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“‘Lesbians are OK in the South, so I went to Vanderbilt,” documentary filmmaker Ky Dickens giggled over a glass of red wine in the lounge at the Vanderbilt Marriott Hotel.
Through the laughter, the Chicago native describes one motivating factor for coming to Vanderbilt University as an undergraduate: the homoerotic, Southern female protagonists of the film, Fried Green Tomatoes (1991). "I mean, if Mary Stuart Masterson and Mary Louise Parker could make food fights so sexy and if everyone in the film seemed OK with them, why would lesbians not be okay in the South," she thought.
Alas, before graduation day in 2000 Dickens, who graduated magna cum laude with majors in Human and Organizational Development (HOD) and Sociology, obviously discovered the flaws in that logic. After all, Dickens’ debut film, Fish out of Water, was inspired by the opposition she faced when coming out as a lesbian to her sorority sisters during her senior year at Vanderbilt, a decision which Dickens reveals was provoked by a moving screening of Kimberly Peirce’s Boys Don’t Cry.
Dickens is a fascinating conversationalist. Her favorite filmmakers and filmsinclude the films of Todd Haynes, the films of Werner Herzog (which she describes too accurately as “crazy”), Michael Gondry’s Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and Alfonso Cuarón’s Y Tu Mamá También. She also shares greatly admires Oscar winner Paul Haggis (Crash), who even read a draft of her film’s screenplay. His daughter, Katy Haggis, is a producer for Fish out of Water, and Dickens got to know her father’s work as a result.
I met with Ky Dickens in order to talk about Fish out of Water after its debut screening on Vanderbilt campus on March 22, a screening which she called “cathartic.” It was the first event in the Vanderbilt Lambda Association’s Rainbow ReVU week. The film will also be screened at the Nashville Film Festival in April.
O&A: Can you tell me what influenced you to make yourself an animated character in your documentary?
Dickens: I did not want to be in the film at all because I was very intent on this movie not being about me, and I’m very camera shy in general. The first draft of the film had a bird narrator. It was a little yellow bird, and there’s a whole beginning story about how a fish flips out of water and turns into a bird. It was very far-fetched. And I did a screening party to raise money and the funds to finish the film, and we showed a 30-minute clip of the film and then had a Q&A. After that, people were coming up to me, saying, 'The bird thing confused me.' That was usually their first comment. And their second comment was, 'The story about your friend and Vanderbilt and the letter was so awesome and inspiring. Why aren’t you telling this from your perspective? The film would be so much easier to understand and more relate-able if you put yourself in it.' And I fought against it and fought against it and did not want to do it. And we had a big team meeting one night and that’s when it was decided, hey, let’s just make an animated character of me, and that way, it would go with the animation and we wouldn’t have to go back and re-shoot anything. It was kind of a very late-in-the-game choice to bring everything together after – almost like focus groups and showing the screenings and stuff.
O&A: How familiar were you with websites such as Soulforce.org before you made Fish out of Water? For the record, Soulforce has a similar mission to demystify passages of the Bible used by Christians to try to condemn homosexuality.
Dickens: Well, I’d heard of Soulforce, and they were just getting started around this time [Fish out of Water was made]. What’s funny is the Web wasn’t as connected as it is now. You know, I don’t even know if they had a website at that point. […] I’m not sure where [they were getting started], but they were just getting off the ground. I’d heard about a lot of their missions, and a lot of their ministries were in line with what we were doing. The difference is I wanted to make it easy for people to get all the information in one fell swoop that would be non-threatening, quick and entertaining. And instead of having people have to read it for themselves or pick through web sites or go to seminars or that type of thing, which is all valuable and important for our community, I thought it needed to be in film format, so I think that’s kind of why I went my route.
O&A: Has Fish out of Water been picked up by a distributor yet?
Dickens: It has. It’s been picked up by First Run Features, awho distributed For the Bible Tells Me So and A Jihad for Love, so a lot of films that deal with the religious gay issue. We are being released [on DVD] April 20.
