10 Stupid Mistakes
Filmmakers Make

By Elliot Grove

It's film festival submission time again, and we are receiving between 50 and 100 new films a day. It's at this time of year that I get all pompous and like to point out the common errors we see time and time again in new films.

Raindance Film Courses Work1. WEAK SCRIPT

A lot of the films submitted to Raindance are sub-standard - and not because the filmmaking, the editing or the acting is bad - but because there isn't a decent script. And what makes a decent script? A compelling story.

They say that paper is cheaper than film, so buy some paper. And then try to get that great idea for a movie out of your head - properly.


If there is anything that I have learned over the past seventeen years about filmmaking is that poor sound can ruin a movie. Sound makes the picture. Full Stop.


So you think stage actors can act? Right? So you cast them in your film, which is a major mistake.

Stage actors can act in the theatre, sure. But in the theatre they are projecting to the very back row of the audience - something that looks terrible on film where every little move is magnified a hundred times.

If you must use stage actors, make sure you tone down their performances a notch or twenty.
Want to know more about directing actors?

And one last word on casting: Remember. Your mates can't act.


If you want to sell your film, you need clearances for everything. Especially the music. It is an urban myth that you can have a Beatles track blaring in the background while your actors stumble around for less than eight seconds.

Not having music clearances is the major reason your film won't get sold.

Here's an article on music rights


Dah!  You need to save some of your money for marketing. If you don't, you won't get your film sold. For a free article on the essentials of a press kit, send a blank email to info@raindance.co.uk with the words PRESS KIT in the subject line and we will whiz one straight back to you.


How many times have we been sent a truly dismal film to the Raindance Film Festival with a "name actor" trying to prop up the film? And how many times have you sat through a festival screening at other film festivals with "name actors" in an otherwise unwatchable film?


I know your film has taken all of your time, and probably all of your money as well, but if you are to succeed you will need to learn the lesson of humility. A writer/director credit is really the max you should go. The fact that you did everything else, including the catering is something you should remember is implied in the world of independent filmmaking - and is not necessarily going to impress anyone except yourself, credit wise.


I don't know how many first-time filmmakers I have met with shorts or features at our festival for their first-ever public screening - and then I discover they have never been to a film festival before in their life. This means they have no idea of how the festival screenings work, how to maximise publicity for their screening. Make sure you attend at least one film festival first, and if possible, try to make it to the Mother of all film festivals: Cannes.

Raindance Film Festival opens for submissions from January 1st - June 19 2009. The 17th edition of our festival runs from September 30th - October 11 2009. Details and application forms


About a third of the films we show at Raindance are documentaries - some of which go on to win major international awards and secure distribution in cinemas and television.. It's a sad fact that your serious topic may well be worthy of your time and affection, but it won't sell. Docs that sell are about extreme mental illness and bizarre human behavior.

And one last thing: Mockumentaries have been done to death. Far better to say your "mockumentary" is shot cinema verite style, or something like that.

10. The CASH BAR

I get really pissed off when I go to a screening of a new film, and give up some of my precious free time to then have to pay for a drink. Surely you guys have time to get a drinks sponsor, or throw a bit of cash behind the bar?

Try our Filmmakers Foundation course for some really good ideas on how to avoid these pitfalls. 

Your Comments Please

Always remember. The world has changed. There is no more "P&A" budget. Why?
There ain't no more "P". Thus, what's your "A" budget and with social media
someone will breakthrough, with a $100MM hit, with no "P&A".

Dov Simens


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Tutors: Rory O'Donnell Venue: Raindance Film Centre
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About Elliot Grove

Elliot GroveCanadian born Elliot Grove founded Raindance Film Festival in 1993, the British Independent Film Awards in 1998, and Raindance.TV in 2007, the Raindance Postgraduate Film Degree in 2011 and Raindance Raw Talent in 2013.

He has produced over 150 short films, and 5 feature films incuding his latest feature film, Deadly Virtues: Love.Honour.Obey. He has written eight scripts, one of which is currently in pre-production. He teaches writers and producers in the UK, Europe. Japan and America.

He has written three books which have become industry standards: RAINDANCE WRITERS LAB 2nd Edition (Focal Press 2008),  RAINDANCE PRODUCERS LAB (Focal Press 2013) and 130 PROJECTS TO GET YOU INTO FILMMAKING (Barrons 2009). His first novel THE BANDIT QUEEN is scheduled for publication next year.

Open University awarded Elliot and Honourary Doctorate for services to film education in 2009.
He is regularly interviewed. Here is an interview for Canadian television