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Suicide Kale, A Film

It feels a little bit like a dream that I never knew I had has come true!

Suicide Kale, which I have only mentioned here before briefly, is a feature film that me and my friends made a couple of years ago, and as of this week it is now available for rent on both Amazon and Vimeo!

To celebrate this huge milestone, I wanted to share a little backstory with you about how the film came to be.

After recently moving to Los Angeles and having very few close friends in our new city, Claire (my wife) started following Brittani Nichols on twitter. Claire said to me, “Honey, you should follow this girl, she is so funny.” I said “OK.”
And I started following Brittani.
She was so funny.
She is also a QWOC, so she was like, RELATABLE TO MY INTERESTS. I said to Claire, “I wish we could hang out with her.” Claire replied, “why don’t you send her a DM?”

And I was like

But I did it anyways, because what did I have to lose? The only thing worse than not having Brittani Nichols as a friend was following her twitter account and liking her posts all the time in quiet desperation. And I was already doing that.

I sent her a message basically saying “Hi, I’m new here”, and she graciously agreed to meet up with me and Claire at a hotspot in Silverlake that served frozen popsicle Micheladas (#blessed). The deal was sealed and within a couple of months, Brittani had introduced us to her whole group of friends in LA that included loads of smart, talented, and very funny women. As we all started hanging out and getting to know each other better, we created a safe space amongst ourselves, complaining about the industry jobs we worked on (always rooted in patriarchal BS) and discussing what would make them better (dealing with less patriarchal BS). We joked about what a dream it would be to all get together and make something fun for ourselves, but I never actually thought it would happen, because Hollywood doesn’t normally work that way, not unless you’re in a room with (rich, usually white) men that you’re trying to vet. But then, a couple of summers ago, Brittani sent out a group email insisting that we should “just MAKE something already.”

San Francisco. June 18th at 3:45pm. Frameline Film Festival. Stoked. #suicidekale

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She had a script- it was bare, but it had a solid plot. She thought the scene meat (ew) could be filled in with improvising from the actors, and she had someone in mind for most of the roles. She wanted to know if we could film it at my house so that we could save on location costs since there wasn’t enough money in the budget. Because there was no budget. I had never before been trycurious about producing a film, but I couldn’t say no- I was in capable company and I knew that if ever I was going to push myself out of my comfort zone, these were the people to do it with. After a couple of false starts where Director Extraordinaire™ suddenly had to fly to Iceland for work and Brianna the Babe™ booked a big gig, we finally found some days in August that stayed available for all of us, and filming began.

Carly, our loveable magician-slash-director, her wife, Robin, our blonde bombshell DoP, and Brittani paid the minimal upfront costs for things like iPhone lav mics, camera equipment rental and craft services. The actors provided our own wardrobe and I wore a favorite dress of mine made the previous year from one of Gertie’s books. I supplied Rosie the dog, the lunch meal prepared in one of the scenes, and props from around my house. Lindsey made sure our spiritual needs were accounted for and kept us on our toes by forgetting to wear her necklace in certain scenes. Briana was late every day because she never knew what the actual call time was and no one wanted to be the one to tell her. Unsurprisingly, I had the time of my life. Our cast and crew was comprised completely of women, mostly queer (jury is still out on Rosie’s sexuality), all adept at their jobs and interested in a full collaboration with one another. Five days and several Zankou lunches later, we had completed our first feature film, and we could not have felt more proud of what we had accomplished.

#suicidekale

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Our goal from the start was simply to conceive of and implement an original project, from start to finish, with our own knowledge and resources. But once Carly took on the arduous task of editing our film and she and Brittani came to the realization that it might be good enough to…gulp…screen it for actual people, our goals began to change. Submitting to a festival seemed like a bit of a stretch. Being accepted by a festival even more so. And winning a film festival, let alone several?? Practically unfathomable! But that has been exactly the trajectory for Suicide Kale, the little film that could. With a grand total of $4000, most of which was directed towards post production costs like color correction and sound mixing, a group of friends got together and made a film that has become an important addition to the world of queer indie cinema. Our film features WoC in the leading roles, prominent queer relationships, and a cute pit bull; it represents us because it looks and feels like our lives.

We are so excited for all the wonderful festivals the world over that have welcomed our film with open arms, and thankful to Frameline for distributing Suicide Kale to make it available to viewers everywhere. You can keep up with news about Suicide Kale at www.suicidekale.com: where the film will be screening next, what VOD platforms we will be available on, lots of great clips, and reviews, and of course, what will be coming up next for the Suicide Kale production team. If you have a chance to watch our film and like it, feel free to leave us a review and tell your friends about it! The more this film gets shared with audiences, the better chance we have of creating even better cinema in the future…think healthy thoughts 😉

My Inner Debbie Allen

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A few months ago I had a really grand idea for a dress design. It was comprised of a strapless bodice attached to a fitted pencil skirt with a sheer, flowy overlay at the waist- the dress equivalent of a mullet, but with business AND a party on the bottom. I knew that this dress wouldn’t be difficult to make because I had all the pattern blocks I needed, each tested and tweaked from Gertie’s Ultimate Dress Book: a strapless bodice, a pencil skirt, and various versions of a full-bodied skirt depending on the fabric I decided to use.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BJLWiVkBx1C/?taken-by=jasikaistrycurious

