The Horror Club speaks to actress, screenwriter, and director, Robbie Barnes, about her work, plans for the year and Beyond Repair, her film currently doing the rounds at festivals.
Tell us about yourself?
I’ve always loved movies for as long as I can remember and I knew I wanted to be a part of them. I started off doing school plays in elementary and high school, and when I got to college I practically lived in the theater department. I eventually transitioned to acting in films, as well as doing commercial work, and industrials. Over the past few years I’ve had some ideas that I really wanted to see on screen and wrote them out into scripts. I decided to find a crew to shoot them and really surprised myself with how much I love directing. I’ve been primarily focusing on that now, while still doing day player roles here and there on other people’s projects. But as far as my own, I really enjoy being behind the camera and having full control of the outcome.
What are the main differences between being behind the camera and in front of it?
Being in front of the camera is about putting yourself in someone else’s shoes and really bringing life to a character. Being behind the camera is expecting that character to be genuine and looking at it from an audience point of view. What would I want to see if I didn’t know this script and was watching it from my couch or a theater? What would make this the most interesting scene possible? Both are very important jobs, however, as an actor you don’t have too much say on the final cut whereas if you’re directing it, you’re the one that gets to pick which take or veto an idea if it’s not in line with your vision. It’s one of the reasons I wanted to try my hand behind the camera.
Which do you prefer?
At this point, I’d say directing. That could eventually change back to acting, but right now I’m just going with it.
What are three things that are different from your ‘director self’ and your ‘actress self’?
Actress self was diligently seeking out auditions; scouring sites and networking with directors to be in their films. There was also a lot more emphasis on dieting and fitness – not that I don’t care now, but it’s slacked a bit more lately! And lastly, my actor self was very much clinging to emotions, storing them in my memory so I could easily recall a feeling when a role required it. Reading up on how to get into character, acting exercises, etc. Actor self was constantly trying to get people to look at my reel, look at my IMDB credits, look “I can act!”
My director self is now scouring events and moments from real life that I can embellish and make into a story; oh, that creepy encounter a friend just told me about? That might go into a script. Someone says something clever – write it down in my notes in case I can use it as a line! Networking isn’t so much about “buttering up” directors so they give me a chance to audition, but more so working alongside of them as peers to talk about experiences and get advice.
As a director, I still have to be concerned with emotions, but in a different sense. Now it’s about how do I want the audience to feel while watching and how do I go about getting them there? The acting, the score, the cinematography, the editing is all to be taken into account verses ‘what are my lines’ and ‘how do I live truthfully under these imaginary circumstances?’
With acting, you market yourself and as a director you market the project itself. Instead of submitting demo reels, it’s submitting the projects, getting reviews, getting interviews. There’s still an element of ‘look at me’ but it’s different. I’m more calm as a director – when I was acting there was a lot of competition with other actresses and I constantly questioned my value – maybe that’s a part of less substantial roles being available for women than there are for men. Strangely though, I don’t feel like I’m in competition with other directors. They’re more comrades to me and, at least with the ones I’ve associated with and talked to, we really cheer each other on. I’m genuinely happy with their accomplishments, and if they’re better than me I try to pay more attention to why so I can do it too. It almost feels like there’s ‘more room’ for all of us to be successful. I like that.
Tell us about Beyond Repair?
In short, Beyond Repair is about a girl who’s traveling late at night and needs to use a restroom. Her only option is an old gas station/mechanic shop that gives her the chills immediately, but against her better judgement, she ignores it and pays deeply for that decision.
Why did you decide to make a horror movie?
I’ve always loved the horror genre. I have an older brother who would let me watch all the great 80’s horror film classics with him since I was 4 years old (my parents had no idea) and would take me to haunted houses with him – I enjoyed being creeped out! As an actress, I did a couple independent horror films and I really enjoy the community of those that are involved with horror. For being fans and filmmakers of such gory things, they’re really the nicest people! Real life gives the best inspiration and it actually helps that I’m a woman because I think we naturally have to be more guarded and question things more than most men do. Beyond Repair was inspired by a real late night, 2am, stop at a rest area in Indiana on Christmas. The real event wasn’t as dramatic, but from it stemmed the script. I constantly keep an eye out now for story ideas in every day living.
In horror, do you believe in the tactic of slow-build or jump scares?
I like both! But I will say I’m not a fan when a film only relies on jump scares. I like the slow build, I enjoy when movies do different tricks with the audio to help you feel a certain way while watching – like cutting it out completely or think Rob Zombie’s Halloween after Michael stabs the nurse in the psych hospital and all you hear in the alarm sounding and nothing else. I also think less is more. I enjoy gore, but only so much of it. My brain can really warp shit and fill in the blanks if you just give me a little piece of the puzzle. I like psychological stories that rely heavily on character development and script over blood and boobs.
Would you ever like to do a feature-length?
Yes! I have a suspense-thriller that’s circulating film festivals right now that is a feature-length. I’d love to make another one that stays true to the horror genre. Perhaps in 2019 I can make that happen.
What movie are you looking forward to in 2018, and why?
As far as movies go, I’ve been trying to watch as many independent artists’ films that have gotten VOD distribution and I spend a lot of time browsing award-winning horror shorts that are available on Youtube. If we’re talking big-budget, I’m more prone to watch TV shows and I’m anxiously waiting for the return of Game of Thrones, Mind Hunter, and Orange is the New Black.
What are your plans for 2018?
Right now, I’m directing a hybrid genre film called Dream Come True. It’s a mesh between drama, dark romance, fantasy, and a few scenes that have horror elements to them. It’s a lot of the same cast and crew from Beyond Repair, plus a few new faces. Outside of that, I’ll be writing more scripts, trying to make it to as many festivals that Beyond Repair and my feature (Whatever It Takes) show at and continuing to market them, and seeing what comes my way!