Some great filmmakers got their start in low-budget indie films made in their own homes. Could Longview director/screenwriter Jacob Rohrbach launch a career the same way?
Rohrbach, teaming up with local actors Ashton Ruiz and Emily Posey, is filming his debut feature, “Abstractions,” in his West Longview house. The 23-year-old Mark Morris grad has made horror videos on YouTube for a decade and says he’s ready for the next step.
“I just wanted to show (people) that I’m more of a serious filmmaker, that I can branch out of … short, cheap horror movies,” Rohrbach said.
“Abstractions” tells the story of Paul (played by Ruiz, 19), a teenager barricaded in a dark room during the apocalypse. Paul, who suffers from multiple mental illnesses, begins to unravel in isolation as he begins imagining the voice of a woman on the radio, Juliet (played by Posey, 21), as sitting right next to him. During scenes with the duo, the radio symbolically is placed between Posey and Ruiz.
Paul also has one-sided conversations with a elk trophy named Echo, whom Posey jokingly compared to the famous volleyball Tom Hanks named Wilson in “Cast Away.”
Rohrbach said he’s had the idea for the psychological horror film since 2015.
“It started out as this idea of a guy talking to the radio,” he said. “He was in the apocalypse and was starting to lose his mind with the social isolation, and the ideas sprouted from there.”
According to Rohrbach, “Abstractions” is heavily inspired by the work of David Lynch, who is famous for obtuse, unnerving works like “Eraserhead,” “Blue Velvet” and “Twin Peaks.”
Most of the movie, which is expected to be about an hour long, was filmed in black and white inside one room with sparse lighting, but Rohrbach said a few outdoor dream sequences were shot in the Coal Creek area and at Beaver Falls near Clatskanie.
Getting family permission to shoot the film inside his own house was difficult, Rohrbach admitted.
“It took a lot of prodding from my family to let me (film here),” he quipped.
Ruiz and Rohrbach have worked together on YouTube for the past six years. Rohrbach said he brought on Ruiz after seeing him perform as a mentally-ill character at a Mainstage Theatre show.
Posey, who frequently travels to be an extra in TV shows such as Netflix’s “American Vandal” and Syfy’s “Z Nation,” said she heard about Rohrbach through colleagues at Lower Columbia College’s drama program and leaped at the chance to film something local.
“I heard all the cast talking about Jacob and how he does film, and I was like, ‘Wow, I travel to Portland and Spokane for filming and there’s someone who lives 20 minutes away,’ “ she said.
“Abstractions” was funded through an online Kickstarter campaign, and the $668 earned (out of a $500 goal) went towards lighting, a camera stabilizer and a barricade to block light in the room Rohrbach filmed in.
The rest of the money will help the trio enter the film into Northwest film festivals in Bend, Portland and Olympia. Rohrbach said the first planned showing of the film will take place at Stageworks Northwest in Longview in August.
“We’re just grabbing whatever (festival) fits the movie and just going for it,” he said.