Space 1889: The Secret of Phobos – Support this Movie!

As I mentioned in the podcast two days ago, there is a Space 1889 movie in the making in Viernheim, Germany and there is a Kickstarter project for the movie, please lend your support!

Here is some more info on what the project and the movie are all about:

Space 1889 is THE original Steampunk roleplaying game, created bei Frank Chadwick in 1988. Or rather: it’s “Steampunk light” the way you might know it from the works of Jules Verne, which makes it easier to turn into a movie than typical Steampunk stories. In the world of Space 1889 the colonial powers of Earth – thanks to Thomas Edison’s invention, the Ether Propeller – were able to conquer other planets of our solar system and make contact with the lords of the Mars channels and Lizardmen on Venus. The new edition of Space 1889 was funded thanks to a Kickstarter campaign by Clockwork Publishing some time ago. It’s the ideal setting for adventurous stories in a streampunky sci-fi setting.

In „Secret of Phobos“ you will, of course, get a short introduction to the world of Space 1889 in which Thomas Edison and Jack Armstron reached Mars with the help of their spaceship prototype nearly 20 years before the main story-arc begins. These two iconic characters will be important to the plot, but the main story is about a young female adventurer, Armstrong’s niece. Together with her Martian butler and a young writer she gets caught in a huge conspiracy: her uncle’s and Edison’s mistakes from the past make her a target for a dark cult and the last hope for a Martian princess. Our heroes’ journey leads them from Venus back to Earth, to Mars and finally to Mars’ eerie moon Phobos. It features ancient secrets, wild chases, dinosaurs, drama and and a well dosed portion of humor – as we are fully aware that this is a very low budget project and those shouldn’t take themselves too serious.


Of course, there is more info available at the Kickstarter webpage.

Now, I am really excited about this movie, I have played the role playing game and have also been involved with the Space 1889 & Beyond series of novels. During this involvement, I had the opportunity to interview Frank Chadwick, the original inventor and author of Space 1889.

So, I decided to ask the people responsible for the movie for an interview to help promote it, they reacted enthusiastically to my request and it is with great pleasure I now give you the interview with Mháire Stritter and Nico Mendrek:


Please tell us a little bit about yourselves.

Mháire: I’m a freelance journalist and translator, studied Sinology (Chinese) for 6 years and have been fascinated by anything out of the ordinary for all my life. I love fantasy and science fiction worlds, costumes, writing story-telling – and for about six years now I’ve been on camera nearly every day. My hobbies are roleplaying, both tabletop and live, reading, collecting and painting (and very occasionally playing with) miniatures, building costumes and PC-Gaming.

Nico: I’m a video journalist (simultaneously editor/cameraman/video editor) who tried to study biology once. I’ve been working for many German TV networks as a freelancer, then I was in charge of the online video department of for a couple of years … and now I am making a lot of videos for the German pen and paper “industry”. I’ve been into filmmaking since school, produced and directed a number of very cheap films and webseries and was lucky enough to even do so as part of my regular job!


Since the film is set in an RPG universe, when did you start role playing / life role playing?

Mháire: I started tabletop-roleplaying when I was about 12. My brother and I found a box for the German roleplaying game The Dark Eye and simply tried it out. And then I kind of never quit – I also played a lot of Shadowrun in my teenage years, several editions of DnD, a few systems written by friends or by me and the occasional session of Cthulhu, The One Ring, Apocalypse World, Dark Heresy and more. I first tried LARP when I was 15 and the first game was simply awesome (I ran with a pack of other teenage girls with ugly home-crafted weapons and improvised costumes, but it was GREAT) and the second was terrible and then it took years before I tried it again in my early twen-years. I’m not too much into the fighting anymore, but love to sew and craft costumes and really immerse myself in a fantasy world.

Nico: My story is quite similar. Just add 3 years to the age and skip the sewing and crafting part. The bit with a pack of teenage girls is true, though.


Did you know about steampunk before you came into contact with Space: 1889?

Mháire: Definitely. I do have a love for Victorian fashion – originally without gears 😉 – since my mother runs a small costume studio and used me as a model for some very lovely gowns. You’re probably going to see at least one of those in the movie. And then I gradually got to know about Steampunk – thanks to webcomics, friends and cosplayers on conventions. For myself I still prefer a simpler, more realistic version of Victorian fashion, but I’m totally in love with and amazed by the attention for detail and the simple joy of playing around with ideas that are part of this community.

Nico: I knew about it, but I didn’t really come in touch with the steampunk scene until recently. You can only be at home in so many scenes and there was already The Dark Eye, Star Wars, Discworld … But Jules Verne will always be among my top three favourite authors, if that counts.


