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‘What Lies Ahead’ opens on coasts

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Movie made in Bardstown out on DVD, VOD this week

By Randy Patrick

Rob Gardner was flying to Los Angeles Friday morning to watch the movie he made in Bardstown.

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“What Lies Ahead,” a road trip thriller featuring Rumer Willis and Emma Dumont, was scheduled for limited release in select theaters in L.A. and New York Friday, and it will be available on DVD and video on demand March 5.

Gardner, a Louisville cinematographer who has done commercial work for 18 years, was excited about seeing his first movie on “the big screen.”

“This is my feature film debut as a director,” he said during a phone interview while driving in rush-hour traffic Thursday. “It’s the best stress I ever had, and I can’t wait to do it again.”

“What Lies Ahead” is based on a screenplay by William J. Vigglione, Gardner’s partner in Lago Pictures. The main actors are Rumer Willis, Kentucky-born daughter of Bruce Willis and Demi Moore, who is known for her performances on “Dancing with the Stars” and as Roxie Hart in the Broadway musical “Chicago,” and Emma Dumont, a ballet dancer, model and television actress who is currently in the Fox series “The Gifted.”

In the film, Dumont plays Jessica, the girlfriend of Kyle, who asks her to fly to his home in Georgia and drive back to New York with his sister, Raven (Willis), after the recent death of their mother, but as the two women get to know each other on the road, it becomes clear that something isn’t right. What begins as an innocent journey becomes a brutal fight for survival.

“It’s a slow-burn thriller, so it takes a while” for things to start to get crazy, Gardner said. “There are a few surprises” along the way.

Gardner, the director, who grew up in Fern Creek and is a University of Louisville graduate, is no stranger to Bardstown. He filmed nearly all of “What Lies Ahead” here in 2016.

The crew shot everything in Nelson County except for a scene at a hamburger stand in Lebanon and another around the Maker’s Mark distillery in Marion County.

It’s a low-budget film, Gardner said, so it made sense to shoot it all in one place, and Bardstown seemed to be the right place.

“I always said to myself, ‘This is such a great town; I want to shoot something here,’” he said. “I found everything I ever needed.”

“We were able to work out of one location and move around quickly,” he added.

Residents of the town will recognize the settings — Hurst Discount Drug’s soda fountain, Hadorn’s Bakery, Café Primo and 3rd Street Tap House.

Troy Dennison, who owned the Tap House at the time, said it was “really cool” to have his bar as a setting for the film. The crew filmed all day and night on a Monday, and the next night, Dumont and Willis came back for drinks, and he got to meet them, he said. Willis, who is also a singer, even performed at the bar one night with local singer-songwriter Kaleb Cecil. She came several times and would sit outside, he said.

“She drank the same bourbon every time,” he said.

He thinks it was Basil Hayden’s.

One crime scene was filmed at Drew and Marci Ballard’s house on Broadway.

Gardner said they drove around looking for the right location, and when they found the one they wanted, Dawn Przystal, the tourism director at the time, told them that was her little brother’s house, and she could get him to let them use it.

“The first day of shooting was Rumer’s birthday, and Drew’s children made birthday cards for her,” the director mentioned.

It was a fun time for the couple’s young son and daughter.

“They got to experience a little bit of Hollywood in Bardstown,” Drew Ballard said.

Ballard said they couldn’t let anybody know about it beforehand, so he and his wife had people calling them all day wanting to know what was happening at their house, where there were police cars, cameramen and yellow tape.

“I’d love to give a shout-out to all the people in Bardstown who are so welcoming,” Gardner said.

A couple of others he mentioned specifically were “the twins” — Erica Farmer and Elizabeth Spalding — who run Pat’s Place, where he and the crew often hung out.

“They were awesome,” he said. “We would have production meetings and take over a table or two.”

Gardner also enjoyed working with the crew and cast, including Willis and Dumont.

“They were great actresses to work with,” he remarked.

“I think they enjoyed their time in Bardstown,” Gardner said.

Other actors in the film include Kelly Blatz, as Kyle, Katie Keene, Brandon Arthur Jones, James Harper and Paul Tompkins.

The preview of the film is available online on several websites including YouTube.