Iphis and Ianthe

Rory Hunt, School of Music, Theatre & Dance

Collaborators: Miles Hionis, SMTD, Stamps (Interarts); Maddie Vassalo, SMTD, Stamps (Interarts); Maddy Ringo, SMTD

We hope to create a film project based on the Greek myth Iphis and Ianthe that updates the story to reflect our present day reality. We plan to take this inherently queer story and focus on the connection between Iphis and Ianthe, challenging the negative stereotypes surrounding transgender romantic and sexual love and providing a positive example of a healthy romantic relationship between a transgender and a cisgender person.

We hope that this project can help highlight the difficulties that transgender men face finding love in a political climate that is increasingly hostile towards trans people and create greater visibility for the trans community at the University of Michigan.

We plan to create a film project using experimental processes to bring together our group’s interests in visual art, theater, human rights, and computer science through a medium as limitless as film. Iphis and Ianthe combines animation, live action performance, and virtual reality sets built using Unreal Engine.

The physical set will be designed as a theatrical set would be. More specifically, we plan to fill the Duderstadt Video Studio with fake potted plants. Then, using the real time rendering capabilities of the 3D game engine we will incorporate the virtual set into the physical one. The theme of transformation and self-actualization, concepts integral to transgender stories, can be realized on the screen through the film’s transformations from animation, to virtual production, to on-site shooting.

As Iphis grows into his identity, the visual landscape becomes increasingly real. Other themes important to the transgender experiences that are rarely discussed will be included in the film. Specifically, the differences in perception between oneself and the world, the vulnerabilities of sex as a transgender person, and the reality that a child always is who they are, regardless of what their parents want them to be. Through these themes, we hope to open needed conversations on sexuality within the transgender community in an attempt to destigmatize the sexual lives of transgender individuals. Our goal is to promote transgender visibility and sex positivity within the University of Michigan community.

This piece will be filmed mostly within the Duderstadt video center the week of January 22, 2024 and in northern Michigan during the first week of May and will feature an original score composed by Michigan students.

Because this is going to be a devised piece, we will be exploring an egalitarian form of leadership which means that we will be working without specific roles. This will allow each person involved to bring their unique skills to this project in any way that they see fit. So far we have recruited Interarts, Directing, Voice, PAT, and Computer Science students to serve the needs of the process. However, we are aware that because our team is composed of people in so many different disciplines, it will be a challenge to develop a shared vocabulary when articulating our ideas and critiques when editing this piece. We hope that the devising process will help to make sure everyone’s ideas and interests can be heard.

We anticipate finishing all filming and editing by the end of June 2024. After that, we hope to submit this film to various film festivals in order to bring a much needed positive queer story to an audience outside of the University of Michigan community. Ultimately, through this project, our team hopes to further develop experience in areas of story creation, design, film performance, composition, scoring and sound design, direction, and virtual production outside of the classroom, and bring awareness to lesser talked about aspects of trans identity.