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What does queer filmmaking look like today?

The Creative Crowd
What does queer filmmaking look like today?
By Greenlit • Issue #3 • View online
Autumn is arriving and festivals are back! We have a bevy of exciting news on that front—including a partnership with the Raindance Film Festival in London. But first, we have a very insightful conversation with Naomi Bennett, CEO and Founder of Lesflicks, about today’s queer filmmaking landscape. 

An interview with Naomi Bennett, CEO and Founder of Lesflicks
Lesflicks is an online platform dedicated to lesbian film, featuring a video-on-demand channel exclusively for short and feature films with lesbian or bisexual storylines, along with database to promote existing films and a safe and inclusive online community.
Naomi, why did you start Lesflicks?
Naomi: I used to run a lesbian lifestyle website called Planet London/Planet Nation, and I met a lot of filmmakers who shared the same struggles of getting their film distributed or publicising it within the lesbian & bisexual community. I wanted to do something more specific and my love of my community and love of queer film meant that Lesflicks seemed an obvious choice. I felt it was something that I could make a difference doing.
How has the queer filmmaking space changed since you began your career?
Naomi: I would say that back in the late 90s and early 00s, films suffered from a lack of finance and it was hard to make quality films; on the other hand, it was much easier to get them in front of the audience, as there were fewer queer films around and they all got distribution on video and DVD and were covered in LGBTQ+ media. 
Fast-forward to today and funding is still a challenge, there are a lot more queer films being made, but often the LGBTQ+ and mainstream media only cover films that have known names in them. For every film with a big name, there are maybe 10 others that have more authentic storylines but made on a limited budget with no known names. 
What are the biggest challenges facing queer filmmakers?
Naomi: Funding is definitely the first challenge that queer filmmakers face. It slows down production, and it also means there are limits on who can work on the film. But, even if you manage to get your film financed, the lack of knowledge and access to the LBTQ+ community means there is still this myth of “no paying audience”. So, getting distribution is often as difficult as funding the project. To get your film onto channels such as Netflix, Hulu and Sky, you need to have a known name — yet, these platforms are often where the LGBT+ audience looks for content. They often aren’t aware of the restrictions these larger platforms have around content, much least about exclusivities, geoblocking by territory, or access types like rentals, subscription and advertising. There is now no one route to filmmaking, at every stage there are myriad options, but choosing the right path is unclear. As a filmmaker, it can be all to easy to make a decision which unknowingly will impact your distribution down the line.
Do you think crowdfunding is an important resource for queer filmmakers?
Naomi: I think crowdfunding is definitely key right now; I think it is perhaps seen as the main resource when it should be secondary to funding; however until we can show that there is a strong, loyal paying audience who is easy to reach, it remains a main resource. Crowdfunding is definitely useful for building awareness of your film, and also for building an audience if you can successfully engage and capture their details.
What would you say to a queer filmmaker who has a story they believe in but doesn’t think they can get it made?
Naomi: If you have a mobile phone and passion, you can make a film. Start small with a short and use it to try things out. Just install an app such as Filmic Pro to get into the camera settings and there will be no stopping you. You’ll learn a lot, particularly around stories, sound and quality – but you’ll also get hooked pretty quickly! The story is important, it needs to make sense so make sure you get someone to review it and take feedback. Learn from those around you.
Are you optimistic for the future of queer filmmaking?
Naomi: I am. The increase in independent platforms such as Lesflicks does offer more options for filmmakers. I see filmmakers supporting and promoting each other, and the more networking and collaboration we can encourage, the easier it will become for everyone. As technology moves on, filmmaking becomes easier; hopefully distribution will too. I’m quite hopeful that the changes to theatrical releases and implementation of day-and-date releases on platforms like HBOMax will lead to investors taking a punt and splitting their money amongst smaller lower budget titles.
What stories do you want to see more of?
Naomi: We have a wealth of coming out stories and romantic dramas. I’d love to see more older people, more diverse communities and more genre-based content. Above all, I just want authenticity and good storylines. I would love to be able to balance out the genres and formats. Documentaries are also hugely important as a way to record our community’s past, present and future.
News & Events from Greenlit
Greenlit is partnering with Raindance!
For their annual Festival, Raindance has partnered with Greenlit to sell 200 screening tickets on a donation-only basis to be distributed to charities working across London with LGBTQI+ community, young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, older people suffering from isolation and loneliness, BIPOC communities, and refugees. 
Raindance believes these groups should be included in the arts. A donation can enable them to attend the Festival. Just a £10 donation can cover the cost of a film ticket at Genesis Cinema and a return Tube journey for one person.
This year’s Raindance Film Festival will take place from 27th October to 6th November. This year’s film strands include:
  • Queer Strand — films focusing on stories from the LGBTQ+ community
  • Female Gaze Strand — centreing on female-identifying individuals and filmmakers
  • Politico strand — stories focusing on topical issues such as climate change and immigration.
Greenlit will be at the House of Raindance for the duration of the Festival. Get your tickets today, and please consider donating the cost of a ticket to sponsor a ticket for communities supported by one of the above charities.
And even more festival news!
This week’s Exit 6 Film Festival features two Greenlit-funded films in its line-up: Put Away and Beast of Burden. Online events are running throughout the week, including a talk with our very own CEO and Head of Film, Peter Storey.
Team Greenlit will also be at the Bolton International Film Festival, running from 29th September - 3rd October, and online from 6th - 17th October. Join us on Friday, 1st October for a workshop on how to perfect pitching your next film.
Now Funding on Greenlit
Summer, a short film about a woman who tries to overcome her grief over her brother’s death with the help of her friends by throwing a house party.
The Golden Boy, from Academy Award-winning Slick Films, is a short film about a non-verbal six-year-old boy who must elicit the help of his older sister to prove autism can’t stop potential.
Not A Mourning Person, about Charlie, a ‘Rent-A-Mourner’ — someone who is hired to attend empty funerals. Written by and starring Toto Bruin from Channel 4’s It’s A Sin.
And, if you’re based in London, don’t miss your opportunity to see David Wilkinson’s Getting Away with Murder(s) at JW3. One of Greenlit’s many documentary projects, this important film has received 4-star reviews from Total Film and Film Review Daily.
That’s all for this week. Next time, we’ll be talking all about documentaries. Much more exciting news and events to come in the weeks ahead!
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