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Out of Liberty
Written by Michael A. KennedyCreated: 8 April 2019
With only a few films under his belt, Garrett Batty has already had a prolific career, making his mark in the Latter-day Saint cinema genre and the mainstream independent market with his hit film The Saratov Approach. He followed up with the well-received Freetown, a film about African missionaries fleeing civil war. Now he turns his considerable talents towards the story of Joseph Smith in Liberty Jail, framing it as a prison-break thriller told through the eyes of the guard who aided the escape.
These most wanted men, as Latter-day Saints will quickly recognize, included the prophet Joseph Smith Jr., his brother Hyrum, and four other Church leaders. They’d been arrested and falsely accused of treason.
“Out of Liberty” is set to premiere in the fall of 2019. Visit www.outofliberty.com for updates.
The recently released trailer for Out of Liberty has drawn universal praise. With Batty’s skills, a talented cast that includes Corbin Allred (Saints and Soldiers) and Jasen Wade (17 Miracles), and an emphasis on tense realism, the film has quickly garnered major excitement.
A gritty prison-break western but unlike many westerns, this one actually happened.
Garrett Batty: I’m thrilled with the response that the trailer is receiving. Stephen Dethloff wrote the first draft to Out of Liberty and I loved the authentic, procedural take on the events within the jail. Mckay Stevens and I then did several drafts with Steven with the goal to make the story resonate with current themes and events. I’m hopeful that audiences respond to this approach.
Garrett Batty: At one moment in the film the jailer at Liberty (played by Jasen Wade from 17 Miracles) explains, “My job is to keep these men until their trial. It’s got nothin’ to do with religion.” Similar to today, people back then were generally trying to live their lives without stirring the pot too much. Angry mobs and vocal religionists were minorities, trying to sway public opinion. As sides are chosen, tensions increase, and the liberty to stay silent slowly fades out. That’s when interesting choices have to be made. Sam Tillery is the ideal character to put in the middle of these two sides.
Garrett Batty: I approached Anne Black to be the production designer, and she brought on a team led by William Rowan. Their team worked tirelessly to create a nearly identical-scale model of the interior of the jail. We then built an exterior set of the jail for the mob scenes. Our director of photography, Jeremy Prusso shot it beautifully. When theatrical audiences see the conditions that were endured, it really is breathtaking.
Jasen Wade plays the Javert-like jailer, Sam Tillery, and it is a role unlike I have ever seen him play. We also have Corbin Allred, who was last seen in The Saratov Approach. His fantastic take on Porter Rockwell will make audiences want a stand-alone film of Porter’s adventures (I am all for it!). Brandon Ray Olive (Magellan) and Casey Elliott (from the musical trio Gentri) as Joseph and Hyrum Smith bring a humanity to the roles that makes me consider the unique bond that must have existed between these brothers. And there are several other recognizable faces that show up throughout the film. Every day was a dream to get to work with a cast like this.
In researching and writing different versions of the script, I felt reminded of the tender relationship that our Savior wants to have with each one of us. Seeing the day-to-day activities of the characters in this film really bring a relatable quality to those that we sometimes keep at a respectful distance. The movie has given me much more appreciation for the experiences of that difficult time in Missouri’s history, and for those who endured it.