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From Fliers to Facebook: How Indie Lesbo Filmmaking Has Changed in 20 Years

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In 1992 I had a moment with my then-girlfriend where we got outraged (as only people in their early 20s can) that there were no lesbian films that represented us. So we decided to make one of our own. We gathered our friends around us, took to the streets and clubs with fliers about casting, asked waitresses we were sure were gay to be in our movie, ran a few mini money scams, and borrowed equipment from local film schools, and we were on our way. After two years, buckets of tears and Scotch, much lesbian drama and many laughs, we found ourselves at the Sundance Film Festival. We were wide-eyed and new to it all, and the Samuel Goldwyn Company bought our film in four days, then the fastest distribution deal in the festival's history, and voilà! That's how you make a lesbian movie. Let's do it again!

But... not so fast. Back then, independent film was relatively new to mainstream audiences, and one about young lesbians and their little underbelly of a world? Lesbians! They're just like us! It was all noteworthy and theatrical release-worthy. A huge amount of the press that films like ours, Kevin Smith's Clerks, and Robert Rodriguez's El Mariachi garnered was about how hard it was, how little we made it for, and the tricks we used to get the job done. We got as far as we could with maxing out credit cards and asking people for favors of time, food and stuff. Then film representatives like John Pierson were still in the business of discovering indie filmmakers and giving us enough money to fix all of the things we'd messed up in production. It wasn't a breeze, but it was there to be done.

But two things have made that Go Fish process an obsolete one. First, the fact that huge advances in technology have made filmmaking so much easier means that film festivals like Sundance have 10 times as many submissions as they did 20 years ago. Second, LGBT people are all over TV now! That's a spectacular thing, but it takes some of the urgency out of the need for LGBT films, an urgency that very much fueled getting a film like Go Fish made.

The good news is this: Crowd funding has opened up a whole new world for filmmakers. Nearly 20 years after Go Fish, I am making another LGBT film called Creeps and running a campaign on Indiegogo. This means I have the chance to ask my fans, "Do you want to see more LGBT films? Do you want to see one like this?" And not only that, but anyone can participate and feel like they're part of the process. It's a whole new kind of community building, and a whole new model of fundraising that actually feels quite familiar to me. The sentiment is still "let's get this done together, my homos!"

It's a pretty spectacular moment for filmmakers, and I am learning a new skill set. Going to a club and handing a cute lesbian a flyer that says, "Come to our fundraising event!" feels so basic compared with treating your movie like a person, giving it a Twitter handle, and then wondering, "What would my movie tweet today? What does it have to say?" Try explaining that to my 23-year-old self and my head would have exploded. It's exciting, though, because it boils down to the same spirit: I want to make this movie, and I am going to do it by hard work and clever ways of talking about it. Because for me, no matter how many great LGBT characters are on TV (and there are a lot), a huge part of viewing those characters is sitting in a crowded theater full of like-minded people who are excited to see them. Maybe I'm old-school, but I've always thought that was the best way to meet girls.