Home Lexington ‘Burning Kentucky’ returns home

‘Burning Kentucky’ returns home

group of women standing in front of a backdrop smiling at the camera

Sold out premiere at the Kentucky Theatre


It’s been seven years in the making, but writer/director Bethany Brooke Anderson finally brought her beloved Burning Kentucky film back to the Commonwealth.

Photo credit Wylie Caudill

“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.”

In July, Burning Kentucky premiered at the Kentucky Theatre for a sold out show. With an audience of 800, an additional 400 were turned away at the door.

“The ones in the theater were not just any 800 people,” says Anderson. “They were the exact humans our little film was made for, watching it in the exact place it was meant to be seen.”

Anderson grew up in Lexington and attended the University of Kentucky for theatre performance before moving cross country to Los Angeles to pursue acting. She 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 Los Angeles. A year and a half of fundraising proceeded before Anderson received the greenlight to finish her movie. In 2017, the remainder 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.

woman standing in front of a backdrop
Augie Duke who plays “Jolene”

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 (stereo) 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,” she adds.

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 went beyond what Anderson thought she could do with her first indie film. She never wanted to be finished with movie and not love it entirely. Even cast members who were not Kentuckians fell in love with the state.

Augie Duke, who won a festival Best Actress award for her role in the movie, claims she’s been adopted by Kentucky. “There is something so inviting, safe and comfortable about Kentucky. There’s a part of my heart that will always be from here.”

Photo credit Wylie Caudill

Burning Kentucky had already premiered at four film festivals, but Anderson was most excited for the screenings 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 in a completely different way.”

This article also appears on page 14 of the August 2019 print edition of Ace Weekly.

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