BY KRISTINA ROSEN
It’s been seven years in the making, but writer/director Bethany Brooke Anderson is finally bringing her beloved Burning Kentucky film back to the Commonwealth.
“As a female director from Kentucky, to be able to watch my movie in The Kentucky Theatre is a dream come true, even more than the Oscars.”
Anderson grew up in Lexington and attended the University of Kentucky for theatre performance before moving across the country to Los Angeles to pursue acting. She has spent the past seven years turning what used to be her 300-word comfort blanket Appalachian tale into an award winning independent film.
In 2012, Anderson decided she wanted to begin shooting her own film, but she didn’t know how. Two years later, she turned her camera on the first time and began shooting footage in Kentucky. A year and a half of raising money went by before Anderson received the greenlight to finish her movie. In 2017, the rest of the movie was shot in Kentucky. From Possum Trot in Western Kentucky to Harlan and Lynch in Eastern Kentucky, the crew traveled almost 60,000 miles making this film.
Earlier this year the movie successfully began the festival circuit, premiering at four festivals and winning five awards.
“If I had known in 2012 that I would still be working on this project every single day of my life in 2019 without being paid, I’m not sure I would have signed up for it,” Anderson admits.
But she doesn’t regret a moment. She noticed a trend in Hollywood’s typical portrayal of Kentucky, but she was proud to make a film that included actual Kentuckians talking about Kentucky.
“A good movie has to be your story, your voice. Having so many Kentuckians make this movie it feels like it’s our voice.”
Burning Kentucky is a love and vengeance thriller. It’s humanizing, painful and beautiful, yet it’s real. It’s what Kentucky is.
Anderson grew up wanting to be a storyteller, and for a long time thought that meant she’d fulfill that by becoming an actress. She was living in Los Angeles, going to auditions every day, and finding herself on sets that didn’t inspire her.
When she realized she wanted to focus on making good work and not just working, she fired her agent, stopped going to casting calls, stayed home, and wrote.
“I told myself, fake it until you make it. I was delusional enough to believe I could make my own movie, and I held onto that delusion until it was done.”
Anderson confesses there is nothing glamorous about making movies.
“Filmmaking is definitely not for the faint of heart. It’s easy to glamorize it, there is this weird air around it where people idolize it because it feels very far off.”
In that seven-year gap, Anderson went through some of the hardest times of her life between the loss of relationships, near homelessness, and putting every penny she had into her movie. What helped motivate her was the community of Kentuckians waiting to see what she was creating.
“I had involved so many people that I loved from the beginning. I couldn’t let the hard-earned money, long hours, tears and sweat from everyone I loved to go to waste. I finished this film for them.”
That says a lot about the community of Kentucky. She adds, “What’s so beautiful (about Kentuckians) is this sense of community where they support other Kentuckians. They supported me because I was one of them and they trusted my voice. They want to see artists in their community succeed, so they were willing to take a risk on me.”
Anderson is already in the development stage for her next movie called I’ll Fly Away. It’s based on Lenore De Pree’s memoir 90 Brothers and Sisters, the true story of Galilean Children’s Home in Corbin Kentucky during the 40s. It was written by the daughter of the man who started the orphanage. Anderson’s film is an adaption of this tell-all memoir regarding the famous orphanage and the rumors of abuse that circulated for years to come.
After Anderson read the memoir, she knew this was going to be her next movie. She and her Corbin native writing partner, Schann Mobley, flew to Michigan to meet De Pree. The three of them went through the entire book as De Pree recounted exactly what happened inside the children’s home many years ago.
Shooting for I’ll Fly Away will begin in 2021, and Anderson will be back in Kentucky for another round of auditions. As she did with her first film, Anderson will prioritize giving opportunities to Kentuckians in her future films.
Over 75 percent of the cast and crew from Burning Kentucky was from Kentucky and 90 percent of the film was shot here. Eighty percent of the funding came from Kentucky. Anderson wanted to partner with people who enhance the community, which included Appalachian Mission of Hope and local businesses like West Sixth Brewing, Ale-8, Kentucky for Kentucky, and Purple Toad Winery.
Burning Kentucky has already premiered at four festivals, but Anderson is most excited for the premiere in Kentucky.
“There are some scenes that unless you’re a Kentuckian, you just don’t get it the same way. It’s such a purely Kentucky voice, it will resonate a completely different way.”
The movie will begin its Kentucky debut at Flyover Film Festival in Louisville on July 21-22 before making its way to Lexington on July 25 and Paducah on July 26-30.
“I’m excited to sit in an audience of 800 Kentuckians at The Kentucky Theatre and feel that energy. There’s nothing an artist wants more than to feel like they’re understood and that their voice is heard. My biggest priority in all of this was to do Kentucky proud.”
The Kentucky Theatre is hosting a special screening of Burning Kentucky on Thursday, July 25 at 7:30 pm.
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See below for ticket links:
LOUISVILLE – Louisville Film Society, Speed Art Museum
SUN 7/21 8pm, Screening with Q+A
MON 7/22 6pm, Screening with Q+A
WED 7/24 6pm, Bethany on Directors Panel
LEXINGTON – The Kentucky Theater
THURS 7/25 7 pm, Red Carpet Event, Screening, Q+A
Sponsors: Kentucky For Kentucky, Ale-8-One, West Sixth Brewing
PADUCAH – Maiden Alley Cinema
FRI 7/26 7pm, Screening and Event
Sponsored by Purple Toad Winery
SAT 7/27 4pm & 7pm, Screening
SUN 7/28 4pm & 7pm, Screening
MON 7/29 7pm, Screening
TUES 7/30 7pm, Screening