Lesflicks Founder and CEO
As part of Queer Womxn Fest we spoke to Naomi Bennet, founder and CEO of
Lesflicks - a brand new, but fast growing video on demand service catering to
Lesbian, Bisexual and Queer Women. I know, finally!
You can catch the full chat, featuring Roisin Tapponi of Habibi Collective here.
How did Lesflicks start?
N: I realised that I was seeing so many amazing lesbian and bisexual films at
festivals and then never hearing about them again. I talked to filmmakers and they
would say about the struggles of getting their films to an audience and distribution.
I talked to BFI Player about the lack of lesbian films. I went to a panel at BFI Flare in
London where they talked about distribution and I realised there was this problem
- there’s not a lack of films, there’s a lack of getting those films to the audience, and I
just realised that there was a real opportunity. There’s some amazing films out there
and there’s a huge audience desperate to see them, it just needed something in the
middle to act as a vehicle to bring the two together.
How do we make platforms like Lesflicks and other independent platforms financially viable for the creators and collaborators?
The film distribution model means that very little money makes it back to the filmmakers and that was something I was really aware of, and something I was really keen to change. If you want better films, and you want more films, you need to make sure some of that money goes back to the filmmakers so they're not bankrupted by their first film! Frequently lesbian, bisexual and queer women’s films don’t get funding because there’s a belief in the industry that there’s no paying audience, so this is something that we really need to work on. We charge for our platform but we make sure that royalties go back to filmmakers as much as possible.
Part of it is education - it’s about explaining why you should pay for a film. I think if you explain to people why that is, they do understand it. The issue around piracy generally comes down to either not realising it’s an illegal copy because it was sent from a friend and the other side of things is that it’s the only copy they can get hold of. It’s again about accessibility.
What challenges have you faced setting up Lesflicks?
Our challenge for most independent films is that they are not subtitled. We do have a challenge to get lots of films subtitled - it's not cheap and not easy! The other challenge we have is films with distributors. It can be harder to get that content because they (the distributors) want large numbers up front. Both in terms of cash and subscribers so you end up in a bit of a chicken and egg. For the physical screenings it’s finding the rights to these films and then again what they expect for a screening fee. UK distributors are quite reasonable, they know the going rate for a film screening, about £90, but if you’ve got a US distributor they’re asking for £300 or £400. They just don’t seem to know the local rate and the money expectation is way too high - you just can’t cover your costs.
What has been the reaction to Lesflicks?
The whole brand has been really well received. We’ve had great events, we’ve had really good feedback from filmmakers and the audience are loving the films! We've started doing a top 5 view that we release each week. People are excited when they see a film they've watched that's in that ranking. This isn’t even probably 20% of whats out there and yet they are like look how much there is - it’s great! We’re still growing, we’re still quite new. The fact that most people haven’t heard of these films, the feedback has been really good. They are more diverse stories and they are more representative of us. That reflects the fact that mainstream platforms tend to show the more palatable films or that show our experiences in the more mainstream. With these more independent films you see your day to day life where you interact with other queer people. People want to see those bigger films, and we’ll get there, but it’s a journey. The more subscribers we have the more buying power we have to get those bugger films. Saying that, we’re just about to get Lizzie - our first Kristen Stewart film!
What can audiences do to support platforms like Lesflicks?
We could do so much more if we all came together so we’re looking at what we could do to bring film festivals to the platform and that community together. It’s just a bit too disparate, which I actually think represents the lesbian, bi and queer community generally - we are disperate, we aren’t connected, we don’t have the spaces. That’s what we want to change. Realise how much of an influence you are within your community. As queer women, we trust each other more than we trust any media, any businesses. When you say you love something, your friends trust you. If you say you hate something, your friends just won’t watch it. We’ve started using the hashtag #amplifylesbianfilm. If you find something you like, tell people! The more we talk about these films, the more we can show how big an audience we are.
Interested in finding out more about Lesflicks? Head over to their website where you cna grab yourself a membership and join a real community of lesbian, bisexual and queer women working towards fair representation.