A white and Black woman in Victorian dress stand next to each other

Elliot Page to Executive Produce a Series on Brooklyn’s Fascinating Queer History—in VR

Elliot Page is entering the virtual insanity.

Brooklyn’s queer past is waiting to be discovered. Academy Award-nominated actor Elliot Page, via Pageboy Productions, will develop a virtual reality series, When Brooklyn Was Queer.

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The When Brooklyn Was Queer virtual reality series is adapted from Hugh Ryan’s eponymous book exploring the LGBTQIA+ history of one of New York City’s most famous boroughs, Brooklyn. It spans from the early days when, in the 1850s, Walt Whitman would cruise the waterfront to meet “comrades” to the 1940s when the February House was established, a Brooklyn Heights arts commune where mostly queer creatives frequented, including W.H. Auden, Gypsy Rose Lee, and Jane Bowles, and beyond.

Using the book as a framework, the immersive VR series will use mixed reality (a blend of physical environments and virtual ones, e.g., augmented reality (AR)) to “transport viewers into Brooklyn’s past, allowing them to witness the struggles, triumphs, and unique experiences of the queer community during a pivotal time in history.”

Ryan said, “It’s an honor to see Brooklyn’s queer history brought vividly into the 21st century by such an incredible team of artists and storytellers. Brooklyn has been at the forefront of queer culture for over 200 years, and now, people all over the world will get to experience our history firsthand.”

When Brooklyn Was Queer Cover shows two men with linked arms and backs turned toward us
(Macmillan Publishers)

To bring When Brooklyn Was Queer to life, Page has partnered with Emmy Award-nominated MA Productions and XR media company New Canvas.

News of the VR series adaptation of When Brooklyn Was Queer follows the announcement that New Canvas was selected among 13 businesses to participate in the Warner Bros. Discovery and venture fund Acme Innovation’s Collider On The Lot accelerator program. This initiative “connects entrepreneurs with investors, provides executive-level education, and fosters partnerships with Warner Bros. Discovery and Acme to explore innovative business models using emerging technologies.” 

Established in 2020, the Webby Award-nominated New Canvas, a founding member of the Byron Bay XR Collective, is a next-generation media company that develops content and formats to drive mainstream adoption of “immersive entertainment for digital-first audiences with an unapologetic focus on diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging for the Metaverse.” Notably, New Canvas has produced the VR series Lustration, directed by First Nations director Ryan Griffen. The series premiered at SXSW in 2022, was nominated for a Webby Award, and was made available on Meta Quest’s Oculus TV.

When Brooklyn Was Queer isn’t just a book; it’s a beacon for an extraordinary VR adaptation,” said Wadooah Wali, Chief Strategy Officer and Executive Producer at New Canvas in a statement. “We’re thrilled to collaborate with Hugh, Maor, Dan, Matt, Tuck, and Elliot to pioneer this timely and groundbreaking VR series. This project is a bridge between past and present, and we’re able to elevate the storytelling and immerse audiences in a way that’s never been done before.” 

Wali continued, “Not only is this team uniquely positioned to transform these profound stories inspired by real people and events into immersive experiences, but it’s also our shared commitment to creating opportunities for underserved communities to be seen and heard. It’s both our joy and obligation to honor these historical truths and present them to the world in a dynamic new medium that transcends viewing formats beyond traditional flat screen entertainment.” 

Page and Ryan will be executive producers alongside New Canvas. Matt Jordan Smith and Tuck Dowrey of PAGEBOY Productions and Maor Azran and Dan Adler of MA Productions join as executive producers.

Page and Jordan Smith issued a joint statement:

Our company’s mission is to tell elevated, entertaining, original intersectional, and socially responsible stories that explore themes like generational queerness. As a creative company that pushes boundaries, it is exciting for us to work with New Canvas to bring queer stories into the world of XR for the first time. We believe making quality art that portrays varied, authentic experiences elicits empathy [and] understanding and ultimately has the power to change hearts and minds. We are thrilled to partner with Hugh, a master curator, historian, and writer, to unearth and spotlight these very real people and experiences from our community’s history that are still very relevant today.

While we still don’t have a release date for the series, production is set to begin sometime in 2024. The press release states, “Further announcements, including talent, platform distribution partnerships, and release dates, will be made in due course.”

IF Magazine, an Australian outlet, received a small tip about possible distribution partners. “While discussions are ongoing, IF understands there are likely to be Australian partners involved in the project,” it reported. That would make sense, as New Canvas is based in Byron Bay, Australia, and Los Angeles, California.

(featured image: New Canvas)


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Author
Rebecca Oliver Kaplan
Rebecca Oliver Kaplan (she/he) is a comics critic and entertainment writer, who's dipping her toes into new types of reporting at The Mary Sue and is stoked. In 2023, he was part of the PanelxPanel comics criticism team honored with an Eisner Award. You can find some more of his writing at Prism Comics, StarTrek.com, Comics Beat, Geek Girl Authority, and in Double Challenge: Being LGBTQ and a Minority, which she co-authored with her wife, Avery Kaplan. Rebecca and her wife live in the California mountains with a herd of cats.