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Everything you need to know about the Raindance Film Festival.

Top-notch Premieres: Raindance Film Festival serves as a trampoline to the UK market for high-caliber indies like "Cuckoo" / Photo courtesy of NEON.

Top-notch Premieres: Raindance Film Festival serves as a trampoline to the UK market for high-caliber indies like "Cuckoo" / Photo courtesy of NEON.

Raindance is the British answer to Sundance: an organization whose mission is to foster independent filmmakers in an industry marked by privilege and exclusivity. It began in 1992, as a school offering training courses to up-and-coming talent unable or unwilling to incur the expenses of a regular Film School. To this date, it keeps training at the core of its mission, with workshops and courses happening throughout the year. They are available at modest fees, including Elliot Grove's famous "99 Minutes Film School."

Who Started the Raindance Festival?

Elliot Grove is the Raindance founder. A Canadian filmmaker with extensive experience in filmmaking and advertising, he branched out into teaching aiming to help new talent as they overcome industry barriers.

The focus on newcomers extends to the mission of the Raindance Festival, which favors debuts from first-time directors.

When did the Raindance Festival Start?

Raindance launched its branded Film Festival in 1993. The opening film was “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape,” an American indie drama by Swedish director Lasse Hallstrom, with a breakthrough performance by young Leonardo Dicaprio. He went on to get his first Academy Award nomination. The following year, it was the stage for the UK premiere of Quentin Tarantino’s “Pulp Fiction.” How is that for indie bona fides?

They started handing out awards in 1994, giving a Jury Prize to “Plan 10 from Outer Space,” a sci-fi comedy by Trent Harris, and a Discovery Award for Best New Feature to “Boy Meets Girl” by Ray Brady. It acquired a sharper competitive edge in 2001 when it began rounding up independent juries of film industry pros to decide which movies get rewarded in established competing categories. Serbian director Danis Tanovic’s “No Man’s Land” won the Official Selection Best Feature. The movie went on to win the 2002 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.

Nowadays, the Festival holds 34 competing categories, including an Audience Award.

In 1998, the Raindance founders started the British Independent Film Awards (BIFA), as another outlet to promote local indie talent.

Star Power: pros like actor Jared Harris support the indie scene at Raindance Film Festival. / Photo by Denis Makarenko©, courtesy of Dreamstime.

Star Power: pros like actor Jared Harris support the indie scene at Raindance Film Festival. / Photo by Denis Makarenko©, courtesy of Dreamstime.

The 32nd edition of the Festival, taking place in 2024, marks an important change in Raindance’s history. It’s moving from Autumn to Summer, giving it an edge over the traditional events that monopolize film conversation in the Fall, like the Venice Film Festival. 

It can only help the visibility of the movies that play at Raindance. The festival favors new talents presenting their first features, so they don’t have built-in fame to call the attention of distributors and audiences. Unlike Sundance, you will not have to compete with stars dabbling in directing. Jesse Eisenberg, the Oscar-nominated actor for his performance in “The Social Network” (David Fincher, 2010), took to the slopes of Park City to premiere his debut feature “When You Finish Saving the World” (2022). His sophomore effort, “A Real Pain,” started a bidding frenzy this year until Fox Searchlight nabbed the movies.

Raindance will run from Wednesday 19 to Friday 28, June 2024. You still have time to book a plane ticket and secure room and board! 

Where does the Raindance Festival take place?

London is the Festival's hub. Screenings are scheduled back to back at the Curzon Soho Theater, Prince Charles Cinema, and Genesis Cinema. 

London Calling: the Curzon Soho is one of the venues dedicated to Raindance. / Photo by Anna Yordanova©, courtesy of Dreamstime.

London Calling: the Curzon Soho is one of the venues dedicated to Raindance. / Photo by Anna Yordanova©, courtesy of Dreamstime.

Which Prizes are up for Grabs?

The award lists have changed a lot over the years. Now, they give prizes in 13 categories, separating local from international filmmakers, and new talent from professionals.

UK Prizes

Best UK Feature

Best UK Director

Best UK Cinematography

Best Performance in a UK Feature

Documentaries

Best Documentary Feature

Best Newcomer Awards

Discovery Award for Debut Feature (Elisar Cabrera Award)

Best Debut Director

Best Performance in a Debut Feature

Shorts

Best Live Action Short

Best Documentary Short

Best Animated Short

Best UK Short

Special Awards

Raindance Icon Award

Raindance Immersive Award

Who is on the Jury?

