As a contributor for Queer Voices and a lesbian artist, I work to represent the lesbian community through multiple creative forums. Whenever I feel frustrated with the inability to find a good lesbian book, I start writing fictional stories that I have yet to publish. I admit with full bashful guilt that I have several fictional stories pending that I have not finished due to my random and obsessively self-critical personality.
Along with my search for great literature, I am always scouring the internet for lesbian films as well. I am grateful to be born in a time in which the internet is a powerful research tool. I remember when I was a teenager, I had to wait for a monthly video and book club magazine to come to my house.
I came to the realization that I would need to either create lesbian content or find something else (this became glaringly obvious after watching every season of the L Word on Netflix for the third time). I went on YouTube and found a hilarious short series called #HashTag.
#Hashtag is a short film series about the lesbian dating scene in today’s social media-obsessed world. I was intrigued by the first episode sourced on YouTube and was guided to Tellofilms.com for additional episodes. Finding Tello was like hitting the jackpot. It is a website that is made by women and for women. All content is lesbian oriented. I found two full series of my new favorite show along with other series. For only $4.99 a month, I was given a membership that gave me access to all Tello content.
One impressive aspect of Tello is that is it an independent filmmaking organization. All of our subscription fees are used to compensate the creators of the series and fund additional projects. As a customer, I am always willing to promote a product or service that I enjoy and took the liberty of contacting CEO Christin Baker to request an interview.
I am a firm believer that the best way to learn how to do something is to ask someone who has already done it successfully. As a budding artist, I am always grateful for an opportunity to speak with an industry guru.
ALETHEA: It looks like you created Tello with the same attitude and brought it forward by producing literature that women can identify with. It takes a tremendous amount of courage to take a feeling of dissatisfaction and turn it into production. Was there a particular film that inspired you to produce lesbian content?
CHRISTIN: Yeah, in early interviews and stories that we would tell, my co-founder and I (my co-founder is no longer a part of the company) were really geeking out about the British TV series called Bad Girls, which was a very long time ago. It was three seasons- it was an early Orange is the New Black set in a women’s prison. It had this popular storyline and ended up running for three seasons. We were both kind of lamenting that we did not have enough to talk about as far as lesbian content. When that ended, right around that same time is when YouTube started becoming very popular and people started making their own content and putting it out. We decided that we would become the Lesbian YouTube. That didn’t work out very well, so we changed our business model.
ALETHEA: As a producer of lesbian content, do you struggle against stereotypes that are portrayed in mainstream media? How do you try to shift those stereotypes and bring a more realistic approach?
CHRISTIN: I think that it is not really about shifting the stereotypes because I think that we do have some interesting representation on TV. I think it’s about not killing us. I see this unbelievable rash of killing off the lesbian character. We just had that happen–spoiler alert–on “The One Hundred” where they killed one of the main female leads that were having a romantic relationship. I don’t know if it’s necessarily about changing the stereotype because I do think that there’s been a lot of decent representation in films that have represented a variety of people. I think it’s about allowing them to live.
ALETHEA: Does Tello plan to stay on course with current strategies with short films/series or is there anything in the works as far as creating longer content?
CHRISTIN: No, we’ve really seemed to have hit a nice little stride with the way that our series has come out. We do have a couple of pieces on there. We have done a couple of shows that are about 22 minutes long and we find that they don’t perform any better than series that are nine to 12 minutes long. What we have found is that we’re actually looking at creating pilot concepts and shopping in other digital outlets.
ALETHEA: Is there any opportunity for other talented artists to present work to Tello, whether it’s a written script or even being a part of Tello as a creative artist?
CRISTIN: Yeah, but we aren’t really looking for scripts or concepts anymore. We are always happy to look at finished products if that’s something that would be good to distribute on the site. We’re always looking for people who have an idea; people who are interested in making one or two episodes or even a full series. Through our distribution model, they (filmmakers) receive a portion of our net subscription fees. The more views they have, the more money they get back for their content. We’re always happy to consider and look at projects. Right now, we’re a little full and backed up on our scripted series. We used to look at scripts and ideas from people but we just got to the point that we were too inundated and now we have people writing and pitching within our own creative team.
As you see, Tello is a great place for viewers to watch a variety of shows as well as a platform for artists to submit content. The benefit of having independent film and media websites is reveling in the notion that we can leave the corporate shenanigans to the big production companies. Please be sure to go to www.TelloFilms.com to check it out for yourself.
*Interview edited for clarity