Warwick native is ‘creature feature’ director
Rob Himebaugh doesn’t look like he spends his days dreaming up monsters and thinking of ways to terrify people. His sparkling blue eyes and pearly white smile are too friendly to give off that vibe. But affable and handsome as he might be, Himebaugh, 27, is bursting with horror stories that would send a shiver up anyone’s spine.
Himebaugh moved to Warwick with his family when he was 10 years old. He attended John Brown Francis Elementary School and went on to Aldrich Junior High and then Pilgrim High School. Though he acted in the school plays (he was a charming Teen Angel in John Brown’s production of “Grease”), he always had a passion for films and movie making.
Himebaugh discovered his love for filmmaking early on, when his grandfather gave him a video camera for his 11th birthday. Himebaugh said he “always made movies,” eliciting the help of his friends to act in them.
Eventually, Himebaugh realized he wanted to turn his hobby into a career, and went on to pursue an undergrad degree in film studies at Rhode Island College. Bored by his classes, Himebaugh became more and more sure that he wanted to make movies, not discuss them. So after he graduated, he headed to California, a move he said he always knew he’d make.
After researching grad schools, Himebaugh decided Chapman University in Orange, Calif. was the best fit. There, he began to learn more about the filmmaking process and discovered that though he had previously entertained people as an actor, he felt most comfortable behind the lens.
His past experiences in front of the camera are something that Himebaugh said help him now as a director. He said some actors need a lot of direction, and sometimes being in front of a camera is more difficult than being in front of a live audience.
“It’s even more intimidating in front of a camera,” he said.
To Himebaugh, the best actors just need a bit of direction and a lot of freedom.
“We’re both artists,” he said of actors and directors. “And we both have a job to do.”
Himebaugh said horror movies and “slasher” films, like the ones he makes now, have always appealed to him. He said those types of movies allow the viewer to take a break from reality and become completely immersed in the tale they’re watching unfold on screen.
“Movies are at their best when they’re pure escapism, total make believe,” he said.
Movies like “Bedknobs and Broomsticks” and “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” are some of Himebaugh’s favorites. Why?
“They pull you into a new reality,” he said.
His most recent film, a short horror movie called “Eaglewalk,” has gotten a lot of attention and praise. The film won the Best Student Short Award at Screamfest 2012, a horror film festival held in LA, and has been critically acclaimed by horror lovers across the country.
“Eaglewalk” tells the tale of a summer camp that gets attacked by Bigfoot. The goal: “Make Bigfoot scary again.” Himebaugh wrote, directed and produced the film. He composed the score for “Eaglewalk,” too, and even makes a brief cameo at the beginning.
“Eaglewalk” was his senior thesis film at Chapman. The school gives their Master’s students $10,000 and equipment to produce a half-hour film as part of their graduation requirement.
Himebaugh ended up putting roughly $46,000 into the film, pulling together additional funding by taking out private loans, digging into personal savings accounts and receiving donations.
"When it comes to raising money for a movie, no stone is left unturned," said Himebaugh. "We sent out personalized cards, we held fundraising events, we got on our hands and knees."
Now the 30-minute “creature feature” can be viewed in its entirety for free online, and Himebaugh hopes a producer will see it and want to turn it into a feature-length film. Himebaugh hopes an investment will turn the film into a box office smash, but that’s not necessarily his ultimate goal. Himebaugh just wants to entertain people.
“I want to make high concept stories that can transport people and let you forget about the world for a couple of hours,” he said.
For now, Himebaugh spends his days creating and imagining. Since graduating from Chapman in May, he’s been working as a freelance composer and background actor for major movies and television shows. Of course, he continues to pursue his dream of directing and writing in the big, bad city of Los Angeles.
Originally from Ohio, the Rhode Island-raised Himebaugh now lives in Echo Park, near Burbank, Calif.
“There are stray alley cats and overturned trash cans,” said Himebaugh with a smile. But the close proximity to LA and Hollywood, and the opportunities and resources they offer, is too good to pass by.
Himebaugh admits that it isn’t easy – the competition in Hollywood isn’t always friendly. He said success in Hollywood is a combination of talent, social skills, networking and good fortune.
“There are no rules,” he said. “You make your own luck.”
Convincing people to invest in you is another key to success, something that Himebaugh is trying to do now. As a director and a writer, Himebaugh said he knows what he wants to work on next; it’s just getting the green light – and the funding – to do so.
With so much rejection, and, at best, waiting for the next big break, Himebaugh said his west coast lifestyle is about endurance.
“You’re all alone with your six shooter,” he said. “You have to keep your fingers crossed.”
Like actors, Himebaugh said it can take directors and writers years to get a break.
“Ten years is the minimum,” he said with a laugh. “Some people really get lucky.”
For those who don’t get lucky, egos either grow or take a nosedive, said Himebaugh. There are talented people with big egos and untalented people with even bigger ones. Couple those larger-than-life personalities with the competition in California, and Himebaugh said friends are hard to come by.
“Everybody has an agenda in Hollywood,” he said. “Which is really discouraging.”
Himebaugh said it’s possible to get jaded, but it’s important to stay true to your passion and your craft.
“Every day I write or I daydream or I plan,” he said. “That’s what keeps you alive.”
Himebaugh said by continuing to work toward his goals, he’s achieving new things each day. For those aspiring to direct and create their own films, Himebaugh offers this advice: “Don't wait until film school to make your mistakes. Shoot as many movies as you can now and start developing your own unique voice.”
Himebaugh said film school is about proving you have what it takes; developing your style before then, he said, is key.
Beyond the technical elements of filmmaking, Himebaugh encourages the next generation of directors to stick it out, even through the rough patches.
“Never give up,” he said. “If you want it bad enough, it’ll happen.”
Watch “Eaglewalk” online now for free at vimeo.com/32984109 or learn more about the film by visiting www.Facbeook.com/Eaglewalk.