Queer Workout Queen Invites You to Erica’s First Holy Sh!t

The agony and the ecstasy of Erica Nix

Erica Nix (Courtesy of Erica Nix)

Erica Nix and This Is Not a Cult have made a movie – a real blood, sweat, and glitter movie. The spiritual sister to 2019's Austin Motel poolside performance art show "This Is Not A Cult: An Erica Nix Aquatic Odyssey," Erica's First Holy Sh!t follows Nix post-divorce and post-pandemic swimming through the changing tides of Austin's value system, consulting deity advisors like Mother Nature and Satan on how to help other creatives like herself struggling in the new unaffordable ATX. Friday, April 29, will mark the first screening of the film as a fundraiser for future distribution.

But those of you not attuned to the queer/workout/queer-workout scene may press pause here to say: Who is Erica Nix? She's made her mark in the community as a body positive workout guru, continuing on her mission to make working out fun for over a decade as well as doing performance art and photography. Like many of the other featured players in the film – all of whom Nix calls friends – the fitness-focused artist is "Austin famous," a particular niche genre of local celeb who perfectly embodies the weirdness of ATX.

Erica's First Holy Sh!t represents a new creative playing field for the workout queen, one that came with its own unique challenges. "Woof! It was rough!" Nix said over email about starting the filmmaking process. "Collective creative processes are ALL THE THINGS. They are fun and hard, and the lesbian in ALL OF US loves processing Every. Single. Thing." While the film started life as a planned live performance, the COVID-19 outbreak pivoted the This Is Not a Cult creative team (Nix, Jeremy Stilb, Jess Gardner, and Sawyer Stoltz) toward scripted video, which later evolved into a feature-length project. Another difficulty was that at the start of their cinematic journey Nix had just been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Dealing with the symptoms, she says, was at times overwhelming. She recalled, "In some of the scenes I was still having a hard time walking or remembering really simple lines. The team had to be extremely patient and understanding."

Despite retroactively wishing they'd simplified the project, overall Nix is proud of how much of the TINAC team's unrestrained vision they accomplished. "In a way we were able to accomplish some really ambitious sequences that I think more experienced filmmakers would have scrapped due to budget or logistical constraints," she said. "The project is held together by a shoestring and a dream, but we hope that DIY charm and creative [problem-]solving shines through in a [nonembarrassing] way."

The project holds significant personal meaning to Nix, who wanted both in the previous Austin Motel pool performance and in the film to take on the darker side of her workout personality. This cinematic voyage will tackle spirituality in multiple forms from meditation to psychedelics, Satanism, Gwyenth Paltrow's Goop empire, etc. – basically all the "absurd things we as humans do to feel fulfilled, fill the void, or imbue meaning in our lives." However, Nix said it's also about the all-too-understandable stressors Austin artists live under. "The source of a lot of the material is based on the pressure to both create output and survive on an artist's income in a city that [prides] itself on its creatives, but is becoming increasingly [challenging] to live in. It's sort of an abstract interpretation of an artist's existential crisis."

Nix called the film "a love letter to old Austin" and her deepest wish is that its campy, raunchy, and over-the-top antics weird out as many people as possible. "I also hope I offend some people," she added, "so that I can practice publicly stepping in shit and apologizing for it!"

Erica’s First Holy Sh!t preview screening and fundraiser, Fri., April 29, 8:30pm, Distribution Hall, 1500 E. Fourth. Tickets via bit.ly/thisisnotacult.

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Erica Nix, This Is Not a Cult, Erica's First Holy Shit

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