Are you going to bare it all with hundreds of other people and ride your bicycle naked in the legendary Fremont Solstice Parade this year? Among those hundreds will be many people who have never done anything quite like that before. Beyond Naked is a documentary about four of them.
“Any act of creativity requires that you expose yourself a little bit,” said Director Dan McComb. “It’s a movie about creative courage.”
The filmmakers have launched a Kickstarter campaign (ends June 12) and are one of three films that will split the revenue from the Film Industry Night fundraiser at Neumo’s tonight (June 1) from 6-9 p.m. on Capitol Hill.
For each of the four first-timers, the ride presents a different personal challenge. The film is not just about taking the plunge, but its also about each participant’s hangups and concerns, as well as the forces that drive them to do it.
Molly Meggyesy has to overcome her fear of being judged. Emily Resling is on a mission to bring joy back into her life after the death of her father late last year, but first she will have to learn to ride a bicycle. Marty Vale is a grandmother looking to cross one more item off her bucket list. As a gay rights activist for much of his life, Jeff Hedgepeth was among the first gay couples to get married when Canada legalized same-sex marriage in 2003. But this is a very different challenge.
The filmmakers originally set out with the outgoing Tiberio Simone to find random people on the street and ask if they would ride naked in the Fremont Solstice Parade. Nearly everyone said no, and the ones who said yes (including one of the Pike Place Market fish throwers) all fell through as potential cast members. In the end, the four cast members mostly found them.
The tradition of naked bike riders at the Solstice Parade faced some moments of uncertainty and forced Seattle to make a decision about what kind of city it would be. Shortly after the turn of the millennium, the Solstice Parade planners were put on the spot by the city and the police to put up signs discouraging the relatively young tradition. If riders disobeyed the signs, they could be arrested.
But even though the naked bike ride is not even an official part of the parade (technically, they are sort of crashing the parade), the parade organizers went to bat for the riders and refused to put up the signs. This put the ball in the city’s court to reject the parade’s permit, which it did not. Councilmember Nick Licata put it to the filmmakers this way:
“In some ways it [naked cycling] was a defining moment for Seattle…they were the edgiest expression of Seattle’s creativity. And, by tolerating them, I think we sent a message out that Seattle is a place where you can come and literally be free. And that means a lot, strangely enough, to a lot of entrepreneurs…you find expanding economies where you have a toleration for diversity.”
So the question remains: Why ride naked?
McComb and Producer Lisa Cooper have heard a lot of reasons. Some people see it as an act of self-love and a sign that the rider feels comfortable in his or her body. A couple of the riders are old-school nudists. But for McComb, it’s about proving something to yourself.
“It’s this whole idea of challenging yourself to do something you didn’t think you could do,” he said. After he rode for the first time in 2003, he got the courage to start his own business (biznik.com).
“I credit some of the inspiration for starting that business to taking my clothes off and doing something I didn’t think I could do,” he said. “It changes you.”
Perhaps the question should actually be: Why not ride naked?