Navigating the landscape of the LGBT indie film world can be challenging for veteran filmmakers and newbies alike. Sometimes it’s hard to even navigate all the lists of “Helpful Tips!”
After three decades in the business and having worn pretty much every hat there is (festival programmer, film critic, publicist, distributor/marketer, filmmaker and more) I’m happy to share a few personal tips.
LGBT Moviemaker Networking
The most important starting point is to connect with your community of colleagues in the field. When people say: “It’s all about who you know,” it’s true in the sense that you need to interact with the people who will program your film, write reviews of it, distribute it, etc. There’s nothing better than participating in your local film communities and meeting people in person by attending (or volunteering to help at) film festivals, conferences and film industry events. Or take leadership and create your own. Your fellow filmmakers are also an especially great source of wisdom, assistance, connections and just good old-fashioned friendship along the way.
For online networking, consider joining the PQ Professionals moderated list serv and/or Facebook Group for LGBT film and video professionals (makers, distributors, programmers, publicists, journalists, etc.). And there are tons of other general indie filmmaker groups, doc groups, etc.
LGBT Film Financing
Crowdfunding is a great way to raise money and to build excitement and awareness for your project, but it is a truly exhausting experience. When I did my successful Kickstarter campaign for my film The Royal Road, I stayed up until 1 a.m. almost every night, working on all the administrative aspects of thanking backers and maintaining momentum while implementing a wide array of outreach strategies—from sending actual personal emails to every single person in my address book, to asking every festival that had ever played my previous film if they could post an item in their newsletter or Facebook page. (You can read my in-depth overview on crowdfunding here.)
With regard to other sources of support I have three LGBT-specific tips. For LGBT films and filmmakers in the screenplay phase, be sure to apply to the Outfest Screenwriting Lab. Submissions open in October via Withoutabox and it is a tremendous opportunity.
For LGBT films and filmmakers approaching the end of a project, the Frameline Completion Fund is an amazing resource. It’s not a huge amount of money—the average grant is $5,000—but the application is a relatively easy one (the deadline is always in October so click through now).
For other LGBT-specific regional grant opportunities, take a look at Funders for Lesbian & Gay Issues (but note that not all of them fund film projects).
And, of course, you should be exploring and applying for all the traditional development and funding/financing opportunities via Sundance Institute, IFP, Tribeca, Film Independent, San Francisco Film Society and others.
LGBT Film Festivals and Exhibitions
QueerFilmFestivals.com offers an amazing chronological directory of worldwide LGBT film festivals, which includes links to more than 100 queer film fests around the world. Two other useful resources are the Wolfe Video LGBT Film Festival Guide on Facebook and the WolfeOnDemand LGBT Film Fest Guide on Twitter. Most experienced filmmakers are already well aware of this but it bears pointing out for newbies: Shoot for the best and biggest festivals for you world premiere and initial screenings. The top two LGBT fests are Frameline in June and Outfest in July. And if your film is programmed in one of these festivals, you absolutely have to go, to connect with audiences, network with colleagues and also to just have fun and see movies.
Of course, you’ll want to also be considering other non-LGBT fests as well (“straight” fests, documentary, women’s, POC, etc.)
Distribution and All the Rest
A few final—very valuable—links: For a deep wealth of experience and an ongoing knowledge of the ever-developing distribution landscape be sure to keep reading the top indie film mags and sites (for starters take a look at the MovieMaker Distribution section). Do also spend some time exploring the abundance of information and resource sections at Sundance Artist Services, The Film Collaborative, Independent Filmmaker Project (IFP), and Film Independent.
Please add your own additional tips in the comments fields below if you have some—it takes a village! MM
Jenni Olson is a queer media historian, filmmaker and online pioneer. A longtime champion of LGBT cinema around the world, Jenni has been an advisor and production consultant to dozens of filmmakers. Her own 16mm essay films have earned awards and acclaim for their unique storytelling style. Her latest film, The Royal Road, is available starting this week on DVD and digital via WolfeVideo.com, iTunes and other platforms and retailers.