News Column

Area teen to star in 'Sugar Skull Girls'

July 31, 2014

By Kristen Gaydos, The Citizens' Voice, Wilkes-Barre, Pa.



July 31--Isabella Sobejano of Laflin sits on a chair in a former antique shop, wearing street clothes and a full face of bright pink makeup.

She reads her lines off camera, surrounded by crew members watching Moriah Tobin act out the other half of their "phone conversation" on camera. The two are working on a scene for Potent Media's "Sugar Skull Girls," a supernatural family film due out in 2015.

Sobejano, 14, said she loves getting to be someone else when she's acting -- in this case, a demonic, pink shapeshifter named Venus who likes to wreak a little havoc.

"It's cool. I love getting out of who I really am. You get to be someone you're not," she said. "When I was playing Venus, you get lost in your character -- you're sassy. You're someone completely different and that's really fun."

There's not much among the bare walls and scuffed wooden floorboards on the second floor of the three-story building in Hulmeville, just outside Philadelphia -- except the giant green screen, a plushy camera interior, and a colorful bedroom suited for a teenage girl. Potent Media founder and director Christian Grillo, who also directed the company's thriller "Apocalypse Kiss" and horror film "Deer Crossing," aimed to create a family-friendly Halloween movie with "Sugar Skull Girls."

On a June afternoon, Tobin sits in front of an old window dressed up with purple curtains and stuffed animals. The damaged walls and exposed pipes around her are tucked out of frame on camera, creating a convincing shot of a girl sitting near her bedroom window.

"We've got to make sure she's more framed to the right top. Venus will be framed to the left bottom," Grillo said as they set up the shot.

Sobejano spoke her lines with confidence as the scene unfolds, convincing the enthusiastic Mindy that she belongs in Venus' demonic circle of "friends." As Venus, Sobejano plays a shapeshifting demon who plots alongside her like-minded sisters, Luna and Blue.

"She's a sassy shapeshifter. She has magic powers. She can levitate. She can shapshift -- she actually, in one scene, shapeshifts into a venus flytrap," Sobejano said. "She's all in pink -- that's her signature look. She also has a 1950s look... so I have the sunglasses, and the fancy scarf."

The three sisters are conjured up from the dead, Sobejano said, although they aren't supposed to escape the Shadow World.

"It went wrong," she said. "The Pale Witch wants us to go back to the dead, but we don't want to leave, because we like living in the real world."

The film also stars Leslie Easterbrook, of "Police Academy" fame, and Michael Berryman of the 1977 film "The Hills Have Eyes" and numerous horror flicks. Sobejano got to meet Easterbrook and said that's another great part about acting -- getting to meet interesting people.

The shooting wrapped this summer, and the film is going to editing before its 2015 release date. Sobejano said filming went well and she can't wait to see the final product with all the special effects in place.

"I loved it," she said, adding the crew and cast were all great to work with. "Everyone was really nice."

Sobejano, who will attend Wyoming Seminary in the fall, started modeling at age two. Around age 10, she started doing commercials in English and Spanish, including for the calcium supplement Viactiv, Children's Health Insurance Program, and in Spanish for the juice brand Jugos Tropical.

"My first job was modelling for Boscovs," she said. "When I was 13, I did the short film 'The Final Days of Bucky and The Beat,' and that got me my (Internet Movie Database) credit."

Sobejano saw a post online for the "Sugar Skull Girls" casting, and decided to try out. When she got the callback, she got to come in and audition for Grillo.

"I was told two days later that I got the role. I was very excited. I had a hunch though, that I'd get it," she said, adding she was the only girl up for the role who didn't need to read her lines for the audition. "I memorized mine. I felt very confident. He liked that a lot."

For Sobejano, the hardest part about being an actor is watching herself on film and accepting her performance -- she can't help but critique her own performance.

"I've watched my commercials. I've watched my films, and I get so self-conscious. It's hard to accept that it's there. It's done, and you've done the role. You almost feel like you want to go back and redo everything," she said. "It's hard to accept."

Luckily, the future will bring her more chances to keep fine-tuning her acting skills as she works on the next installment of the "Sugar Skulls Girls" trilogy.

She'll also be working hard at school -- very fitting for the daughter of two college professors. Her mother, Paola, teaches foreign languages at Wilkes University, while her father, Antonio, teaches Spanish literature at Binghampton University in New York. She and her brother, Claudio, 12, both do well in school and Claudio has also done some acting, Sobejano said.

"They've influenced me very much. My family has supported me completely," Sobejano said.

kgaydos@citizensvoice.com, 570-821-2118

Movie: "Sugar Skull Girls"

Production Company: Potent Media Synopsis:

Three demonic sisters who resemble neo-goth voodoo dolls are accidentally conjured from the other side during a failed attempt to raise a little girl from the dead. With impeccable fashion sense and teen aged angst, the Sugar Skull Girls will stop at nothing to escape the clutches of The Pale Witch, the ruler of The Shadow world. (Source: Potent Media, imdb.com)

Release: Fall 2015 Online: imdb.com/title/tt3361068, facebook.com/TheSugarSkullGirls Teaser

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(c)2014 The Citizens' Voice (Wilkes-Barre, Pa.)

Visit The Citizens' Voice (Wilkes-Barre, Pa.) at citizensvoice.com

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Source: Citizens' Voice, The (Wilkes-Barre, PA)


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