Day 1, March 11:
Woke up at Marshall’s great house in Nashville 530am. The Bittersweet Science - fantastic book on boxing featuring Gabe Oppenheim - still laying next to my bed.
Hit the road at 6 am, snacks in hand. Persimmons and tangerines a hearty breakfast make. Marshall had a coffee.
We quickly crossed the border into Kentucky and lost an hour. Texted our friend Danny Cupps to set a meeting time: 11am in Paris.
We showed up at a beautiful driveway off the highway 15 minutes before Danny. He got out of his Truck to greet us, a warm smile and handshake. He noted the newspaper finally in the driveway, with a bunch of papers across the road: delinquent paperboy. Danny leads us to his parents home. They moved there 8 years ago and renovated. One can sense it's their pride and joy; the reward for a life’s work farming in Kentucky.
They lead us into the living room, a couple, 82 and 77. The tv is on in prep for the U.K. Basketball game. Absolute sweetest people. We learn about their family. The loss of their youngest son. The pride in their grandkids, especially Danny’s, who seem to be farming experts at a young age.
Then we learn about their house! Built in 1829 by slave owners who were murdered by their own slaves and buried in the backyard. Crazy. And a secret tunnel under the house for what they suspect was a secret slave transport. Danny then showed us around their beautiful land. Livestock and corn and tobacco. Fascinating way of life and livelihood.
We left to then go see Doug’s farm in Berry . Danny warned us: “Doug is a trip.” He wasn't lying.
Doug owns a lot of land around Berry and it seems his home may be a nice location for our Rose home. He and his wife were funny, gracious and welcoming. We chatted for a bit about New York City and got on our way.
2 other failed farm visits and Marshall and I headed to home base in Lexington. Had amazing jambalaya at Bourbon and Toulouse. Got to the University Inn hotel to relax.
I watched Promised Land for research. Marshall watched a doc called Farmland .
Sleep. And back off to the races...
Day 2, March 12
Marshall and I woke up at the university inn. I managed to sneak in a workout in their fitness center.
A couple of farm managers gave us specific back roads to peruse for large operations, so we hit the road around 1030am. Beautiful country. Filled with horse farms and well manicured estates. We stayed around the Woodford Reserve and 4 Roses Distillery. Bourbon country.
We even found some back tree lined roads with mountainous regions Marshall noted felt more like Appalachia. One abandoned distillery reminded us of a walking dead TV set. Was wild.
Not a huge success save 1 address found. But we enjoyed ourselves and had good talks about the screenplay. We settled in a Lexington bar for a long lunch where we watched the U.K. Bball team win their tourney.
From there we went to the library and sent some emails. I got linked up with the very kind Jack Gruber - our friend Doug’s neighbor - who's starting an arts residency in Berry. Who knew!
At 4:30 we popped over to Craig Banderoff ’s place. Craig’s a successful horse breeder and an absolute sweetheart who hailed from the NE some 35 years ago. He offered for us to stay by him: Southern hospitality at its finest. We declined and got a steak dinner at Columbia, the longest running restaurant in Lexington ! Delish.
Hotel tonight provided us a good deal on a new hotel. There we settled, worked on the script for a couple hours, watched Shark Tank reruns and passed out.
Up early for Monday the 13th. Onwards !
Day 3, March 13
Early mornin. Woke up at a great hotel in Lexington, had a hearty breakfast and hit the road 45 minutes to Harrodsburg.
There we met Harvey Mitchell, probably our greatest ally in these parts. He runs a real estate company but was a farmer for years and knows the industry inside and out. Brilliant guy who schooled us on the macro status and financials of the farming industry.
He wants to support our project however he can. I can repeat those words for nearly every person we've met here. And mean it. Great.
We drove from Harvey’s office to Loretto to meet the Peterson family . And boy do they have an operation. Clearly an incredibly successful family who own and or operate 17k acres all over. I'd never seen such large bins before. What an alien industry to me in so many ways. Photo evidence will help.
We spent time with Bill and Albert and headed to a really old luncheonette in the area. 7 dollar steaks that tasted more like chicken. But my stomach survived thankfully. They told us all about the incredible tech they use at their operation. Mind blowing the juxtaposition of witnessing their simplicity, food and dress (overalls and boots) of the Peterson clan and their collective brilliant intellect and jargon re: agriculture. Inspiring.
Bill told me about his family tree, going back 16 generations to New York via Amsterdam. Fantastic history.
We went back to the farm and took photos. Ideated a bunch on how we could use this farm because they would be such amazing partners. But we can't sadly. The operation is just too big that it would alter some fundamentals of the script. A bummer but so glad to have them in our network.
We departed back to Lexington to meet Albert Mason and the beautiful studio they've got. Could be a helpful resource down the line for sure. From there we grabbed Mexican, and headed to the hotel for shut eye.
I answered emails, schmoozed with Marshall and read some of my boxing book. Lovely times and deep sleep.
Day 4, march 14
Louisville day. Checked out of our lovely hotel after a hearty breakfast in Lexington, and stopped in Frankfort - at a beautiful Starbucks - en route to Louis. We met Brandon Davis there who works for the government in Ag education. Superb guy.
From there we popped into Louisville 45 mins away and grabbed a quick bite at an eggs spot. Then the meetings began:
Gill Holland . Generous nice fella. His Wendell Berry documentary should be interesting for us.
Lindsay Moremen. Her paint studio is exciting and she's another KY native with loads of knowledge and energy.
Elise Williams . Awesome production manager for us. Has a New York speed to her that I would trust in a bind.
Finally Zach Meiners and his team. They've got a lovely studio downtown on Main Street with an incredible theatre in the office.
Oh, and I had one of my best burgers ever at Holy Grale. Pretzel bread. Yum.
Overall we got the lay of the land in Louisville. But my personal preference is most definitely spending time with farmers. Slower life. Sun on the face. Outdoors and less hustle. Boy, do I love the people of Kentucky.
It's been a great trip. Last couple of meetings in the AM in Frankfort and back to Nashville we go.
March 15, day 5
Nice little tradition I started here, writing these entries on my Google Docs on the iPhone. Always after I eat some eggs!
Yesterday was the last day of our scout and it was a great one. We awoke at the Best Western, grabbed a coffee (tea for me) in the lobby and headed off to a super charming coffee shop in Frankfort called the Kentucky Coffee Tree Cafe.
Marshall and I had 30 minutes to kill, so we each took turns in the adjoining book store and bought works from local authors. Excited to dig in! We ate a quick breakfast until George Maranville showed up. Super nice guy and a veteran AD/producer usually based out of Louisville.
From there we drove 10 minutes to meet Jay Hall , head of the film commission. He's based out of the tourism office. Frankfort is KY’s capital, so lot of municipal buildings around.
Jay’s a total mensch. He loves his job. We had a great chat about our film and the Kentucky arts community and, most importantly, about his previous job in the Ag department for the state. He reported then - and reports now - directly to the governor of Kentucky.
Jay mentioned some impt contacts to us culminating in an intro to Ryan Bevins , a successful young farmer whose land is directly on our way back to Nashville.
So...we stopped right in! He lives in Abe Lincoln’s birth town so we drove through some awesome old statues and tourism. Ryan’s a great guy. The first, 1st generation farm owner we met all trip. And he seems like a brilliant guy.
He's eager to help us with the film and his farm - though imperfect in certain ways - is now a fantastic option for the movie. Long story short: the Ag community wants this to happen. And we couldn't be more honored and excited to work with them.
Nashville was lovely. Great dinner at Butcher and Bee with Marshall and Addy. A scout in the can. And a great time.
Onwards. Upwards. Kentuckywards :) Sam