Joystiq interview with Chasing Ghosts producer Michael Verrechia

Producer Michael Verrechia had time to answer some questions for us about his film Chasing Ghosts while getting it ready to show at the Los Angeles Film Festival. They're having a premiere on Sunday in Westwood, so if you live in the LA area stop by and grab a ticket.

Read on to find out what song the crew used to pump Michael up, how they nailed Billy Mitchell's theme music, and what it's like trying to convince a convicted felon to participate in a documentary.

You can also check out our review of the film, watch the trailer, and read the interview with director Lincoln Ruchti.

How do you know director Lincoln Ruchti? How long have the two of you worked together?

Lincoln and I have known each other for about 10 years and we've worked together on various projects for just about as long.

How did this project come to be? I know that you saw the photo and it just clicked with you, but how did it come about after that?

It really started when I was at my desk and read an article on CNN about classic arcade gamers. With a little further research I felt that we could put together a really fun piece on classic video games. I pitched the idea to Lincoln and we both agreed it would be a great first feature for us.

What was the biggest challenge, in your mind, that you all ran into while making the movie?

There were many challenges, but the biggest was finding a partner that would help us get the project off the ground. I essentially cold called as many gaming companies as it took to get someone interested. I remember practicing on companies that I knew would have no interest to get my rap down. I think I tried Budweiser,, etc. before I hit the gaming companies. Eventually we found a great partner, but they ended up being bought out by one of their competitors and the project became solely ours.

Were there any stories / interviews that you had to cut out for length? Did you have a favorite?

We cut a few great stories in order to shorten the film. We spent considerable time with Walter and had to cut a lot of his hometown. We cut a great toilet humor segment with Todd Rogers. Without revisiting some of the footage its really hard to pick a favorite.

Which story or gamer was the hardest to get?

The hardest story to get was definitely the convicted felon. One of the original LIFE players spent time in prison and he and his family wanted nothing to do with us. I spent weeks trying to line it up but got nowhere. It ended when I rang their doorbell and had a discussion with the players' mother. This happened after the crew got me pumped up by playing 'The Final Countdown' by Europe. Actually, that song became our go-to music whenever we needed to get ready for something big.

What was one of the strangest moments you encountered while working on this?

There were definitely a few. We met some really interesting people along the way. I don't know about the strangest, but the most awkward for me was in Todd's tarantula closet. I have a fear of bugs, especially roaches which he had a whole aquarium full, and being in his room was getting to me. I ended up playing Smurf on the Atari 2600 with his son during that interview.

How did you get all of the great 80s music throughout the film?

We spent a lot of time deciding on music. I remember having conversations at all hours of the day on the subject and spending a lot of time listening to samples on iTunes. For instance, I remember calling Lincoln early on a
Saturday morning and saying "If we don't use 'The Stroke' for Billy Mitchell. I don't know what kind of people we are." We had a lot of conversations that were similar to this.

How quickly did you all get Walter Day involved in the process, and how did that come about?

Walter was the first peroson we contacted once we decided to jump in to the project. I, like many of the world record holders, just called him. The thing about Walter is that he is always there to field the call. He really was/is dedicated to the gaming hobby, even if it doesn't mean great fortune for him.

There's a lot of great 80s imagery that was shot in the present day, where did you go to get shots of the games themselves, the closeup of the quarter being inserted into the machine, and things like that?

Lisa Wiegand is responsible for all of that (she has more Chasing Ghosts footage on her website). We brought her in fairly early in the process and she was really excited about working on the project. She does great work. We also utilized the animation genius of Peter Hirschberg, who we found on a message board. He was so into our project that he got right to work and did some amazing animation of the classic games. We are happy to have them as part of our team going forward.

Have you seen King of Kong, and what do you think about it?

I have not yet seen it, but I've read about it and heard from a lot of the players that have been effected by it. I believe they have a great team in place to promote the film in New Line and Picturehouse and that they've done a bang up job in getting the word out there. From what I've read of KoK and what I know about Chasing Ghosts, it seems that we really focus on different eras. The reviews really place their story in the now and specifically on a rift between two players.

Chasing Ghosts
takes place during that moment in time when the arcades ruled pop culture. We really wanted to take people back to 1982 when everyone in the world was pumping quarters into arcade machines and then introduce you to the best players in the world during that era. The real life Matthew Brodericks from WarGames. Telling the definitive story about that era was always our goal.

Do you play any games? What systems do you play on?

I would love to play more, but I don't really have the time. I find myself playing some of the older games like original NES, or N64. Things I know how to play. I love MAME because I can play some of the titles that I love. Mappy, Pac-Land, Paperboy, Berzerk, etc.

How has the response been to the film at the screenings it has been at so far?

The response has been fantastic. Every screening we've had has gone over very well. It's great to see the audience wait around to talk with us and while at Sundance there were so many visitors to our arcade that had seen the film and had great things to say. It realy has been great.

What's next as far as the release of the film is concerned?

We are still working on the release of the film. I think the next step is to play at L.A. Film Fest and go from there. The website for the film will be updated with information as we have it.

Are you guys planning any DVD extras?

We have a ton of footage, etc. for the DVD. Some easter egg ideas have been thrown around. We will probably also release some of the extras on our website.

Would you do it all over again if you had to?

I absolutely would. Chasing Ghosts started when I was sitting at a desk reading the news. I came into this with no ties to the industry; no agents, lawyers or managers. My first crack at a feature premiered at Sundance. As
a producer it has been very fulfilling.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.