A lot has changed since 1985, when Kathy Wolfe started Wolfe Releasing
in order to distribute lesbian films on video. For one thing, 20 years ago,
the acronym LGBT—which stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender—didn’t even exist.
And words like "gay" and "queer" were still derogatory, not yet taken on as proud emblems. So it’s not surprising that LGBT cinema too has grown and flourished in the last two decades, moving beyond a cult following and entering the mainstream culture. And with
that, Wolfe’s focus has shifted towards representing new award-winning LGBT
films from around the world, as well as rescuing classic lesbian and gay films
Now in its 22nd year, Wolfe is the oldest and largest exclusive distributor
of gay and lesbian films in the world. The Independent recently caught up
with Jenni Olson, Wolfe Releasing’s director of e-commerce and consumer marketing (and an original co-founder of PlanetOut.com), to learn more about how LGBT cinema has
changed over the years and how Wolfe represents independent filmmakers.
When and why was Wolfe created?
Our CEO and founder, Kathy Wolfe, started the company back in 1985 to
distribute lesbian films on video. At the time, there were very few
lesbian and gay films being made and it was extremely difficult for consumers to
get access to them. The company has come a very long way since then, but our
primary mission continues to be bringing the best LGBT entertainment to people
What is your elevator pitch?
Wolfe is the oldest and largest exclusive distributor
of gay and lesbian films in the world. In 2007, we released more than 20 films, from Thom Fitzgerald’s epic 3 Needles, which was selected
by the United Nations to be screened on World AIDS Day 2007; to director Katherine Brooks’ record-breaking film Loving Annabelle, to Outing Riley from
Project Greenlight winner, Pete Jones, to the Taiwanese lesbian
love story Spider Lilies, winner of the Teddy Award for best queer film
at the 2007 Berlin Film Festival. Wolfe has been a long-standing leader in the
video industry and enjoys significant sales with Target, Blockbuster, Hollywood
Video, Amazon.com, Netflix, Wal-Mart and Best Buy to name a few. Traffic to the
WolfeVideo.com site now tops one million impressions each month.
How many titles does Wolfe represent?
There are about 100 features and documentaries in our library as well as
several dozen shorts.
How many films do you acquire per year?
Wolfe releases between 15 and 20 features a year, and roughly the same number of
What is the difference between Wolfe Video and Wolfe Releasing?
Wolfe Video is our long-standing DVD and video label. Wolfe Video also represents
the other significant part of our business, which is direct sales to consumers of
all kinds of LGBT DVDs, ranging from The L Word to Brokeback Mountain and
everything in between. We’re proud to be able to help LGBT people from all over
North America get the queer movies they’re looking for via our website and through our
quarterly mail-order catalogs.
Wolfe Releasing handles LGBT features, documentaries and shorts for festival,
non-theatrical, digital delivery, foreign sales, you name it.
How has LGBT cinema and the distribution of it changed since Wolfe started?
Of course it’s very exciting that there has been such a boom in LGBT
entertainment over this past decade in particular. The landscape has changed so
significantly — consumers have access to more LGBT films and TV shows and other
forms of media than ever before. There are so many distribution opportunities
now for filmmakers I think it can be quite daunting.
In addition to the traditional avenues of film distribution Wolfe offers,
Wolfe is also fully engaged in the new media space with video on demand and through deals with all the best
digital distribution services. This yields new revenue sources and creates new
audiences for queer cinema. Consumers can now stream over 50 titles from Wolfe at such
destinations as Movielink and Akimbo.
What advice can you give filmmakers seeking distribution?
Get to know the distributors you’re considering by talking to them and asking
questions — do they have experience releasing your type of film? Do they have experience with the gay
market, the lesbian market? Or perhaps your film should be targeted to other
communities as well. Look at the other films the company has released. Does it
seem like they will be able to do a good job with your film? Also, talk to
other filmmakers who have worked with the distributors you are considering and
ask about their experiences. When you start talking about the details of the
contract — territories, types of rights, length of the term, royalty percentages,
etc., — don’t be afraid to ask a lot of questions about anything you don’t understand.
Your distributor is your partner. They should work very hard for you to get
your film the best exposure and to generate revenue through rental fees, broadcast or
foreign sales, and DVD sales. But also remember that nobody loves your film as
much as you do! Stay involved in the process all the way through. There is so
much work to be done and you are still the person to do it — in particular
around getting the media coverage you want and doing grassroots audience
How do you acquire films and how should a filmmaker approach you?
Our staff attends all the major film festivals looking for films, but we also
are happy to have submissions directly from filmmakers. Our acquisitions
director is Jeffrey Winter.
We are always looking for new work. Please send a tape or DVD and supporting
materials about your film to the following address:
c/o Jeffrey Winter
444 N. Norton Ave., #8
Los Angeles, CA 90004
Email inquires may be sent to: email@example.com
Also check out this resource for LGBT filmmakers: