In an effort to build a space for queer people like myself, every Tuesday I’ll be posting interviews, opinion pieces, listicals, reviews, and more focused on the LGBT community (and occasionally about the Latinx community since I am Latinx.) Welcome to Queerly Not Straight! Enjoy and leave a comment below if you have a suggestion for what I should cover next.
HAPPY PRIDE MONTH! Expect more posts this month, from interviews to reviews and more!
Lesflicks is a bold and passionate project brought to life by it’s founder Naomi Bennett. A frequent attendee of LGBT film festivals, she found herself surprised and a bit frustrated that “films were made but not getting distribution, and ultimately not reaching their audience” according to the History Behind Lesflicks.
So what did Naomi do then? She started having conversations, hustling, and then realized that if there was a need for a home for queer films geared towards women then she was going to be that bridge. And Lesflicks was born! Now in 2021, Lesflicks is growing by leaps and bounds.
Queerly Not Straight got the chance to talk with Naomi Bennett about Lesflicks, their journey, and how they continue to support the queer community today. And when you’re done checking out our interview, make sure to go to Lesflicks Twitter for exciting updates on their latest additions and the upcoming Lesflicks Film Festival.
Queerly Not Straight: Your site is one of the biggest sites out there, right?
Naomi: In terms of women loving content. Yeah. I mean, I can’t quite believe it as well. When I was doing the analysis of other LGBTQ platforms, because we can’t compete with Amazon.
Queerly Not Straight: Of course.
Naomi: They have anything and everything uploaded. But, with all the indie and independent streaming platform we’ve got the largest selection of women loving women content at the moment, which is pretty cool.
Queerly Not Straight: How did this journey start? How did Lesflicks come to life?
Naomi: I used to run a website called Planet London. And it was all lesbian lifestyle. And it was a lot of stuff. But one of the aspects was film. We used to go to film festivals. When the lesbian lifestyle exploded and there was suddenly hundreds of books, loads of theater, loads of events, I was like, “This is too much. I can’t cover it all.” So I wanted to really focus on something where I could make a difference.
I met a lot of filmmakers. I’ve been out to the US. I studied film in college. So I kind of had a passion anyway. And I felt like this was one area where there was a real challenge. But I also felt like there was also a real viable solution. And something that I could make a difference in. So I decided to give it a go.
I didn’t know exactly what I was jumping into or how complex it was. But its been a really good journey. And already we’re making a big difference. From ripples come waves.
Queerly Not Straight: And how many years has Lesflicks been around?
Naomi: We only launched the whole business in March 2019.
Queerly Not Straight: Really? Woah. And how big is your collection now of sapphic material?
Naomi: We’ve got over 85 shorts, over 20 features, and 7 web series.
Queerly Not Straight: That’s amazing! That’s really cool.
Naomi: It’s not even 25% of what’s out there in the world. That’s crazy.
Queerly Not Straight: I mean, it’s a place and a platform where people could go. And I’ve heard really good things. I was talking to a couple other creators and they were like, “Yeah, my movie is on Lesflicks.”
I wanted to ask, how else does Lesflicks support the queer community besides being a streaming platform?
Naomi: That’s actually a good thing to ask because one of the reasons why we’re different, we’re not just a streaming platform. For me, the way that we can be most effective and supportive is by being more than a streaming platform. So we do events where the audience can come together and meet each other. That offers social space, which is really important for a disconnected community. I think we need more spaces that aren’t focused on alcohol where you can come together and meet like minded women. So that’s something that we’re really proud to do.
We also have a film database, so obviously on the platform we only have so many films. We can’t get every film. But we still want the audience to know what films are made for them. So we have a film database which is just really about trying to centralize the hundreds and hundreds of titles. So you can find something new.
We do articles and reviews because not many places review lesbian and bisexual women’s films unless they have celebrities and that’s probably 1% of the movies that get made. If you have someone that is big enough for any kind of media, LGBTQ or mainstream, we want to review it. So the editorial is really important as well. And it provides this full rounded picture, really.
And we also do things like signal boost and crowdfunding. Although, in the long term we’d love to offer better options than crowdfunding. I don’t think crowdfunding is a great solution. You’re kind of asking the community that are going to buy the film in the end to also support the film in the early days. So we’re looking at what we can do to improve the financing options as well.
Queerly Not Straight: What are some films on Lesflicks that you’re most proud of having on the platform?
Naomi: God, there’s so many. So, the platform launched earlier than it was supposed to in the first place because Jillian Armenante Kittens in a Cage was just, “Oh my god. It’s so great.” So we launched early and I was proud to support that through the platform. Christie Conochalla’s Forever Not Maybe, it was her first feature film and it took her 5 years to make. She really got hit by the pandemic. And it was just so nice to give that film a home and help her get it to the audience. So I was really proud of that.
So many short filmmakers as well. I felt like there weren’t that many options. There’s a lot of LGBT platforms out there. But when you look at the women’s content, it’s less than 10 percent. So the audience wasn’t there so that meant that the films didn’t do very well. So it’s just nice to give a home to all content and authentic stories as well.
I’m proud of every film. And I think we’re helping the audience, we’re helping the filmmakers. And for me, that balance is really important. It should work for everyone. And I think when you’re not focused on money or profit or capitalism and you’re focused on community, you can find a balance that works for both. And that’s what we’re really trying to do.
Queerly Not Straight: Do you think having a huge star driving a queer story in Hollywood is changing, especially with independent creators really coming out and creating their own content?
Naomi: I think those independent creators have always been there. And what’s actually not changing is they’re still not getting the budgets. And they’re not getting the marketing and they’re not getting the exposure that those films deserve. So you have two types of films. You have the films with the big names. They tend to be either written or directed by someone really big. So you get things like Booksmart or Happiest Season or Carol. They do well.
Or you have your biographical features which obviously attract big money because they have a broader audience than the lesbian community. That’s the only films you really hear about, it’s that very small section. That’s about 1% of the films being made. The rest of the films are the films with the authentic storylines that are made by women, for women. They represent more of our lives, below the surface and the bits that we really want to see that show that we can be who we want to be and who can inspire us and help women to come out.
Those stories, those films are being made all the time. But because they don’t have an A list name attached to them, they can’t get the funding. Which means they don’t get the distribution or the marketing. We never hear about them. And that’s the real shame of it because those films have always existed. And as technology moves along, more of those films exist. And still we’re not hearing about these films.
Queerly Not Straight: When we see ourselves in the content we consume, we learn so much about who we are and kind of what we’re allowed to do out there in the real world. That’s why I feel like it’s so important where people can come together and see things where it’s not just super super sad. That’s why I think Lesflicks is so fantastic and why I’m so grateful you took the time to speak with me today.
Naomi: You’re welcome.
Queerly Not Straight posts every Tuesday with opinion pieces, listicals, reviews, and more focused on the LGBT community (and occasionally about the Latinx community since I am Latinx.)