“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”—African Proverb
Last week I filmed the first workout video for Fat Kid Dance Party Aerobics and these words never hit so close to home. For those of you who have been reading my blog for any part of the last ten years, you know I’m on a healing journey. Healing from origins I can identify and some I cannot. The process of healing, I believe, is awakening to who you really are at your essence.
Somewhere along the line, I absorbed the idea that if I didn’t allow people to help me I could take full credit for my success. This idea showed up most glaringly in the need to control and a paralyzing fear of making the wrong decisions. I also truly hated feedback and couldn’t distinguish between loving concern and criticism.
In the process of creating the video shoot I absolutely had to ask for help. I wanted a product that looked better than what I could film on my own and I felt like my audience deserved a truly kick-ass workout video. There are a lot of slick videos to choose from for people buying into the idea that you must be striving to reduce your weight in order to be worthy. I wanted something that stands up against the razzle dazzle afforded by the billlion dollar diet industry.
The evening after the shoot I reflected that this was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. It wasn’t harder than taking the bar in two states, or law school. It was certainly a difficult personal milestone, yet a million times more fun than passing the bar and getting a JD! I’d rather be doing this for sure.
All photos in this post by Jessica Hinkle, the fabulous stylist and indie designer. Check out her Proud Mary Fashion booth at RuPaul’s Drag Con this weekend!
The first big hurdle was, of course, the crowd fund. Asking for the amount of money I needed to create the thing I wanted was daunting. To be honest, I was simultaneously shocked and encouraged when it funded on the very date it ended!
I chose IndieGoGo because I was going to create something no matter how much the crowd fund brought in but I was glad that I got the opportunity to really hit one out of the park. (IGG lets you keep any money you raise, whereas Kickstarter is all or nothing funding.) I knew my crew needed to be diverse because that’s the kind of company I’m building. I believe that there is strength in diverse life experiences and perspectives and I strive to live my values as much as possible.
Marcy, Emily, my cousin Sooz and my Fiance Supreme, Dara.
I put out a call on a Women in Motion Pictures email list a friend tipped me off to (more help!) and I got a flood of responses by women who were interested in making it happen. I had no idea how to sift through them.
I asked for my friend Marcy Guevara-Prete’s help as an Executive Producer at that point because I knew she could help me make these choices and guide me through the process. She’s a TV Producer and celebrity stylist!
Marcy said to watch reels so, while on a visit with my mom in the woods outside Seattle, we tucked in and watched a lot of reels. Including some super boring reels and some that were experimental lesbian art. And some that looked expensive but were made on a small budget—-that was what I was aiming for.
I sent follow-up emails to everyone I was interested in, and asked Emily Aguilar to come meet with me because her response was the best of everyone. (I also had an intuitive hit about her.) She responded to my first email with a spreadsheet of a proposed budget and two possible locations to achieve the look I said I wanted. I loved how organized she was from the jump. Marcy and I met with Emily and I was so glad I had asked for Marcy’s help because she knew the right questions to ask to get a sense about whether Emily was up for the scope of this project. Four workout videos is not a small creation!
I cast the video as diverse as I possibly could, pursuant to my aforementioned values and also, I want people to see representations of themselves! I asked my mom to fly down for my shoot and I’m glad she did. She repped for double knee replacement recovery and older folks. I had queer, straight, cisgender, trans, nonbinary, size diversity and as much other visible diversity as I could get. I want more!
Cast includes my mom, McKay Nield, Manny Moreno, Drew Spencer, Chelsea Algarin, Whitney Brown, Drea Lara and Melba Martinez!
The music for the video was a long slog! My biggest complaint about slick aerobics videos is the terrible music. I wanted to try for really great music because my audience deserves the jams! I happened to sit next to Lauren Ross at a Shabbat dinner and she turned out to do licensing for two of my favorite songs, Hot Topic and Rebel Girl.
Lauren donated her time as Music Supervisor and secured rights to a bunch of other great songs I’m excited for you to jam out to! My friends Rick Sorkin, Austin Bisnow of MAGIC GIANT and friend of a few friends Mary Lambert all donated songs as well. To fill in the gaps I got my friend JD Samson to compose beats for the videos. Here’s the Spotify playlist of all the songs we used for the video! Please go dig deep into those awesome artists who believed in and supported FKDP!
The location was a gorgeous DTLA loft run by a really cool artist named Jonathan who was jazzed about the project. The process of planning and executing a shoot is not unlike running a major event and of course we had last minute snafoos that all worked out in the end.