O&A: How long did it take you to make this film?
Dickens: It took about three-and-a-half years, but the idea for it came 10 years ago at Vanderbilt. It took me some time to gain confidence both in the queer community and in the film community before I wanted to undertake the feature. And it kind of paid off because just the networking with editorial houses, color-correction houses, equipment houses, [and] that sort of thing in Chicago helped making the film financially in ways that I could never have done without, you know, kinda getting established a bit before diving right in.
O&A: Is Fish Out of Water a one-off, or do you intend to make another film? If so, what is your next film project?
Dickens: I had a film I wanted to jump right into, but once this started going around the festival circuit and then screening in churches and schools and that sort of thing, I realized that it would be doing a disservice to this project if I just kind of abandoned it right now and went on to the next thing. I feel it’s going to take maybe another six months, maybe another year. The country will kind of tell me, I think, when it’s time to move on, and not vice versa. I want to make sure the film and its message reaches as many people as possible, and that’s gonna take just more work and continuous e-mails and networking and bringing, you know, being a shepherd for the film for a while longer. But hopefully by 2011 I’ll be starting on another film.
O&A: Can you give us any ideas about what it might be about?
Dickens: It won’t be socially heavy; it’s gonna be a little bit lighter. I don’t want to say anything right yet because you’re always scared your documentary ideas, you know, coming out so quick, they could change or who knows what. So I definitely look forward to doing something a little less socially polarizing.
O&A: I noticed that Fish Out of Water is structured rather like an essay, punctuated by the animated you delineating your narration with lots of firsts and nexts. This narrative style stands out to me because I have never seen anything like it. Did your training at Vanderbilt, with its emphasis on strong writing practices, have an influence on this structure?
Dickens: I think writing style did come into it, and I learned that more from my father than Vanderbilt. By the time you come to college, your writing style’s kind of been mostly chiseled out. But it was a very deliberate style that was tailored to this film specifically, and that’s because the Bible, as you know, there’s so much information and it’s so polarizing that I felt like it had to be watered down and put into basic sentences and [to] really take audiences by the hand and walk through it point by point by point, so it would be easy to understand, very accessible, and people wouldn’t get lost. It’s so easy to just drift off when talking about the Bible or something so old and threatening as the Bible. So by taking people almost from a 3-year-old’s point-of-view, really step-by-step, I think it makes it easier to follow, and yeah, so it was a specific choice for this film. I don’t know if I’ll ever have the need to make a film like that again in this format, but I think it works for Fish out of Water.
O&A: What influenced you to use Fred Phelps as a talking head for your interviews of theologians and religious figures, especially in a film trying to justify GLBTQ people to God and his people?
Dickens: Two reasons. One is, you know, Fred Phelps is very extreme in how he carries out things. There are a lot of people out there who really agree with him. And by using Fred Phelps, who is, really, he’s laughable in the film because he’s this frothing maniac, and people laugh at him. He was used as this comic relief, and when people can laugh at something, it empowers them, and it disarms the words. And by thaving Fred Phelps say these words that people hear coming from their own fathers and brothers and mothers, suddenly, those words become invalidated, and you’re able to laugh at them. And then secondly, you know, within the process of making the film, I really realized that there’s no middle ground: It’s either hate or love, or intolerance or acceptance, and there’s no polite intolerance or “love the sinner, hate the sin” type of thing. And to have a very “polite hateful” talking head in there is making it seem like that’s an OK point of view to have, that it’s an acceptable point of view, and in my opinion, it’s not. You’re dis-loving and un-accepting of gay people, [so] you’re in a category by itself. And I think people need to kind of start wrapping their head around that. Until we kind of force that task upon people, nothing’s going to change.
O&A: In what way do you see Fish out of Water as being indebted to the independent gay and lesbian films of the 1990s and 2000s that preceded it?