On my August trip to The Fabric Store I came across this really cool mauve-colored cotton that I fell in love with (I am sure this type of fabric has a name, but I don’t know what it is). Essentially it has a sheer cotton background with appliques made of the same sheer fabric and cut in the shape of flowers that are placed on top. I thought it would look beautiful as my sheer overlay skirt, so then I searched the store for the perfect accompaniment fabric from which to make the fitted dress. I came across a polyester blend in Barbie pink- it had a tiny bit of sparkle and what I thought at the time was a nice, stable body, but it turns out that was just wishful thinking; the pink polyester was much more suitable as a lining, but I didn’t figure this out until the entire dress was made and I stood in my mirror with a dispirited look on my face. The bodice was fully lined with several tracks of boning attached to the lining, but the outer fabric was just too thin and showed each pucker, nip and tuck of the structure underneath. It gaped and folded at odd places and looked cheap (not as a fabric by itself, but in the way I had tried to manipulate it). Add to this my lack of care in working with the synthetic fiber (read: I TRIED TO IRON POLYESTER) and you can imagine the frustration it brought me. But the pink polyester fabric for the bodice/pencil skirt was not the only ill-fated choice I had made in the construction of the dress. The mauve overskirt fabric, while gorgeous on it’s own, either wasn’t sheer enough (or the Barbie pink fabric not bold enough) to show the details of the pencil skirt of the dress underneath, so my shiny pink fabric ended up getting lost anyways. My choice of using a circle skirt for the overlay pattern was also misguided- the shape didn’t serve as a big enough contrast to the pencil skirt underneath. From far away it looked fine, I guess, but up close, and in comparison to the dress I had imagined in my head, it was a disaster.

But I didn’t consider it a total loss- I had a good idea of what I needed to do to make this style of dress work, and step one was to abandon this pink failure and start over from scratch. On my next trip to The Fabric Store I immediately found the perfect fabric to use as my overlay, a completely sheer organza- type fabric with colorful bold stripes printed across it, and then I searched the shelves for a more appropriate fabric to use for the bodice/pencil skirt combo underneath. A midnight blue, full bodied (yes, like wine!) fabric that is apparently called Noil Silk, but looks like an imprint of woodgrain to me, ended up fitting the bill for my underdress, and this time, I made ALL the right decisions and the dress is a success! But more on this project in a future post!

After all that work, I was stuck with a pink polyester mess attached to a beautiful overlay skirt. Like most sewers, I hate to throw away nice fabric that I have inadvertently sewn into a disaster, but the overlay skirt was particularly difficult to think of getting rid of. It had taken me a couple of hours to figure out how to eek out a circle skirt from my cut of fabric (I seem to always err on the side of too little rather than too much when determining yardage) and I had just BARELY managed to make it work. And then I had spent a lot of time creating beautiful french seams for the inside since they would be seen through the sheer fabric. And it was all for nothing! But alas, I realized a few days later after heaving the pink dress into a corner of my craft room that if I had enough fabric leftover, I might be able to create a waistband for the skirt and just wear it as a separate… and I could maybe even get some semblance of the original silhouette I had in mind, depending on what I wore with it.

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During my first trip home after almost a month in Savannah, tackling this project was the very first thing on my mind! I carefully removed the polyester bodice/pencil skirt dress from the overlay and the zipper it had been attached to and proceeded to cut out two simple rectangles for the waistband (one for the outer band and one for the facing) in the width I wanted, plus seam allowance. Because my fabric is sheer, I lined it with some organza silk I had in my stash to give it stability instead of using interfacing, then I sewed everything together and attached an invisible zipper. I was worried that the fabric would be too lightweight to hold a zipper without puckering at the seams, but it held it’s shape just fine. Since I had re-sewn the pieces of the circle skirt and the edges seemed to be a little uneven, I let it hang overnight so the bias could re-acclimate to it’s new shape, and I evened out the edges and hemmed it the next day.

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To complete this look, I paired it with a Nettie bodysuit I made from a Closet Case Files pattern a couple of years ago. I was hoping the deep color of the bodysuit would give just enough contrast with the mauve to show through the skirt so that I could fully channel my inner-Debbie Allen, and I think it works beautifully. This is another look I have always loved and never found the RTW items to pull off: a maxi dress/skirt with bloomers underneath. The look came back on my radar after I saw a few scenes of Netflix’s show The Get Down. In all of the big disco scenes they shot, there are TONS of stunning outfits on the actors, but the all white maxi dress with the hip-high slit in the middle and the white bloomers peeking through was PERFECTION. I couldn’t get it out of my head, and this skirt and bodysuit for me is a much more casual iteration of that look. Eventually I would love to go full out and make a dramatic RedCarpetDIY version of that dress, but for now, this is a nice, safe stepping stone to the look.

 

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Even though this dress didn’t turn out the way I intended it to, it feels like a massive success. For one thing, I was able to learn from all the mistakes I made on this dress and apply my knowledge to a new version of the dress by starting over (if at first you don’t succeed, trycurious again!), and secondly, and perhaps most importantly, the make was not a total loss. I have talked about this before on the blog, but figuring out how to salvage my mess-ups, how to Tim Gunn it and make it work, how to make lemonade out of lemons, has shown me exactly how far my sewing has come in the few years that I have made it my main hobby. Sewing requires such a vast array of knowledge and techniques that it seems impossible to ever to get to a point where anyone knows it ALL, so to be reminded that I haven’t hit a wall and am continuing to learn more feels really good.

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My film Suicide Kale will be screening in Atlanta this weekend (check out www.suicidekale.com to find out more info!) and this outfit will be making it’s debut there! When filming a show, particularly on location like Underground, it’s rare to have opportunities for red carpet and PR events, so it seems a little ridiculous that I have focused ONLY on #redcarpetDIY makes in the past couple of months. But at the same time, if fancy fabrics are what grab you, it only make sense to go with them. So excited to high kick in this getup at the panel discussion after the screening, just to make Debbie Allen proud!

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