No one ever said making movies would be easy, but it can be especially challenging for anglo Montrealers with big-screen ambitions. It’s tough to get a foot in the door, and while most films are funded by the government, only a small percentage of films have access to government funding. One organization, though, has been integral in offering support, networking opportunities and community for independent English language productions: Raindance Montreal.
Part of an international network, Raindance offers networking opportunities, classes and support for filmmakers looking to make films. It started in the U.K. as a film festival over three decades ago and has since branched out to an international community with hubs worldwide.
The Montreal event was founded 11 years ago by Adam Bernett and David Nankoff. (David still helps organize the Networking events along with Jonathan Vanderzon and Fano Belmont.) Since Adam left, he gave the event to three trusted regulars, Noemie Leduc-Vaudrey, Eddie Augustine and Mark Pragai. Pragai slowly took on more responsibilities until he was the last one standing. As he says, by then, “the event was already established to the point where about a third of English filmmakers I talked to on sets had heard about it or have been. I kept on seeing the event grow as I held events month to month, and the landscape of filmmakers in our group began to get better and better.”
Pragai first discovered the event as a 27-year-old in a transitional point of his life; the event became a way for him to build connections and learn how to make movies outside of film school. He made lifelong friends and collaborators. He made films, and “because we were not following the traditional ‘Quebec rules’ of the industry, we were able to make the style of projects we wanted without limitation.”
“Raindance was started with the idea that we as independents can still make great films,” Pragai emphasizes, embodying the festival’s global ethos. Raindance Montreal isn’t confined by the cliquiness of the Quebec film industry. Instead, it’s a liberating force for English-speaking filmmakers who often face challenges finding their footing within the province’s cinematic landscape.
Pragai hopes creating a community will offer filmmakers more options. “My goal with running Raindance is not to keep filmmakers here,” he says. “My greatest joy is seeing Montreal filmmakers succeed, regardless of where they may end up. But my dream with this is to create a bridge to other hubs in different cities so that filmmakers here don’t feel that leaving is their only option.”
“We usually host anywhere from 50 to 100 people at any given event,” Pragai explains. Under his guidance, Raindance Montreal has not only weathered the storm of the pandemic but emerged stronger, finding a new home at Sir Winston Churchill pub.
With its rich cultural diversity, Montreal becomes the perfect backdrop for Raindance. It’s a space where English, French and Spanish-speaking individuals converge, all bound by their love for films. Mark’s red jacket, a distinctive presence at events, symbolizes his visibility and active role in connecting people and sparking conversations.
Pragai’s impact is most evident in the success stories that have blossomed within Raindance Montreal: Myriam Lopez, an actress who started with zero experience, credits Raindance for honing her skills and serving as a vital connector within the industry. For Mathiew Richard, also known as Mat Rich, Raindance became the catalyst that propelled his career, connecting him with the Kino Movement and various collaborations. Local film productions like Dead Dicks, which won best Canadian Film at Fantasia, also credit the event as key for bringing people together.
Pragai’s commitment to nurturing talent extends beyond the events. He envisions Raindance Montreal as a networking opportunity and a platform for local filmmakers to showcase their projects. The success stories within the Raindance community are a testament to his belief that every individual, regardless of background, can find a place in the indie cinematic landscape.
Pragai wants to ensure the events remain free and open to the public, and in the future he hopes to bring more industry professionals to help create new opportunities and learn from established figures in the field. Raindance Montreal also plans to organize the Raindance Open Shorts Film Festival, providing a dedicated space for local filmmakers to showcase their work. Pragai’s vision includes talks, in-person courses and filmmaking challenges to empower and educate the community.
“I want us to give a glimmer of hope to filmmakers here and show them that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.” ■
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