Q & A with Rob Gardner, Director of ‘What Lies Ahead’

I’m a huge fan of thrillers, they often get underneath my skin the most and leave a lasting impression. Recently, I got the chance to interview Rob Gardner, the director and cinematographer of What Lies Ahead, a thriller starring Rumer Willis and Emma Dumont. Learn more about why he got involved in the industry, the inspiration behind his new film, some of his favorite scenes, and more.

Rob Gardner

PopHorror – Hi Rob, thanks for talking with me! What inspired you to get involved in the film industry?

Rob Gardner – Thank you! I have been dabbling in photography since I was 8 years old. It became more of a hobby as I reached high school, and I began shooting for the yearbook staff. This was also the point that I directed my first TV commercial (closed circuit within the school) for our upcoming yearbook sells drive.

After high school I began a bit of acting, and after some small successes in commercials, I was more intrigued by what was going on behind the camera. So in college, I decided to forgo the journalism route, and push into creative media. I landed a job with a local production company and moved my way up to directing and in 2000, started my commercial production company, Mfilms. Then in 2016 I co-founded Lago Pictures with William Viglione (Bill), and we made What Lies Ahead, our first project.

PopHorror – That’s awesome. I was involved in journalism and on the yearbook staff as well. What is your favorite genre?

Rob Gardner – My favorite genres of film are thrillers and crime dramas. I like the journey these films take you on, where you become the sleuth. I like the misdirects in the storytelling. Movies have always been a big part of my life, and growing up when I wasn’t watching what my parents were; I gravitated to horror films. Growing up in Louisville, KY, there were two local channels which showed old horror films on Saturday night after the late night newscast. I lived for Saturday nights at 11:30, and still remember those evenings with fondness.

PopHorror – That’s what I like to hear! Your newest film is What Lies Ahead. Can you tell the readers what this film is about?

What Lies Ahead
What Lies Ahead Poster

Rob Gardner – What Lies Ahead is a slow burn psychological thriller about two young women who embark on a road trip from Georgia to New York together. As the trip progresses and the girls become closer, they find their share of trouble along the way. The movie was written by my producing partner Bill, and stars Rumer Willis and Emma Dumont.

PopHorror – What inspired you to make this one?

Rob Gardner – Bill and I had discussed doing something for many years, and we had completed a short script that we both really loved, a paranormal family film that I still feel has a lot of legs.  However, we shelved it for the opportunity to work on the idea of What Lies Ahead. Bill brought the concept of the movie to me, and I was intrigued for many reasons. First, I loved the idea of the multiple twists that we could play with, and secondly, was the ability to work in a genre that has a built in following, which allows us to generate a revenue stream and make it a marketable endeavor.

PopHorror – I love multiple twists! How did the casting process come about?

Rob Gardner – We were very fortunate to have the cast we had, and both Rumer Willis and Emma Dumont were great to work with on the production. They brought a great amount of energy to their characters, and I was very happy with their performances.

We had producer Joe Burke working with us, and he was able to connect us to some wonderful casting directors.  After some discussion, we decided to work with J.C. Cantu C.S.A., he put forward some very solid actors for us, and we were excited with so many of the reads we were given. These were actors that did have some accomplished roles, and were very talented. However, Bill’s script began to take a life of it’s own, and the scope and scale of the film changed, as more prominent actors wanted to be a part of the film. Rumer and Emma both showed interest in the script, and the rest is history.

Rumer Willis and Emma Dumont in What Lies Ahead
Rumer Willis and Emma Dumont in What Lies Ahead

PopHorror – They’re both fantastic actresses! Do you have any favorite scenes or ones that were particularly hard to shoot?

Rob Gardner – I had so much fun working on this film, so it’s difficult to pin me down on a favorite, but I can say that scenes that have confrontation were my favorite to shoot.

One of the more complicated scenes to shoot was our large climax scene. It was just so involved with many moving parts, and it was our last two days of shooting, so we were up against the clock, and fighting a bit of weather.

PopHorror – Ugh, that’s never fun, but you pulled it off anyway! Any fun memories on set?

Rob Gardner – Getting up every morning to go to set and shoot our pages with the cast and crew we had put together was incredible. I often tell people that what I do is “like a hobby I get paid for”. This is not to say that there were not very stressful situations or discussions on the set, but being prepared, and having the right people in place make all the difference. I absolutely love what I get to do, and I always want to do it again and again. Give me more.

PopHorror – That’s the dream. Getting to do what you love. It’s like that quote… “Do something you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life.” Any upcoming projects you’d like to talk about?

Rob Gardner – I have been reading a number of scripts that Bill has written, that we are looking to produce through our Lago Pictures company. I have also met some folks along the way that have shared some really great material with me as well. I just finished shooting and directing a short, by a young local writer and the co-star, Shane McCamant, which also stared Daniel Bruington (Vice).  However, one of my pet projects is a period piece set in 1809 with a story told through the eyes of a 12 year old girl which is in pre production currently.

PopHorror – I look forward to checking those out. Thanks for talking with PopHorror!

About Tori Danielle

Tori has had a passion for Horror and music ever since she was a little girl. She got bit by the writing bug in high school where she was involved in both the school newspaper and the yearbook. While getting her Bachelors degree, she took Journalism and Creative Writing classes where her passion grew even stronger. Now, in between work and family, she spends all of her spare time indulging in music, Horror movies, and nerdy fandoms, all while running/assisting one of the biggest Horror groups on Facebook and writing for various websites.

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