AFM Rountable “Building a Future for LGBTQ Film” did not disappoint the packed audience in the AFM Studio Saturday evening. Veteran industry insiders from Focus Features, Netflix, William Morris Endeavor and Outfest spoke to an enthusiastic group of filmmakers eager to know how the industry can sustain the forward momentum of LGBTQ stories and talent in entertainment. Moderated by Lucy Murkejee, Director of Programming for Outfest and Newfest, issues of the “sweet spot” for film budgets (spoiler alert: There is none, but well under $1M seems to be the norm), what is the worldwide geographical audience for LGBT film, and what is next for the LGBTQ filmmaker in a post-“Moonlight” world were all passionately discussed.
The panel noted that that while there are more LGBTQ stories being told, there is still a wide gap in LGBTQ talent telling those stories. The panel lamented the fact that Director and acting talent are still largely from “straight” Hollywood, thus it is difficult to scale budgets upward and too few LGBTQ talent are making inroads. Netflix’s Director of Content Acquisition, Ian Bricke, noted there is still a small but meaningful DVD market for LGBTQ films, but that at Netfix the bottom line is how many global eyeballs will be attracted to the product. Noting Netflix no longer has a strong appetite for films with no known cast, he underscored that, at least for them, the star must have strong international value. After all, any producer, be they big like Netflix or a small indie, must see a return in viewing for any dollars spent making the film.
Producer Valerie Stadler reminded the audience that the road to success in Hollywood is still a long haul but even more so for LGBTQ talent. She pointing out that, while it may seem meteoric to audiences, talented Directors like Barry Jenkins (Moonlight), Andrew Ahn (Spa Night), Silas Howard (Transparent) and Sydney Freeland (Her Story) all worked long and hard, sometimes for a decade or more, before they hit the proverbial jackpot. Overall, the future for LGBTQ stories and talent has never looked brighter, but, like most things in life, nothing substitutes for hard, authentic work.