Gamer Quebec : Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions today. Can you introduce yourself to our readers and tell us more about what led you in the movie industry in the first place?
Sabrina Cooper : Hello, my name is Sabrina I am the producer for Phantasmagoria: The Movie. My adventure to the film industry is a bit of an odd one. I had always wanted to go into film but couldn’t afford to go to college right after high school. So, instead I opened my own business, a dance studio (my other passion). I ended up moving to Florida and opened a second location as well. Thanks to a divorce, I had to close my studios and that is when I decided to do what I always wanted to do, study film. I received my BS in film production at Full Sail University and studied producing at the American Film Institute. I had a wonderful opportunity come my way to open my third business, Black Castle Productions, and here we are today.
GQ : You surprised a lot of people when you announced the Phantasmagoria movie project. What are the motivations behind this particular choice among all other possible videogames on the market?
SB : Oh, here comes the nerd inside of me. I was in high school when actual game came out in 1995 (showing my age there!) The first time I played it, I was like, “Man, they need to make this into a movie!” But that never happened. When I was in my undergrad we had a producing class and one of the projects was you needed to make a prospectus on a project you would like to produce once you get out of school. I knew EXACTLY the project, Phantasmagoria! And there it started. I’m a HUGE fan of the game and still have the actual game discs (and the making of book), it even still plays on my old Toshiba laptop….VERY slowly! My director Steven Shea is a huge fan as well.
SB : Haha yes, we are. I’m not a huge gamer but Phantasmagoria was a big part of my youth. My business partner, Jeremy Noggles, is a big gamer and so is my writing partner Alexandra Amadio.
GQ : How much of the story remains true to its source material in Phantasmagoria the movie, and to what extend did you have to modify the scenario to fit on the silver screen?
SB : I think the fans of the game are going to be VERY happy with what we are doing with it! But like all adaptations, things do have to change in order for it to cross over to the medium of film and movies. The first thing that fans of the game will notice is that we moved the location. Audiences are too smart today and we just couldn’t say a writer (Adrienne) and a photographer (Don) would be able to buy a huge mansion like that. The audience would be like “yea, right! That would NEVER happen!” and it would take them out of the movie before it even started. We also knew that there is an underground following for this game BUT quite a few people have NEVER heard of it. So when a fan of the game sees it, I think they will be very happy because there is a few things that are “insider secrets” to if you played the game the movie will put a grin on their face and if you have never heard of the game or even played it, you will still enjoy the adventures.
GQ : Regarding the cast of Phantasmagoria, we know for a fact that Miriam Margoyles will play the role of Harriet. Mischa Barton is rumoured to be cast as the main character Adrienne. How much of a challenge is it for you — a new studio in the business — to find talent for the project without an established portfolio?
SB : Ugh, don’t even get me started on trying to get this movie or any movie cast. It really is a trying process in Hollywood. When we started casting, 6 months ago, we had a wish list of actors we thought were perfect for each role. The actors we picked we knew worked in our budget range. After going through this process I TOTALLY understand why actors don’t get work, or they are miscast for roles. My partner and I know many actors personally that we approached those that we thought would be perfect for the parts! We would go to them first, then of course through their agent or manager and that’s where it stopped. Everyone is always holding out for a “studio” film, even though they could work more if they took these smaller films from independent production companies. Miriam was our first choice for Harriet! When she spoke to Steven she nailed the part! VERY excited to have her on this project she is such an amazing actor. As for the rest of the cast, that should be coming out in the coming weeks. We will announce on our Facebook page first.
GQ : It’s been said the movie will have a small budget (i.e. under $10 millions). Are you confidant this will be enough to translate the vision of the original video game into a full-fledged movie?
SB : Oh, yes, very much so! You are right, no one is going to make a huge salary off of the movie, but that’s not the reason why we are making films to start with. Plus, we are going “old school” with this movie to stay with the look and feel of the game. The film will be shot ON film, everything will be done practical to keep the budget down and very little CG will be used. Remember the time when movies didn’t have CG, if they did it was VERY little and they still are some of our favorite movies today??? It can be done, you just have to be creative and think WAY outside of the box. We have a fantastic crew ready to go in New Orleans and most are fans of the game. So, there is a lot of love for this project.
GQ : Since you are working on an existing intellectual property, one might ask if you are in touch with any of the developers who worked on the original series, like Roberta Williams?
SB : Oh it was VERY hard to find the original crew for it. I did speak to Ken and Roberta but honestly after all the buying and selling and taking over they have nothing to do with it anymore. However, I would still LOVE to have them at the premiere for it! I’m also good friends with many of the original actors, so the fans of the game better keep their eyes out when watching the movies!
GQ : Do you think your movie could spring new interest in the franchise and, who knows, even lead to the creation of a new videogame in the series even though Sierra is no more?
SB : In this crazy world you just never know. I’ve been asked many times about updating the game and rereleasing it. You are just going to have to wait and find out.
GQ : This is a big one, but when do you expect the movie to hit our theaters here in Canada (or in the U.S. for that matter)?
SB : That is a funny question and many do not realize that, we, the makers of the movie do not set the release dates. That is left to the distributors. If all goes according to plan our hope is around Halloween 2014 but then again distributors might want Halloween 2015. I wish I had an absolute answer for you but I don’t. We will however be going to Comic-Con this year with the project, so maybe we will have an answer then?
GQ : Any other words for fans of the videogame about what to expect from your movie?
SB : Fans, I think, are going to love it and appreciate what we are doing with it. Wits it’s release we are doing something that has NEVER been done in a release before, that totally goes with how the original game it’s self is. It will be a total moviegoer experience making you want to go back for more. So expect the unexpected and like us on Facebook, follow black castle on twitter and many of our keys crew members are on twitter as well. We ALWAYS update there first before anywhere else.