Former Morris student's film looks at pandemic's impact on families


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A former Morris College student who is an actor and award-winning filmmaker used recent global events to create a new short film that showcases the hidden struggles of many families in the country today.

Robert X. Golphin released his new film, "Essential," a 16-minute drama that follows a young family navigating through times of uncertainty and fear amid a pandemic.

"Viewers have described it being a very heavy piece, and it is, but it's not overbearing," Golphin said. "I think you might feel like you're intruding into this family's life because you really have a front row seat as to what they're going through."

The story is about family, motherhood, fatherhood, love and fear, Golphin said. His inspiration to tell this story came from everything going on around him and the people in his life.

His hope for this film is that the viewer will connect with the title alone by the end of the story.

"This is a difficult time, particularly for people of color," Golphin said. "I've got to believe that we as a people generally crave the same thing, which is love, equality, peace and harmony, and that's really why I wanted to create the piece."

Though Golphin is from Philadelphia, he has family all across South Carolina, including his grandmother in Manning.

He attended Morris College for his freshman year and said he still remembers his dorm room there.

"The RCJ Residence Hall, first-floor dorm room. I had plenty of pizza deliveries made to me there," Golphin said, laughing.

At the time, he was studying "some form of journalism" because Morris College didn't offer filmmaking, but that was always Golphin's focus.

He said Morris College was a significant time and place in his life.

"Morris is where I wrote my first play ever," Golphin said. "It was a faith-based story that my grandmother and I ended up producing in her church in Greeleyville, and then I went on to produce that play at a theater in my hometown."

After bringing his play to a stage, Golphin decided to leave Sumter to follow his passion and begin his career as a filmmaker.

Though the journey wasn't easy, Golphin said it's been the best decision he ever made.

He went on to obtain a bachelor's degree in theater and film at Saint Augustine's University in North Carolina and a master's degree in screenwriting from Spalding University in Kentucky.

Since then, he has directed several films, including an upcoming feature-length comedy, "Freshman Friday," starring NAACP Theater Winner Jerrel O'Neal and singer/songwriter Brian McKnight Jr.

Golphin also has had the opportunity to dabble in the art of acting.

"Being an actor and a filmmaker fills me with joy," Golphin said. "I'm the absolute happiest when I'm on set or stage."

Golphin is best known for his role as Dunbar Reed in the Golden Globe-nominated film "The Great Debaters," which he considers to be his most memorable moment in the film industry.

When he auditioned for the role with Denzel Washington, it was all luck and good timing.

"I saw him on Oprah one day talking about this movie he was going to be doing, so I sent my headshot and resume to the casting person in Los Angeles," Golphin said.

He had no idea if the package he sent ever arrived, but his agent called him and said he had an audition for the movie.

"Ultimately, I had a callback and read for Denzel and the casting person," Golphin said. "It was probably the greatest audition experience of my life, reading for Denzel Washington."

Even though he made his debut in a featured film, Golphin will always have a love for short films. He's been fortunate to get the opportunities he's had, but Golphin still finds himself at his happiest just sitting in front of a computer screen trying to figure out his next story to tell, especially during the coronavirus.

"When this pandemic began, I think many of us were kind of lost for a bit. We were angry, we were fearful, we were confused and depressed, and that's human, but I think it reached a point where you have to decide if you'll continue to wallow or be productive."

Golphin acted and directed in this new project, which features actor/singer Lauren Michelle Morgan and 10-year-old Channing Brisbane, a print and commercial model who makes his motion picture acting debut in this.

"Essential" can be viewed online at