Then HIV came. Death denuded us all. It stripped away the queer skins of normalcy and perversion. What was left was only human.
A diary and a box of belongings offers you and a devoutly Catholic mother living in rural Missouri in the early 1990’s a chance to know Sebastian, the estranged son she has lost to AIDS. In this haptic experience for Oculus Rift, you are seated in the back seat of a photorealistic vintage 1986 Cadillac Sedan Deville, behind the two grieving parents, Ed and Mary-Helen, as you take an emotionally wrenching journey down a country road, a memory lane populated with scrapbook artifacts from their son’s life. How will you choose to reconstruct him and his life? Was he "a disgrace" as his father says or was he a "good man" like his mother wants to believe? Or, maybe, like the rest of us, just "human," somewhere in between.
Impact--Transgender, Vulnerable, Diversity
The Centers for Disease Control can't write these words anymore. The White House webpage on National AIDS policy is literally blank. Queerskins is a project especially worthy of support NOW. This is not a partisan political work, but through story and technology, it puts visitors in the position of experiencing the intimate interior worlds of others. You aren't in the driver's seat, because, you know, as in life, as in politics, it's still the dad who drives. Death is final. You can't change that. The material reality that LGBTQI people experience every day is not something you can wish away. But, you can change your own mind, your own way of accepting and supporting others within or outside your community. You can expand your conception of who is worthy of love and forgiveness and respect. This work allows YOU to create the main character. Who was he, what was his life? Was he worthy? Maybe you will hate that he is religious or maybe you will hate that he has sex with men, wherever you come from, you will construct him a different way. As a woman, trained as a physician specializing an HIV who works in one of the most notorious jails in the U.S. (Szilak) and a gay man (Tsiboulski), we have our own answers, just as you will have yours. There is no judgement right or wrong. Our hope is that, in constructing the story, you'll learn something important about yourself and your limits. It's a gift to understand this. Because, only in seeing it, can real change happen.
Sebastian Adler: an intelligent, sensitive, somewhat naïve romantic whose loss of faith as a teenager coincides with a growing awareness of his sexuality. A physician committed to the ideals of compassion and empathy, he has spent his adult life searching for a place where he will finally be accepted.
Mary-Helen Adler: Sebastian’s mother, a smart, religious woman whose unexpected pregnancy with Sebastian cuts short her dreams of college and career. Her estrangement from her son is a path of least resistance conveniently concordant both with Catholic Church teachings and her husband’s homophobia.
Ed Adler: Sebastian’s father, an emotionally distant man with a strict sense of duty whose humanity is expressed primarily through his genuine love for his wife. He views Sebastian’s homosexuality as a supreme act of rebellion and a challenge to his own rigid conception of masculinity.
Harnessing the immersive realism of 360º video (shot on location in rural Missouri), volumetric video capture with Depthkit, photogrammetry and the artistic potential of CGI, Queerskins offers visitors a new kind of interactive cinema, one in which they construct the story from an excess of information.
In this episode, many visitors will be engrossed by the drama unfolding in the front seat. Because of the intimate proximity, visitors feel and read the exchange physically, very unlike the detached experience of watching a film. Alternatively, visitors might decide to escape the emotional tension by rolling down the window.
In headset view of 360º video of the Missouri landscape shot from a moving car
Enjoying the beautiful scenery, they begin to imagine who Sebastian was, reconstructing him mentally from roadside billboards displaying not ads, but personal photographs.
Other visitors might seek clues to his story by exploring a box of his belongings. Towards the end of the experience, visitors will be able to read Sebastian's diary. Opening it, they can view the animated text and hear Sebastian, recorded with spatial binaural audio technology, tell his own story in intimate detail.
Michael DeBartolo plays "Sebastian"
The experience, a day compressed into the span of fifteen minutes, ends with visitors and Sebastian’s parents arriving at the cemetery at sunset. After witnessing a final wrenching conversation between the parents, visitors are left alone to contemplate the beauty and pathos of what they have just experienced.
