and Screen International, as well as writing for YahooMovies/BBC Films/Film247/Pinewood Studios at a few film festivals (Cannes, Venice, Edinburgh, London).
JF: So tell us a little bit about Raindance. How is it different to other film festivals?
XR: Raindance Film Festival specialises in features from first time directors, independent and films that have a different style or perspective. Our films are usually raw, edgier and more controversial than other film festivals.
JF: There seems to be an indie/mainstream rivalry. With the big companies having a monopoly on budgets and publicity how hard is it for independent directors and films to compete?
XR: ItÂ’s impossible for independent directors to compete with large companies, so they compete against other independents. TheyÂ’re likely to showcase their films at festivals like Raindance, Sundance or Edinburgh, who have fantastic programmers and who are likely to select and recognise their films.
JF: British film is getting more and more recognition. Would you agree that British film is seeing its own resurgence?
XR: I donÂ’t think British film is resurgent, but thereÂ’s never been a better time to be a British independent filmmaker. Despite supposed recession, actually cinema attendance nationwide is at its best in over 10 years. The Raindance Film Festival has had a record-breaking box office in only its second day! But that doesnÂ’t mean its benefiting the industry.
High budget (Film Council/Hollywood) is producing very little (weÂ’ve seen that since Cannes in May and Venice in July – who had a poor selection and incredibly low attendance), so it means independent filmmakers (British) are able to push with indie or alternative productions (a bit in the way they did in the 1970s New Hollywood).
The problem we face in the UK is that almost 90% of every penny spent in the cinema flies back across the Atlantic, and thatÂ’s a dilemma because the already scarce money isnÂ’t filtering back into making the films. ThereÂ’s different ways British film is growing, for instance through online IPTV platforms, which sees the money returned to the filmmakers (through pay per view or advertising), so weÂ’re seeing new technologies which are supporting the industry.
JF: So what films should we be watching at Raindance and why?
Nightwatching: Rembrandt (played by Martin Freeman) paints the murderer in his painting the Night Watch and is pursued as the criminals wreck his life. Stunning Cinematography: every shot is lit like a painting.
The Tour: A satirical political film about a troupe of actors who bump into different armies during the Bosnian War.
Watch Out: A guy falls in love with himself, and makes love to a blow up doll with his face stuck on it. Hilarious.
PVC-1: Gangsters in Columbia tie a bomb around a poor womanÂ’s neck and isnÂ’t allowed to contact the police. She has 2 hours to obtain the ransom.
JF: What would you say to any student trying to achieve some of your success?
XR: Start volunteering and expect to work for free. Internships are great to put on your CV and companies like to see fancy company names, even if you were just the coffee boy/girl at least youÂ’re sure to come out with a (generic) great reference.
If you want to be a filmmaker, make films. Christopher Nolan (Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, Memento) was head of the UCL Film Society where he made as many shorts possible. He borrowed the Raindance cameras from the office on weekends and we screened two of his shorts and his first feature Â‘The FollowingÂ’ which he shot outside our office in Soho. A few years later we hosted the UK Premiere for Memento.
JF: Lastly, whatÂ’s going to be your most star struck moment of the festival?
XR: IÂ’m working at a charity fundraising dinner with Faye Dunaway (Bonnie and Clyde) tonight and IÂ’m already nervous.