Dickens: Well, I think every gay film that has come before any other film opens the door, or finds a new audience or secures its place at a festival that will help secure your place later. Because everything is related to audience, as well as money and as impact, it all affects everything else. For the Bible Tells Me So is the most striking example, and it’s been the most personal because, specifically, the distributor that picked us up said, 'Hey, For the Bible did great for us, so we wanna give Fish out of Water a try, too, and bring you on.' I don’t think it would have happened if it wasn’t for For the Bible. And, you know, when For the Bible was going out there, I don’t think anyone who would have watched a film about religion and gays thought it would work. Any film about religion and gays at some point felt dry and boring, then someone did it right and someone did it well, and then there’s something that’s done great and well [For the Bible Tells Me So], and then we came along and we’re kind of given our fair shake. You know, everything is a big domino effect, in terms of filmmakers coming before me, even in terms of raising money, even in terms of a movie getting made. There’s no way to know how much influence.
O&A: The funny thing is that, especially in the gay and lesbian films that hit the independent circuit in the early 1990s, they were all about doing away with trying to make gay images more “squeaky clean,” so then you get films like Poison and The Living End and such. It’s like, “We’re here, we’re queer,” and, as B. Ruby Rich said [in her 1992 essay, “New Queer Cinema”], “Get hip to [us].” In what way do you see a different trend sort of coming in specifically gay and lesbian independent films making the rounds that now get to be more about educating than about being outright “Here we are.”
Dickens: There’s kind of two movements that have sprung up. The first one in queer cinema was the idea that our characters and our representations have never been seen before. People were writing characters that were extreme: very flamboyant men that were easy to laugh at, you know, kind of the jester, or butchy women. There was kind of stereotyping of our roles, and there was almost no apologizing for the 'Hey, this is who we are. You’re gonna accept us exactly for our differences and celebrate those differences.' And now since the 'post-gay gayness' of wanting to really fit in, and we’re kind of this big queer community, there’s kind of this idea of not necessarily wanting to celebrate our differences but wanting to celebrate our similarities and our likenesses, so our characters are like this and this and this and 'Oh, I also happen to be gay.' And I think that’s great, too, but it’s gonna take both because we don’t want to get rid of the sweet, flamboyant guy and the super bull dyke or whatever because then we’re missing those important factors in our community. BDickenut there is a difference happening, I think, in queer cinema between celebrating our differences and celebrating our similarities. It’s interesting.
For those with a thirst to celebrate, Red Bull Unlocked is the key. In city after city, the most exciting bars, clubs, mixologists, performing artists, and more take over a local landmark building to showcase their signature ambiance while also collaborating for a must-see mashup. And now it's Music City’s turn to seize the spotlight, as the event brings 10 bars together in East Nashville’s Five Points neighborhood.
Fueled by the best of Nashville’s thriving music scene, Red Bull Unlocked has curated an eclectic night of show-stopping entertainment performances including a pop-up Whiskey Jam show, DJ sets, musicians, and more. The full lineup is here:
- Whiskey Jam (feat. Dozzi, Willie Shaw, and Johnny Hayes)
- A.B. Eastwood
- Daisha / Rap Girl
- Boom Bap (DJ Collective feat. DJ-Rate, Case Bloom)
- Whiskey Disco (DJ Collective feat. Coach, Jim O'Shea)
- Old Crow Medicine Show’s Jerry Pentercost (DJ Set)
- DJ Stretch
- DJ Griffin Green
- The Play Mates (Drag Show feat. Sasha, Vanity, Deception, Aura Mayari, Corlis Todd, and Carmin Triple C)
Counting down to the epic celebration, Daisha shares, “I never thought I’d have the opportunity to perform in so many of Nashville’s top spots all in the same night. Fans can expect a lot of bops and high energy. I want people to dance and have a good time.”
Ward Guenther, Whiskey Jam Founder, adds, “Red Bull has been enjoyed at Whiskey Jam since the very first night, so it's only fitting Whiskey Jam is enjoyed at Nashville's first Red Bull Unlocked. Looking forward to this!”
