Q&A with Syracuse based documentary film-maker, Erin Davies

After having her Volkswagen Beetle vandalized with “FAG” across the side door, Erin Davies didn’t want to let the hate crime be merely a stain in her memories.

Instead, she embraced it, kept it on the car and decorated it with rainbow decals. She covered the original act of vandalism with a new, more colorful Fagbug and then took it on the road.

The buggie is based out of Syracuse, and has been spotted along Interstate 81, on South Crouse Avenue, near the Carrier Dome and Tops Friendly Market near South Campus.

Since then, she’s brought her car to all 50 states, which will be the topic of her next documentary, Fagbug Nation.

The Daily Orange spoke with Davies about her project.

The Daily Orange: What was the idea behind Fagbug?

Erin Davies: It started with my car getting vandalized in 2007. Somebody spray painted Fag on my car and that incident started Fagbug. I ended up leaving it on my car as a positive response to what happened to showcase it. I decided to have a road trip across the nation to showcase what happened to the car and talk to people to understand why that would happen.

The D.O.: What documentaries have you done?

E.D.: I have one documentary, it’s called “Fagbug,” [and] it’s been out for several years on Netflix. I have been touring with that project for 7 years. This spring I filmed a sequel, it’s called “Fagbug Nation.” After driving with it for 1 year, I changed it. Now it’s rainbow striped. It’s about getting the car to all 50 states. Hawaii and Alaska were the last two states I had to get to. I went to Hawaii in May. I shipped my car from San Diego to Maui, then I shipped it back to Seattle, and I drove it to Alaska. It’s something I wanted to do for a long time, but it took a lot to get it done. I was at 48 states for the last three years but I kept saying I wanted to do it. It was a lot to plan. Every single decision I’ve made for the last 7 years has been my reaction to that person. I’ve interviewed thousands of people for this film, and that would be the one person I’d like to meet. Just last week, three people shared stories to me about their car being vandalized. That happens to people all across the country.

The D.O.: What was the general reception to the Fagbug campaign when it first started?

E.D.: Everybody thought it was great so I had positive initial reactions. The reactions became mixed after I decided to take my trip and make the film. Ever since then, the reaction to what I’m doing has always been criticized because people are confused. People think if you’re an activist you shouldn’t be making any money. The feedback to the Fagbug has always been controversial. In the first month, somebody took a razor to the window and just removed Fag off the window. Every major decision I made with it, people have polar opposite reactions. Two people can pass by my car on the highway, and one can think ‘that’s so awesome’ and the other can think ‘that’s offensive’ and it would strike up a conversation.

The D.O.: What do you hope to accomplish with your car?

E.D.: I’m taking a negative experience and showing that you don’t have to be shamed by it — you can empower yourself. The project is a lot about goal-setting, how do you actualize a creative project and how do you actualize goals. If everyone who ever had a car vandalized did what I did, I don’t think people would do that anymore. If you watch the film, it’s very personal. It’s my goal that people watch the film and by the end feel a connection to me as a real human being.

The D.O.: What do you have planned for the future?

E.D.: I spent the last five years touring with the first film. I plan on spending the next couple of years for touring with it. I’m hoping to have Fagbug Nation qualified for the Oscars. I have to raise $50,000 to do that. It took 4 years to get my movie on Netflix. I’d like to find a creative way to get my project in more elementary schools. I wrote a book called the Rainbow Bug and I’d like to be able to take that to elementary schools.


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