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Newborn Dead: Robert Haulbrook, acting and “DEVILING”

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The best actors are those who are willing to let themselves be consumed, physically becoming the role.  When it comes to performance, short films require just as much preparation as others, as it’s essential that the audience believe in the world of the film. The credibility of the character is a fundamental portion of that believable world. While the direction, camera work, lighting, sound and production value are all of major importance, let’s face it: it is the acting that needs to come across as real.

A good actor does the research and asks him/herself what lies at the integral core of the character. The story and its characters must be memorable because you have a very short story that needs to be compressed into roughly 20 minutes, more or less, to create something that really keeps the viewer’s attention. And, horror can have a lot of weight when it comes to short film.

Off camera, at 6’1 with deep brown eyes, actor Robert Haulbrook is tall, dark and handsome. Of course, one would never notice these traits while watching him act as the disturbed, psychotic-on-the-loose Ronald in Michael Sharpe’s short film DEVILING. The story finds Ronald the mortician losing his mind and beginning to unravel when his girlfriend (Jodi Essex) tells him their relationship is finished. He consistently bothers her on the phone and when she doesn’t respond in the manner he desires, he begins to threaten her.

“I knew I wanted to be an actor since I was in first grade,” Haulbrook tells Fango. I strongly identified with the 1970s TV shows such as SESAME STREET, MR. ROGERS and THE ELECTRIC COMPANY.” Haulbrook did stage work in Charlotte, found an agent and eventually went on auditions for commercials, television and film. He had no experience with horror until he met Michael Sharpe. Haulbrook reveals, “One of the actors I met through the Charlotte theater and film communities was Michael Sharpe, who asked me to play Ronald in his short film DEVILING. I agreed to do it even before reading the script or knowing anything about the character. The combination of the simple story line, the pairing with the beautiful Jodi Essex who plays my ex-girlfriend, and Michael’s direction, I was inspired in my choices for Ronald. Naturally I didn’t know anyone like Ronald in real life.”

“I thought Jack Nicholson was great in Stanley Kubrick’s THE SHINING and yes, Nicholson influenced my choices for Ronald. For example, I felt free to go crazy in the morgue scene – something I would never do in a film that wasn’t horror. Kubrick set an important precedent with Nicholson’s over the top performance and it distinguished THE SHINING as classic horror. Playing Ronald gave me the opportunity to communicate things in my own life’s perspective that I never voiced before. Most viewers got it. This is what I love about acting.”

DEVILING continues its run on the festival circuit. To date, the short has been officially selected for over 13 film festivals and Haulbrook himself has picked up two Best Actor awards. About Haulbrook, writer/director Michael Sharpe says, “Haulbrook never forces his choices. He is more of a reactor than an actor. He reminds me of Jeffrey Combs and the late Peter Cushing all in one. He doesn’t have a particular idea in his head when you are directing him. Some actors don’t listen to their director and assume they know better. Haulbrook listens to the direction and just trusts you. He is one of the more professional actors I’ve ever met. Every take we did on set I knew I had the right guy for the role. One of my favorite scenes was the ‘abduction.’ It was a very rough scene and a few of the crew were pretty disturbed by what they were seeing. That made me feel we had something special here.”

As for Haulbrook, he continues with his acting. “Michael Sharpe and I produced THE DESTRUCTION ARTIST, a disturbing short film based on the monologue by author Michael Cunningham, the same author who won the Pulitzer Prize for his novel THE HOURS back in 1999. Cunningham was impressed with my performance and is planning to attend the New York premiere of THE DESTRUCTION ARTIST with me at the 2013 Brooklyn Film Festival (running until June 9, tickets here). I’m also scheduled to shoot an episode of the Showtime series HOMELAND.”

You can see DEVILING for yourself below.

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About the author
Marla Newborn
As a champion of, and advocate for short films and filmmakers, Marla has been with Fangoria since 2005. She came on board after winning multiple awards as head of Production at USA Network and Syfy Channel. A native New Yorker, Marla arrived at Fangoria to launch and program Fangoria TV. Additionally, Marla is the Festival Supervisor at The New York City Horror Film Festival. She contributes to her blog The NewBorn Dead where she promotes actors, directors and independent short films.
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