Five separate juries have been announced so far, dedicated to specific categories. Expect more to come. The roster brings together stalwarts from the British indie scene and international stars. 

Best Documentary Feature Competition Jury

The group of five judges includes stage-and-screen actor John McCrea. He originated the title role in the West End production of “Everybody is Talking About Jamie.” Nathan Stewart-Jarrett, his costar in 2023’ scandalous “Femme” is along for the ride with producer Al Morrow (Misha and the Wolves) and filmmaker Paul Sag (Dispossession).

Best International Feature Competition

Three heavy-weights well-versed in world cinema will parse through an embarrassment of riches: Daniel Green, Distribution Operations Director at MUBI, perhaps the only art-cinema-oriented streaming service with worldwide reach; producer Ivana McKinnon, who shepherded one last year’s biggest critical successes, Molly Manning Walker’s “How to have Sex.” Actor Jared Harris, better known for his iconic role in the TV series “Mad Men” completes the trio.

Discover Award for Best Debut Feature Jury

The busiest team in the festival is also one of the smallest. Three brave souls spend hours in the dark to decide who wins Best Debut Feature, Best Debut Director, and Best Performance in a Debut Feature. Considering Raindance focuses on new talents, these are the most sought-after prizes of the event. This year’s trio includes Mexican actor Diego Luna, who broke through in the international scene with Alfonso Cuarón’s “Y Tu Mamá También” (2001), and lately has been playing hero in the Star Wars TV series “Andor” (2022). Emilie Szemraj, Creative Executive at Protagonist Pictures, puts on hold her work duties to scout for new talent. Joanne Michael, Head of Marketing and Distribution at Cornerstone Films, brings lots of experience. She has handled indie classics like Todd Haynes’ “Carol.”

The jury is in: Diego Luna will serve on Raindance's 2024 Short Film jury. / Photo by Juan Manuel Robledo, courtesy of Dreamstime.

The jury is in: Diego Luna will serve on Raindance's 2024 Short Film jury. / Photo by Juan Manuel Robledo, courtesy of Dreamstime.

Short Competitions Jury

Shorts are the perfect trampoline for beginning filmmakers, and Raindance knows it. Their shorts competition is loaded with goodies, and its Jury is full of prime talent. Danish actor Claes Bang jumped onto the world stage starring in Ruben Ostlund Palme d’Or-winning “The Square” (2017). He now shares jury duties with Katie Bignell, founder of Festival Formula, an organization that helps new filmmakers navigate the labyrinth of film festival submissions. Executive Nafi Gordon-Sy is the Head of Home Entertainment at Dogwoof, the UK-based distribution company behind sensational documentaries like “The Act of Killing” (Joshua Oppenheimer, 2011) and Oscar-winning “Free Solo”(Jimmy Chin, Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, 2018). Australian actress Alice Englert occupies the fourth slot. Nepo baby alert! She is the daughter of director Jane Campion, and last year premiered “Bad Behavior,” her feature film directing debut, at Sundance. Then again, is it nepotism if she is truly talented? Food for thought, people.

I Want to Send My Movie!

Of course, you do! You are in luck. Submissions for the 33rd edition are open right now. They began receiving candidates on March 8. Early Bird period extends up to December 4, 2024. The regular deadline is January 13, 2025. The late deadline closes on February 17, 2025. Selected filmmakers will start receiving notifications on May 16, 2025.

Submission fees go as high as 81.20 Sterling Pounds, depending on genre, length, and how late you send your application.  

Eligibility Requirements

We scanned the rules of the festival and sorted out these key points. Perform due diligence and double-check the official rules, to ensure compliance with their standard.

  • All submissions must have been completed after January 1, 2024. If you want to apply to the 2025 edition, your movie must have been done between January 1, 2024, and February 17, 2025 - if you stretch it to the Late Submission deadline.
  • All feature films must be UK premieres.
  • Debuting filmmakers and those with sophomore efforts have priority. Those on a third project or further down their careers do not apply for competition but may get off-competition Special Screenings.
  • All submissions must be paid through the FilmFreeway platform.

To the Oscars by Way of the Raindance Festival

The Raindance Film Festival is an Oscar-qualifying event, so if your short film makes it here, it can take you straight to the Academy Awards! Imagine setting foot in the British market, setting a course to conquer the Art House, and qualifying for the Gold Man. What's not to like?

Why don’t you get shooting now?

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