An Interview With Horror Director Rob Himebaugh – Part 1

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Rob Himebaugh is a horror writer/ director and composer who is responsible for the award-winning 2012 short film, “Eaglewalk”, which can be seen on Youtube. He recently launched a successful Kickstarter campaign to finance his shocking short film “Silk“ and talks to me, Dr. Morbid, about his past and future endeavors.

Dr. Morbid: Rob, first of all, I just want to say that I’m a huge fan of Eaglewalk. After watching that film, and the fact that it took place in the 1980’s, reminded me a lot about movies such as Friday the 13th and The Burning. Were these movies a main influence for you when creating Eaglewalk?

Rob Himebaugh: The original Friday the 13th is my favorite movie of all time, for a lot of reasons, but mainly, I love the sense of place it so effortlessly creates. There’s something so dreadful and isolated and melancholy about the first Camp Crystal Lake, something I’ve only ever seen once before – in the original Halloween – and in both instances, I think it was a happy accident. I love The Burning and Sleepaway Camp, but only because they elaborate on the summer camp slasher genre formula. So if there was a single overriding influence going into Eaglewalk, it was to recreate the sense of place established not just in Friday the 13th, but also drawn from my own time spent as a camp counselor in Maine. Of course, I look back on the film now, and would do everything differently, but that was the intention at the time.

DM: The Bigfoot as the killer angle for Eaglewalk set your film apart from other similar Slasher films. First of all, how did you come with this concept? And second of all, how did you go about trying to make Bigfoot actually scary? When I think of Bigfoot I think of Harry and the Henderson’s, and your Bigfoot was nothing like that.

RH: Initially, I thought Eaglewalk would follow the F13 formula of a masked killer, but I also really wanted to inject the mysticism and folklore and traditions you encounter at a lot of older camps. That, along with a soft spot for creature features, led to envisioning Eaglewalk as a Bigfoot movie. But building (and even more so shooting) a Bigfoot suit is a learn-by-doing process. For instance, I told the makeup artist I wanted the top of the head to taper to a point. Well, what I meant was for the hair to taper, not the head itself. So what we wound up with was a top-heavy conehead shape that would bounce around whenever the actor would walk – or worse – run. It’s the kind of lost-in-translation mistake more seasoned directors avoid, but when you’re just starting out, you don’t think about those things. You learn to be specific with the stuff that matters, while still letting your keys work out the details on their own (after all, that’s why you hired them.)

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DM: What did you learn while directing that film? Anything that you wished you would have done differently if you could go back and film it again?

RH: Besides the “look” of Bigfoot, which I would have done totally different (but that’s hindsight talking; at the time, I thought it was fantastic), I would have revised a lot of the scenes to move faster, and I would have shifted priorities. For instance, we only allowed so much time for Neils to discover Bridget’s body, and then for him to be killed by Bigfoot – half a day, if I remember. But we had a camera malfunction, which set us back a few hours, so we wound up having to cut a lot of the shots that would have helped both sequences enormously. And I would have listened to my peers’ advice and cut the Bigfoot hand reach at the end. I was trying to say something, but it wound up just getting a laugh from the audience. Again, I didn’t think everything through. But now I know.

DM: You studied film and film production at both Rhode Island College (our alma mater) and Chapman University. How helpful was film school when it came to making your own film? Do you think that film school is a must for anybody interested in trying to be a serious filmmaker?

RH: If you ask me, film school is essential. The education I got at Chapman had almost nothing to do with faculty feedback, and almost everything to do with meeting (and missing) deadlines, learning the art of sweet-talking and coercion (useful when convincing the best DP in your year to shoot your movie), and after your film is completed, watching it in a theater with an audience, and gauging from their reactions what worked, and what failed. And as an East Coast transplant, the networking opportunities of film school were invaluable.

DM: You tried to make a prequel to Eaglewalk titled At The Dark Divide using Kickstarter and failed at meeting your goal. First of all, how were you planning on making a Prequel to your film, what was the storyline going to be? And second of all, how did you deal with this setback?

RH: At The Dark Divide was pitched as an opportunity to not only show more of the camp and reveal even more of its mythology, but to improve on the Bigfoot suit we used in the first film, both in terms of construction and in terms of shooting. It would have followed two hikers who stumble onto the camp, only to fall victim to the bloodthirsty Sasquatch, and it would have ended with the arrival of the counselors from the first film. I had hopes that the two films, combined with the completed script for the feature, would be enough to garner financing for a full-length Eaglewalk. While ATDD failed to meet its Kickstarter goal (and again, with hindsight, it’s easy to see why), a feature-length Eaglewalk is still my North Star. I’ll make it one day.

DM: Your new short, the shocking film Silk, was successfully financed using Kickstarter and you surpassed your goal. So now, after having one failure and one success with Kickstarter, what was your overall experience using this crowd-sourcing website? What would you suggest to filmmakers who are trying to finance their films using it? Any good advice on what makes a successful campaign?

RH: But in a weird way, I’m thankful ATDD didn’t happen. The failure to raise enough funds taught me some tough lessons, really personal lessons, the kind of stuff they don’t teach you at film school. I felt embarrassed, cut-down, humbled. Just because I was in love with the idea, doesn’t mean everyone else was. So after a few months of soul searching, I finally, mercifully, got the idea for a new film, and that was Silk. So whether it’s Kickstarter or Indiegogo (and I’ve seen reputable films use both), I say go for it, just make sure whatever it is you’re asking people to help fund, make sure it has a hook. Crowdfunding only works when no one’s seen it before.

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Check in tomorrow for Part 2 of Dr. Morbid’s interview with Rob Himebaugh, in which we discuss his new controversial short film Silk.  Here’s the trailer for his first amazing short, Eaglewalk, below.