Erica’s First Holy Shit is based on the life of Erica Nix, Austin’s beloved queer artist and fitness guru (and currently a surprising and unlikely Austin mayoral candidate). It’s a modern, Queer Millennial SLACKER, a tribute to the disappearing bohemian demimonde of Austin itself. A psychedelic freak-out fantasia of adventure and discovery that’s inspired by Jodorowsky’s The Holy Mountain, Pee Wee Herman, and Linklater’s Waking Life.

In the wake of a divorce and reeling from the reality of the pandemic, very Austin famous queer fitness guru Erica Nix contemplates the changing tides of Austin’s value system and the plight of bohemian artists like herself being priced out of the city. She embarks on an erotic and hallucinatory fever dream, seeking advice from the likes of her inner child, God, Gwyneth Paltrow, Mother Nature, and Satan.

Erica Nix, beloved fitness and workout guru (and unlikely current Austin mayoral candidate), presents her first feature-length film showcasing a large cast of Austin’s celebrated queer icons.

In the spiritual follow-up to her 2019 performance art piece, This Is Not A Cult, ERICA’S FIRST HOLY SHIT is a comedic psychosexual lesbian fantasia of adventure and discovery. Her psychedelic opus is a tribute to old Austin, an homage to keeping things weird in a changing landscape that is no longer artist-friendly, and a salute to trying desperately to do the right thing but never getting it quite right. In a bizarre instance of life imitating art, the film depicts Erica running for mayor of Austin, which in turn has resulted in Erica actually running for mayor of Austin.

Taking inspiration from the likes of Waking Life and The Holy Mountain, the film is a psychedelic mash up of genres and formats ranging from confessional monologues, outré humor, game show segments, explorations in self-help, and mind-bending visual freak outs. 

Tackling some of Erica’s most vulnerable insecurities, ERICA’S FIRST HOLY SHIT is a personal film satire on the mass culture of seekers and the insatiable need for personal fulfillment. Join Erica as she explores religion, psychedelic rituals, therapeutic healing, and politics. 

Will Erica’s inner truth set her free or set the world on fire?

Erica’s First Holy Shit is the debut feature film from the creative production team, THIS IS NOT A CULT, which includes writers and producers Erica Nix, Sawyer Stoltz, Jeremy von Stilb, and Jessica Gardner.

Conceived and shot over the first two years of the COVID pandemic as an urgent artistic response to stay creatively connected to the Austin artistic underground community, the team worked closely and collaboratively on all creative decisions.

The script was started at the beginning of 2020 and it became a container for the creative team’s anxieties as well as a self-examination of how we can engender change when so much seems to be going wrong around us. The film that emerged is both a satire of millennial-armchair-activism and a love letter to an Austin that might no longer exist.  

The film was shot in small segments over the course of two years with editing taking place during production lulls throughout the onset of the pandemic (2020-2022). 

A major challenge of the pandemic that many artists faced was how to continue to create when you were left in isolation. For Erica’s First Holy Shit, the team used this as a creative restraint that set forth a particular structure for the story. 

The script was written for all of the scenes to either take place in front of green screen or outside to allow for safe production. A solution for this was to focus on a series of extended philosophical conversations. The writers revisited both Waking Life and The Holy Mountain as inspiration for a narrative that was both dialogue heavy and dream-like. The film still manages to move at a quick pace, featuring many cut-aways and outlandish subject matter, ensuring that the humor is constant.  

To create visual appeal, the team worked with a number of artists to push the visual style into surreal realms. The green screen scenes make use of miniature sets. The set designer used cake frosting and foam to create a jungle volcano, St. Peter’s gates, and the inside of a colon. Taking inspiration from Pee Wee Herman, rudimentary stop motion animation using clay and construction paper furthered the colorful, psychedelic child-like interior of Erica’s mind. The film was shot in high-definition video, and because of the limited budget and production restraints due to COVID, the team leaned into having a handmade look.    

About the Author

Bryen Dunn is a freelance journalist with a focus on travel, lifestyle, entertainment and hospitality. He has an extensive portfolio of celebrity interviews with musicians, actors and other public personalities. He enjoys discovering delicious eats, tasting spirited treats, and being mesmerized by musical beats.