What You Are Supporting
We don’t pay ourselves for the hundreds and hundreds of hours we have spent and will spend on this project. Every cent of your contributions will go only to physically making this project. We have been so fortunate to attract an amazing group of people to work with us. Because of this, we need your support to finish the most challenging parts of the project to stay on target for The Tribeca Film Festival in April 2018. We know VR hasn't reached mass consumer status, yet. This is really like the beginning of cinema in some ways and that is why it is CRITICAL that a groundbreaking queer story like this get made NOW. If we can do it, we pave the way for other artists to make inroads in this new frontier.
1. Photogrammetry and 3D modeling of a vintage 1986 Cadillac Sedan Deville (Pat Goodwin)
2. Development and choreography of the dialogue between Ed and Mary Helen (with expert help from theater director/choreographer Dawn Saito)
3. Shooting 360 video from a moving car over four days in rural Missouri (Richard Hammer)
4. Having a built-to-scale green screen mock-up of the car-interior designed and constructed (The Dad Shop)
5. Shooting incredible actors (Hadley Boyd and Drew Moore) in a professional greenscreen studio with Depthkit (Supreet Mahanti), with in-sync video lighting programmed by our amazing DP (Cory Allen).
6. Recording spatial binaural audio monologues of Sebastian (Michael deBartola) reading his intimate, lyrical diary entries which make visitors feel as if he is in the room with them (Laura Cunningham)
What’s Left to Do?
What’s left you might ask? Well, a lot. Now comes the fun of putting it all together and making it work technically and aesthetically in Unity. Interactivity, color grading, stabilization, finish 3D modeling and animation, We know we can do this!
Anything beyond the $25K raised will be used to develop an interactive installation to house the project for exhibition/or go toward production of episode 2 (taking place on a beach near L.A.). Though both of us are perpetually sleep deprived, we feel honored and humbled by the trust that has been placed in us and the opportunity to make what has been a ten year labor of love. It’s challenging and brave and a little bit crazy creating something that no one has made before. But, then, that pretty much characterizes what we think artists should be.
We pay you back with cool stuff. Oculus Rift, put your own name or personal photo in what is going to be a landmark project for VR, party in hippest Williamsburg with VR notables. And, for only the price of a few skim lattes--this-- Michael DeBartolo (Sebastian) explains.
A Transmedia Project
Jarrah Gurrie as "Alex" in the online multimedia narrative available at www.queerskins.com
Queerskins: a love story episode 1 is part of a trans-media project. When completed, it will include four linked virtual reality episodes, a curated immersive theatrical installation (a recreation of Sebastian’s Missouri attic bedroom) to house the experience, and our existing award-winning online interactive multimedia story (www.queerskins.com) available free online.
You aren’t the only one who thinks this project is worthy of support...
Queerskins: a love story is supported by the Tribeca Film Institute/MacArthur Foundation, The Sundance Institute/Arcus Foundation, and by Depthkit—a suite of tools that allows anyone to capture, edit, and publish volumetric experiences.
Risks and challenges
We are brave. We take risks. We break rules. We do not take “no” for an answer. We will go to the ends of the Earth for our projects. We have Skyped with a Japanese designer of androids at 2AM, we have toured North Korea, we have spent days driving around rural Missouri eating fried food and shooting 360º video, we have learned foreign languages.
When it comes to trying to make people give us money, we are not the hustlers we wish we were. Getting grants from Sundance Institute and Tribeca Film Institute has been like finding the Wonka golden ticket. It shouldn’t be that way. But, that’s how the world works. That monetary support and the fact that it opens doors has made all the difference.
We are hopeful that through this Kickstarter campaign we will find people of all stripes and types who want to be part of this groundbreaking VR experience that celebrates love in its many forms. We need your money, but we also need your good will to spread the word and publicize Queerskins through your social networks. VR is not yet a widely adopted consumer platform. We know that our major outlets right now will be in film festivals and art exhibitions. Your promoting us helps not only with raising money but with the equally big challenge of getting it out there and seen.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)