Hot Bits Founders Open Up about Their Erotic Arts Fest Coming This Weekend

Wit had a chat over coffee with Hot Bits Film Festival founders, Evie Snax and Heart Byrne. Hot Bits is a traveling erotic, do-it-yourself festival for lgbtq+ folks amplifying the films, performances, and artwork of marginalized communities. Wit will be contributing as the curator for the visual art portion of the festival. This year, the Hot Bits kicks off in Philadelphia at International House on Friday, April 26th.

Heart Byrne (left) and Evie Snax (right). Photo courtesy of Wit López.
Heart Byrne (left) and Evie Snax (right). Photo courtesy of Wit López.

The Hot Bits Film Festival, now in its third year, has grown exponentially since its humble beginnings in the gallery of 40th Street AIR Space in University City in 2017. Evie Snax and Heart Byrne share their feelings about the community’s desire for the festival and its unexpected, yet welcomed growth.

Wit López: How exactly did Hot Bits start?

Heart Byrne: The germ of the idea started when we both went to the Berlin Porn Film Festival in 2016. A film that we worked on together was in the festival. While we were there, we talked about what we liked, what we didn’t like, and if we were to do one, what we would do differently. We wished that something like this was in Philly.

Evie Snax: There were so many amazing freaky films there that I wanted to share with people in Philly.

HB: For me, being in a room with so many queer people and experiencing queer pleasure together was a really healing experience. I wanted to bring that feeling to Philly.

WL: How has it grown since that first one at 40th Street AIR?

HB: The first one wasn’t open to the public, we just invited our friends. We got lots of positive feedback from that event, so we wanted to look for a larger venue, and try charging for tickets, so that we could be in a bigger venue that required renting. So, we went to Vox Populi, which is another gallery space. I wasn’t sure if anyone was going to show up, but they did and we were sold out both nights. It was really energizing and it made me realize that it’s something that people in Philly want. Now, we’re at an even bigger space at Lightbox at International House.

ES: After we were sold out at Vox, we got a lot of feedback that the venue was too packed, the seating wasn’t comfortable enough, and the audience couldn’t see subtitles if they were in the back because there isn’t theater seating or a raised platform for the projections. We had to find a place with more comfortable seating and International House has been such a staple for film festivals like Blackstar Film Festival and PAAFF*.

WL: Accessibility is important to me as a disabled artist, so can you tell me about how accessibility is present in the festival?

ES: This is so important. Our values as a festival are to curate both the art and the space in such a way that it is thoughtful about not just representing and centering marginalized bodies, but prioritizing accessibility in the planning process. I would love for us to continually do better and to be even more accessible, but at this point all of the screening venues are wheelchair accessible and this year, we’re hiring an ASL interpreter and doing closed captioning on all films.

HB: And content warnings when necessary.

ES: And we have emotional support people, in case folks want to talk or feel triggered or just need to be supported.

HB: We’re setting up a space in the theater space… if folks need to get away from the films and have a quiet space.

WL: There’s mention of seating for fat folks too, which is also an accessibility issue. Can you tell me more?

HB: We’re still in conversation with the venue. The raised seating does have arms on the chairs, so it’s not as accessible, but in the front row, there are some moveable seats that we’re going to try to get chairs without arms for those seats. Also, we’re going to mark some seats as reserved for folks with needs.

WL: The festival is pretty financially accessible to the community. I love the model you have where there are different price points. Can you talk about how you came up with the idea?

ES: We have two tiers of pricing: regular admission and discounted [admission] for trans women and people of color. We chose to do this because not only are [people of color] and trans women not making as much, but our lives are costing more in this world — it’s an imperfect way to try to combat that in our own small way.

WL: That’s great and I wish that I saw that model used in more places. I remember that last year the festival traveled outside of Philly. What were the logistics behind that?

HB: It started traveling because Evie met Topshelf, and Topshelf thought Hot Bits was a cool idea and wanted to do it in Baltimore. Topshelf is a person that gets things done, she put in all this amazing work to find a venue and to publicize and get performers for the event in Baltimore.

ES: Wit, you connected us with the Unbound Bodies collective in Boston after you did a performance there with Bashezo and Stokely.

HB: Having it in both of these cities was really successful and also sold out in these cities. It seemed like people really enjoyed it. We have a link on the website where folks can contact us if they want to bring Hot Bits to their own community. Whatever city wants to book Hot Bits, it’s their responsibility to find a venue and book local performers.

WL: Some of the films are local?

ES: We do have quite a few local filmmakers. I’m pretty sure that they all came to Hot Bits in the last couple of years and felt inspired. For a few of them, it’s their first ever porn and/or their first time filmmaking. It’s really exciting that we’re inspiring folks to make art. I couldn’t ask for more.

WL: Where do you see Hot Bits going in the future?

HB: I don’t know right now. Managing the financial sustainability is something we’re still figuring out. All of us who work on it are volunteers. I think it’s an unknown. But, I’m already thinking about next year, and how we can make it better.

WL: Any other thoughts?

HB: We’re always looking for volunteers. If folks want to volunteer, they can reach out to us through the website.

ES: If there’s a theater that wants to host Hot Bits in the future for free, contact us! Come to Hot Bits! Support!