Red Bull Unlocked Istanbul
Photo courtesy of Red Bull
Local favorites including Pearl Diver, Tin Roof, Lipstick Lounge, White Limozeen, and more will join forces for one epic night. Full list of bars and partners below:
- The Dive Motel
- Lipstick Lounge
- Pearl Diver
- Play Dance Bar
- Rosemary & Beauty Queen
- The Stage
- Tin Roof
- Whiskey Jam
- White Limozeen
- Woolworth Theatre – Opening Fall 2022!
- Eleven Eleven - Opening 2023!
Date: August 21, 2022
Time: 6 PM – 11PM CT
Location: 1102 Forrest Ave, Nashville, TN 37206
Entrance: Ticked event
Rumble Boxing, the boxing-inspired group fitness studio, opened its doors for the first time in Nashville on June 20 at 609 Overton St, Nashville, TN. The hottest workout on the block is hosting its official grand opening from August 4th-7th with daily classes, membership specials, and prizes from local vendors. The new Rumble Boxing studio is currently offering a buy one class, get one free promotion for the Nashville community.
Rumble Boxing delivers 45-minute, 10-round, strength and conditioning group workouts, crafted around teardrop-style aqua boxing bags and high-intensity strength training circuits. This brings all fitness levels together to experience what Rumble is known for: combining the sweet science of boxing with high energy and positive vibes.
Rumble Boxing Fitness Studio
Photo courtesy of Rumble Boxing Gulch Nashville
This boutique fitness brand offers serious benefits like increased stamina and strength, with cardio that’s actually fun. The seasoned trainers at the new studio are thrilled to serve their local community while offering this fun, new modern approach to boxing and welcome members of all fitness levels to the Rumble family.
The new Rumble Boxing studio is owned and operated by Blake Baskin and Antonio Compton. With their background in the fitness industry, this dynamic duo is excited to bring their passion for boxing and group fitness to Nashville. As business and life partners, Blake and Antonio aim to create a strong community within their new Rumble Boxing studio and share their message of non-apologetic inclusivity.
Black and Gay-Owned Business
Rumble Boxing Store with Dolly Parton Mural
Photo courtesy of Rumble Boxing Gulch Nashville
“We own who we are, and this brand aligns with that perfectly,” said Antonio. “This is what we want to create and bring to this community: a fitness class that is designed for anyone and a place for people to be who they are. As a Black and gay-owned business, we want to help lower the division we see in the world right now. Our goal is to bring people together through Rumble, set everything aside, and have fun.”
To echo their message of acceptance and inclusion, Blake and Antonio commissioned a local Nashville artist to paint an 11 X 6-ft. mural of Nashville icon and philanthropist, Dolly Parton. The massive portrait features the country star in Rumble Boxing gear in the lobby of the studio.
The excitement and buzz around Rumble allowed Blake and Antonio to recruit top-tier trainers to head up the new studio, including Head Trainer Oronde Jones, a well-known celebrity trainer in the Nashville market.
Rumble Boxing Fitness Studio
Photo courtesy of Rumble Boxing Gulch Nashville
“Compared to other fitness classes, Rumble is a class you can truly get lost in for 45 minutes. With the dark room, you don’t have to worry if anyone is paying attention to you. The music is awesome and inspiring, and the beat drops right when you need it the most. Also, with boxing being a sport you can never truly master, you’re always improving and crafting your skill. On the floor, you’re consistently doing something new, which prevents you from ever hitting a plateau.” Said Oronde Jones about his favorite part of Rumble.
Rumble has massive brand loyalty and widespread appeal, partly thanks to attracting top names like Justin Bieber, Selena Gomez, Kendall Jenner, Hailey Baldwin, Jason Derulo, David Beckham, and Kevin Hart to its studios.
