'We know VR hasn't reached mass consumer status. In some ways it is like the beginning of cinema. That is why it is so critical that queer artists be at the forefront of this new medium'
About the project
The story Queerskins features is about Sebastian Adler, gay doctor from Missouri who dies of AIDS. His mother, a devoutly Catholic woman, stumbles upon his diary when going through his belongings. Set in the early 1990s, she uses the diary as a second chance to get to know her estranged son.
‘In this emotionally-charged haptic experience for Oculus Rift Touch, visitors are seated in the back seat of a photorealistic vintage 1986 Cadillac Sedan Deville, behind the two grieving parents, Ed and Mary-Helen, as they take a magic realist journey down a country road, a memory lane populated with scrapbook artifacts from their son’s peripatetic life,’ the story’s description reads.
The immersive, 360-degree video was shot on location in rural Missouri. Users join Ed and Mary-Helen Adler as they discover clues about Sebastian’s life, passing billboards that feature personal photos instead of ads and listening to Sebastian’s voice read his diary.
The original version of Queerskins was released online for free back in 2013.
‘Within the last year, the political climate has obviously changed dramatically. We are seeing backlash which makes the story of Queerskins: a love story, more urgent than ever,’ Illya Szilak, the project’s writer and director, tells GSN.
‘All our work has been about the tension between embodied, material, historical existence, and the quintessentially human desire for transcendence through love, sex, art, faith, and storytelling itself. We never forget that queer people must negotiate living and loving in a real world that often devalues them.’
Who plays Sebastian?
Gay actor Michael DeBartolo is playing the role of Sebastian : ‘I’m playing Sebastian, who is a doctor from Missouri, who is out to his parents who are very religious and don’t approve of him,’ DeBartolo explains in an interview. ‘I certainly know what it’s like to not want to be me, or to be something different, or to have a part of myself that makes me feel ashamed that that is me.’
‘So I think that’s probably my biggest hook into him.’
‘We know VR hasn’t reached mass consumer status. In some ways it is like the beginning of cinema. That is why it is so critical that queer artists be at the forefront of this new medium,’ Cyril Tsiboulski, the project’s artistic director, tells GSN.
The cinematic drama is being funded via Kickstarter. It is set to premier at the Tribeca Film Festival in April 2018. Additionally, the project is being supported by the Tribeca Film Institute, The Sundance Institute, and Depthkit. Skywalker Studio is helping with the audio design.
‘We are happy this experience is going to play to a NYC audience, but we want it to speak to people in Missouri and Ohio and Kansas – to people who might never have thought they would have empathy and affection for a gay man,’ Szilak says. ‘The magic of VR is that visitors really feel that they are in the car with his parents as they struggle with their own failures and guilt and loss.’
‘We need powerful LGBTQ stories like this now, especially in VR which is still an open space for queer creativity unlike much of tech.’