Two days before the shoot I extended the time rental for the location because I could get a chalk artist to donate her time but she could only come at 8AM not at 10AM when we got the location. What a great choice I made to extend the rental because we needed that extra time and the chalk art looks incredible.
Thank you Kelly Phelan, one of my beloved regulars at Fat Kid Dance Party here in LA!
I arrived at 8 to get hair and make-up done by the incredibly talented Amanda Bourne. One thing I’ve always had a hard time with about getting my make-up done is that I don’t look like “me” and trying to describe what my make-up looks like to Amanda involved referencing Miss Piggy as my gender. It worked, I think it’s my favorite make-up I’ve ever had! I looked great. She also came backing with a wind machine to cool us off between takes and a whole roll of paper towels for blotting.
Never fear, we have some scenes where we’re all sweaty, especially by the end of the 60 minute standing workout video.
Amanda taking a selfie with my assistant Kristen! She’s serving as my LA hype person–her gender is some kind of Glitter Mermaid Unicorn Baby and we have a lot of overlap except she’s straight! It’s really fun to have her as my first assistant and build on her strengths to make FKDP continually more awesome and tour more places!
We started shooting at 10. My intern Asher Tessier was on hand as a PA and I realized pretty quickly we needed more PAs than just one. Thank goodness I had thought to hire my assistant Kristen to be on hand for the day and my beloved Fiance Supreme Dara pitched in as both PA getting lunch and motivational speaker/dancer to raise flagging energy by the end of the day.
The outfits were amazing for the shoot, mostly because Marcy the Executive Producer is also a celebrity stylist and got the hook-up from Torrid. I am so obsessed with the rose print set I wore in our stretching video!!! Thank you Torrid!!!
And thank you Marcy, who thought about bringing earrings which do, as she so aptly said, “Elevate a look.” Wait til you see the parrot earrings matching the chair in the chair workout!
My cast was incredible. It’s not a joke to film 8 hours of working out and by the end of the day my mom’s fitbit had 15,000 steps and I don’t think it picked up on the chair video. I flew my friend Drew down from Portland, OR to be part of it and I was so glad I did because there’s nothing like performing again with someone you performed with 13 years ago to bring out silliness and fun.
My cousin was the camera operator. Sooz is in the camera union and shoots TV shows, having worked her way up from a PA and later shooting commercials. She borrowed lenses from a friend that are used on a prime time TV show and the shots looks incredible. She also brought along a friend, Chris, to help shoot. I was just so overwhelmed and happy that the people who came on set and participated in making the video wildly over delivered because they cared about the project.
Emily’s friend Lauren ran sound and by the end of the day I was wondering how the crew of film and TV even handle the physical toll it takes on their bodies, since she was sitting on the floor for every take running sound.
It was Marcy’s idea to shoot a couple numbers that were “big party scenes” to make it look more like a party! We couldn’t have had this amount of shooting in one day if we had that big of a cast but it was really fun to end the day with a bunch of friends and in a huge formation! It also enabled me to do a “Diva Walk” like they have at the end of Richard Simmons videos.
I always love a Sweatin’ to the Oldies video, especially because he cast fat people. The bummer is at the end during the diva walk down a train of people on either side it says their name and how much weight they’ve lost. This reinforces that fat people are only valuable if they are engaged in weight loss pursuit. I think everyone is valuable exactly as they are, unconditionally.
I’ve got a couple ideas about how I’m turning that on its head and I’m excited for you to be introduced to the cast and crew “Fat Kid Dance Party Style.”
I’ll know next week a likely release date and will update over on the IndieGoGo site first!
Drew, Dara and Asher!
2018 is my Year of Ask (and Receive!) as I’m pushing through my discomfort around asking and receiving. I’m so grateful to anyone out there who had anything to do with making this shoot happen. It was truly one of the best days of my life and certainly the best working day of my life. Thank you for helping me make my dreams come true!
Through May 24th you can still purchase the videos at the discounted pre sale price through Indie GoGo. You will receive the videos before they are available to the general public, and the general public pays a higher price! It pays to be an early adopter.
P.S. There is a viral video about Fat Kid Dance Party that was just released by Brut! Would you be so kind as to watch it, share it, like/love it and comment? It really helps amplify the message that all bodies are worthy of love exactly as they are!
I have four looks, one for each video! I’ll do a post about each look, but here the top is Torrid and the bottoms are SuperFit Hero, both brands donated these clothes to support Fat Kid Dance Party! Both fit true to size and are comfortable and resilient.