About Rumble Boxing
Founded in New York City in 2017, Rumble is a group fitness concept delivering a mix (or combination) of boxing-inspired circuits and the transformative power of resistance training. Pro and amateur fighters glove up together, no matter their fitness level or skill, to reveal their inner fighter. The experience is a 45-minute, 10-round, full-body cardio and strength workout crafted around specially designed water-filled, teardrop-style boxing bags. Rumble was founded by Noah Neiman (former Barry’s Bootcamp Master Trainer, and cast member of Bravo’s Work Out New York), Eugene Remm (Co-Founder of Catch Hospitality Group (Catch Restaurants, CATCH STEAK, Lexington Brass), Andy Stenzler (Co-Founder Cosí, Kidville), and Anthony DiMarco (13-time IRONMAN, former Managing Director, Google).
Who would have thought that we would have to get through a pandemic in order to appreciate the small things we have, such as the ability to simply pack our bags and hit the road?
For two years, there’s been nothing left for us travel junkies to do but sit at home and try to find new destinations that we will conquer once we defeat what appears to be the biggest villain of the 21st century. But once that happens, hold your bags tight because we will be up for some of the most interesting travel experiences. Take a look at some ideas for your post-COVID traveling plans:
A Gay Cruise
One of the best options to have in mind when all of this passes is a good, nice and long (pun intended) gay cruise. Or cruise in general, for that matter. Bear in mind, social distancing will still be a thing in the post-COVID world. But COVID-19 likely doesn’t mean that cruises will cease to exist. On the contrary, though cruise ships will probably keep the number of passengers smaller than before, it is believed that they will become an even bigger hit in the following period, especially because they are all going to go a lot more environmentally-friendly. On the bright side, is there any better way of celebrating the end of the pandemic than by cruising around some magnificent seas, stopping by at great cities and having romantic dinner nights at nice restaurants?
A getaway in nature
On the other hand, there is always the option of stepping away from the hustle and bustle of large cities, and spending some time in a place that’s not only healthy, but also beautiful. Some of the destinations that plenty of people will look for are the ones that can cater for both peace of mind and amazing things to see or do. One such destination is New Zealand, one of the greenest countries on Earth right now. Not only will you be visiting the magnificent country that gave us the beautiful Shire from Lord of the Rings; this is also a destination that’s excellent for everyone who prefers relaxing to partying. If you’re up for some partying, you will be able to hit Auckland, while if you’re for something calmer, there’s plenty of amazing places that you can see and visit.
Dancing Around at Pride
Pride parades are also events that you want to have in mind for the post-COVID world. Such events have always been quite important, but it seems that they are now more important than ever. The virus has canceled more than 75 Pride parades all around the world, which is one of the reasons why we must support the ones that will see the light of day once the pandemic stops. Truth be told, the upcoming Prides will perhaps be the best Prides ever organized. Give the gays a couple of weeks of quarantine, then let them outside and see what kind of party they are able to throw!
A road trip
If you’re, as well, waiting for the day to wake up and say “long gone are the days when we were not allowed to go wherever we wanted?”, and if staying at one place gave you a lot to think about, then your first post-COVID travel experience should definitely be a nice road trip. You can practically choose which country you want to tour, and you can either take your own car (you have probably missed it so much), or rent one at your destination. Australia is an amazing country for this, though, as it offers the possibility of seeing the Great Ocean Road, which is an amazing thing to see and experience. On the other hand, if you do not want or cannot leave your country, you can also choose to go on a domestic road trip – there are amazing things to see in your vicinity as well.
Holiday for a single guy
If you’re single, or you’re traveling someplace with another single friend, then you should definitely organize a nice vacation for yourself or for you and your single friend, and hit one of the best European cities. Europe has been greatly affected by the virus, which means that now it’s time to pay it back and get it back on its feet by traveling there and seeing all the amazing things it offers. Any city you choose in Europe – you will not make a mistake. Apart from being able to see great landmarks, you will also have the chance to have a drink at great gay clubs and pubs, and join unforgettable gay parties. And if the gay scenery is not your forte, worry not, as Europe indeed has to offer so many different and magnificent things.