Rob Himebaugh is an enthusiastic believer in the power of stories, and he’s happy to share that enthusiasm with anyone who will listen, or more appropriately in his case, anyone who will watch.
“Anything can become a story,” he said during a visit to the Beacon on Thursday. “Something as simple as walking into a room can be a story. It’s all in how you tell it and the details that you include and how much that then allows the audience to relate. If an audience can see themselves in a character or in a circumstance, they’re in.”
The graduate of Pilgrim High School is a rising filmmaker who has spent most of his life creating stories. Some of those stories have been for money to pay the bills, but many more have been for an unquenchable love of the craft. Those stories have taken him from Rhode Island to the sunny hills of Hollywood, to Southeast Asia for commercial gigs and even to Mayan ruins in Guatemala.
Himebaugh is now back in Rhode Island for the first time since leaving for Los Angeles about 10 years ago in preparation for his newest short film – “Widow’s Deep” – a horror/suspense piece that takes place in a fictional Rhode Island seaside town and follows the harrowing tale of two protagonists who lost touch as life moved on, but reconnect to hunt for the legendary treasure of a Revolutionary War era pirate.
The film is in many ways a homage to Rhode Island and the type of folklore that has given rise to countless tales and urban legends throughout New England. Himebaugh will be filming this October to give the film an authentic sense of autumnal supernatural spookiness. When added to the naturally pleasing scenery of Rhode Island, he hopes to create a melancholic, beautifully immersive environment that will draw viewers in and grip them.
“That includes the covered bridge in Foster, a cemetery in Exeter, this little book store we’re going to use as the maritime museum, the Town Hall from Little Compton, the lighthouse down in Westerly,” Himebaugh explained. “It includes all of these elements from all over the state that, for me, if you were to page through a catalog of the most visually arresting elements of the state – of which there are a handful, to say the least – and pull this together to make some fantastical fictionalized town, what a thrill.”
But more than just a nostalgia trip through his childhood home state, the creation of the film is a cathartic homecoming for Himebaugh.
His journey – moving to Los Angeles to pursue his dream career of becoming a filmmaker – has been full of ups and downs, odd background acting jobs, a five-year stint as a technology teacher for an elementary school in West Hollywood and, of course, bolstering his skills as a filmmaker through various projects throughout the years.
Himebaugh does everything imaginable for his films. He writes them, scores them with original music that he taught himself how to make, produces them with practical and special effects that he also learned to create on his own and then directs, films and edits the results. It is the kind of unapologetic obsession with his craft that led him from being on top of the world following the successful release of a Bigfoot movie he made for his Master’s thesis (“Eaglewalk,” which took home the gold award at the 2012 “Screamfest” festival) to hitting “rock bottom” within a year when his momentum slowed.
“What I do is anything but stable, so you really have to have the courage of your convictions and you have to have that ‘thing,’” he said. “You have to be hungry and stay hungry and want to do the work. You have to be okay being lonely, you have to be okay making tough decisions that alienate you sometimes. You have to be able to stay the course.”
Staying the course has resulted in Himebaugh now reconnecting with old Rhode Island friends that used to help him craft films when he was a kid, such as the film’s lead star, fellow Warwick native Jared Haibon (A Warwick Vets graduate), who has developed a following due to his casting on “The Bachelor” and its spin-off series, “Bachelor in Paradise.”
The pair met in Warwick while working at (fittingly enough) Hollywood Video, and Haibon frequently starred in Himebaugh’s homemade films. They lost touch when Himebaugh moved to Los Angeles, but 10 years later they wound up living in Hollywood at the same time and were able to reconnect. It was a natural fit for Haibon to star in his films once again, and the duo have already completed one project together called “Afterburners.”
“It’s full circle. In a way this project feels very much like serendipity in a lot of ways,” Himebaugh said.
Himebaugh has already made rounds throughout the state, asking permission for places to shoot and finding people who are willing to offer services to help make the film. He has found the people of Rhode Island to be as enthusiastic about his project as he is.
Currently in the home stretch of an $8,000 fundraising goal, Himebaugh insists that “No matter how much we raise, we’ll make the movie,” but he hopes to raise the goal so he can properly compensate those who choose to invest their time in helping make it. Once filming ends, it will be an approximately one-year wait before the film is released to the horror film festival circuit.
“It wrote itself,” Himebaugh said of “Widow’s Deep,” and how it mirrors his own life journey in many ways. “Once I decided I wanted to bring the production back home, the tea leaves were right there.”
You can check out a teaser trailer for “Widow’s Deep” and donate to its crowdfunding campaign by going to www.igg.me/at/widowsdeep.