Have you been in touch with Space: 1889 fans worldwide concerning this project?

Mháire: Since we work closely with Clockwork publishing who did the reboot of Space 1889, we do have connections to fans abroad. Nico can probably say something more precise about it 😉

Nico: Well … there is of course the creator Frank Chadwick who had to approve of the project (and luckily did). Recently we met Timothy Brown who also worked on Space 1889 back then and is a backer now. Furthermore there are some Steampunk fans in England who will appear as actors in the film.


When did you first have the idea for the movie?

Mháire: I can’t quite remember when we first talked about it. I think it was around when the German version of the new Space 1889 was published. We’re friends with the people from Clockwork and it was simply like: “Hey, that’s a great setting for a film what do you think?” Again, Nico probably has a loooot more details since he’s the actual filmmaker.

Nico: Actually back then I said to Patric of Clockwork: I’ll help you with the videos for the Space 1889 crowdfunding – but the next Kickstarter will be a movie in that setting. So the idea is close to two years old and we’ve been working on the script, effects and the teaser since then.


Has any sort of  production other than the trailer already happened?

Mháire: Mostly work on the script and tests for effects. Some of them are the few CGI-effects we will have to use, to pin a convincing Mars over the landscape of Iceland for instance. Others are works on miniatures and tiny Martian landscapes.


And this is the trailer:


And here are two behind the scenes photos from the trailer:


Have you done similar projects (maybe on a smaller scale) in the past?

Mháire: We made a fan-film for the German roleplaying game The Dark Eye: Leuenklinge. From the first day of shooting to the final version it took us … four years? I think. We shot on a lot of different locations with a lot of people who gathered for a weekend on a castle or in some woodland area in the boondocks of Germany. Everyone brought their own costume, we often had to improvise practically everything and it only worked out because everyone spent a lot of time and enthusiasm on the project. There was NO budget …but we made it. And it’s actually not quite bad! It’s a bit of a jigsaw puzzle with very different kinds of effects (or no effects), music by at least three different people and if you pay attention you’ll notice the dwarf is a different person behind the beard every second scene – but it’s finished. It’s even got fans. A few hundred. Just imagine what we could do with a bit of money 😉

Nico: And then there were two even cheaper discworld fan films for which we even had a contract with Terry Pratchett, a recent horror parody shot in under twelve hours and a Star Wars: The Old Republic webseries we made for ..


Was it hard to recruit actors (or did you have to drive aplicants away with a big stick)?

Mháire: Thanks to Leuenklinge we already have a handful of people who can act on camera. It’s a bit harder to find actor’s outside of Germany for the Brits and French characters in the film. So, it’s neither that we’re swamped with actors nor that we’re desperate to find someone.


What locations are used in the movie?

Mháire: That depends on the success of the Kickstarter. We plan to use the Azores for Venusian jungles – there’s beautiful rainforest on the islands and during off-season flights are very cheap, while the weather stays mild. The Martian drylands will be shot on locations in former Yugoslavia where several European “Western”-movies were made, but we will probably also use the Taklamakan and the Gobi since we plan to take the Silkroad to China for another project. And while we’re there (and brought along some actors) …

Nico: Of course the interiors of space ships will have to be build – but we have already chosen which attic to use for that – unless we reach the stretchgoal that enables us to build that set into a mobile home. And then there are many Victorian-looking environments in which we want to shoot scenes on Earth. One very generous person even offered us his home for a couple of scenes: A large country house with its own park that was used for tv movies a lot of times.


Have you promoted the movie anywhere before you started the Kickstarter?

Mháire: We did have the trailer up and promoted it on conventions and online before we decided on the Kickstarter campaign. So, yes, we did, but not at the level of the campaign.


Have you tried to find out the chances of success (perhaps based on the responses of people you shared the idea with) before you started the campaign?

Mháire: Well, we tried, but you never know. Crowdfunding is basically testing the chance of success in a make-or-brake kind of way.


In case you really overshoot your target by a lot, would you consider subtitles in more languages?

Mháire: Of course! That is probably going to be the first stretchgoal after the ones we currently offer.

Nico: I think it’s already possible if we reach the second or third stretchgoal, to add at least French and Spanish subtitles as well.


And the final one:

Are you planning on showing the finished movie in an actual cinema, too?

Mháire: Yes, we are. As part of the premiere – the plan is to rent a cinema for a private showing. So yes, it will be in an actual cinema. No, it probably won’t be shown there regularly ;).


Thank you so much for your time, Mháire and Nico, and the efforts you are putting into this project.

And now, everybody, go and support The Secret of Phobos.


All images © Nico Mendrek and used with kind permission.