Rob Gardner is a director who is known for his suspenseful horror films. His latest piece “What Lies Ahead” starring Rumer Willis and Emma Dumont is now playing in select theaters and available on VOD. The movie follows two young women who face peril on a road trip when a seemingly simple journey turns out to be something much darker.

Ro discussed this film, directing, and more via an exclusive interview on March 6, 2019.

Inspirations, cast, and location

Meagan Meehan (MM): How did you get into making Movies and what most appeals to you about horror and suspense?

Rob Gardner (RG): I’ve been shooting pictures since I was a child, and was given a camera around the age of eight.

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I would shoot up a roll of film and have my dad, take to the local drug store to have it developed and printed. So, early on I was working on my composition. I thought journalism and broadcasting was my path, but after taking a couple of classes, I felt it wasn’t creative enough for me. I wanted to mold stories with my vision and /or collaborate with other visionaries and storytellers. I love a suspenseful story, trying to figure out which way it may be going, looking for clues as the story unfolds.

I also enjoy the twist or the reveal that floors me, something that makes me say, “I didn’t see that coming.”

MM: What inspired “What Lies Ahead” and how long did it take to shoot?

RG: William Viglione came to me with a story idea for “What Lies Ahead” a few years back. We had worked together writing a paranormal short but decided to shelve that and develop the feature. When we entered into this endeavor, it was our goal to make something that was marketable and something not too costly to produce.

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William and I would work out options to scenes that we thought my push the budget too far. If you take into consideration the time we had to shoot and the budget we were working against, I think we pulled off a very good-looking film. We had a very ambitious schedule when we began the process. In fact, we had scheduled a fourteen-day shoot with a one-day contingency, which we had to go into due to inclement weather. We had a great team in place as far as crew and talent, and they came ready to perform.

We had also put a lot of time into pre-production, locking in locations and dealing with local officials to get all the sign-offs we would need.

MM: How did you secure the cast and locations and which scenes were the trickiest to film?

RG: Joe Burke was a producer on the film, and he was instrumental in getting the ear of some very fine casting directors. We decided to work with J.C. Cantu, and he was fantastic at finding our stars Rumer Willis, Emma Dumont, and Kelly Blatz. We cast regionally for the smaller roles, and I feel we had really good day players for the movie.

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I felt very fortunate to shoot most all the film in Bardstown and Nelson County, Kentucky. I had driven through that area for years going to other productions but always felt that it would be a great place to shoot a film with its quaint locations and beautiful landscapes. Being able to shoot in one geographic area and minimizing company moves, and if there was a move, the distance was not far, helped us save time and money, two things we didn’t have an abundance of.

MM: What is your favorite scene in the movie and why?

RG: My favorite scene in “What Lies Ahead,” is actually a bar scene which leads into a hotel parking lot confrontation. There is a lot of energy in those scenes, and some real personality reveals in the characters.

Films, audiences, and directing

MM: What other films have you created and how are they are different from a thematic perspective?

RG: “What Lies Ahead” was my directorial feature film debut. I have, in the past, shot and directed some shorts, but nothing as substantial as this movie.

MM: What do you hope audience like most about “What Lies Ahead”?

RG: I would love for the audience to leave the theater and talk about the twists and turns of the story.

MM: What’s most rewarding about being a professional director and what projects are coming up next for you in 2019?

RG: I tell folks all the time that I feel so fortunate to do what I get to do for a living, saying, “it’s like a hobby I get paid for.” I’m a storyteller, either of my own stories or helping others tell theirs in a visual format. As the director, you take on such a responsibility, and I like that pressure, but I have always felt that collaboration is a key in production and post. If you surround yourself with good people, both crew and talent, and you let them bring their skill set and talents to the table and contribute; you will have a smoother running show. You’ll have a team of artists that have a voice and feel that their contribution is important, give them something to grab a hold of and be passionate about.

I have one project upcoming that I’m very excited about for a historical home. It is a period piece set in 1809 and told through the eyes of a young girl who resided there. William and I are developing a work that he has written through our production company Lago Pictures. Also, I have a couple of scripts that I have been reading that I would love to see through to production. I absolutely love what I do, and I will continue to find ways to pursue other opportunities to grow as a director.