111 minutes | 2.35
Winter 1839. Liberty, Missouri.
Local jailer, Samuel Tillery (Jasen Wade) is tasked with watching Missouri’s most wanted men as they await their upcoming hearing. Caught between the local Missourians’ increased drive to remove the prisoners, and the prisoners’ desperate efforts to survive, Tillery is pushed beyond what any lawman can endure.
Based on actual recorded accounts, OUT OF LIBERTY is an intense, evocative western, with an outcome you have to see to believe.
ABOUT OUT OF LIBERTY
OUT OF LIBERTY is an intense western jailbreak film based on actual recorded events starring Jasen Wade, Brandon Ray Olive, Casey Elliott, and Corbin Allred. The screenplay is written by Stephen Dethloff, and Garrett Batty and S. Mckay Stevens. OUT OF LIBERTY is directed by Garrett Batty and produced by Stevens and Batty.
Winter 1839. For months, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have been gathering to Missouri, stoking fear and uncertainty into the locals. This fear and misunderstanding leads to rising tensions, and the leadership of the Church—led by Joseph Smith (Brandon Ray Olive)—are eventually arrested on charges of treason. By the end of 1839, they are placed in a recently constructed jail in the town of Liberty, Missour. Jailer Samuel Tillery (Jasen Wade) is tasked with guarding them until their next court hearing.
The seemingly simple task spirals out of control quickly, however, as Tillery realizes that he’s holding the most hated men in all of Missouri. Nightly gatherings at the jail consist of verbal harassment and throwing rocks through the windows. The growing mobs want these men dead, and they feel they’ve been given permission from the state to interpret and carry out the law as they see fit. Tillery—a man of the law—finds himself caught in the middle of the prisoners, the charges against them, and the mob desperately fighting to take them down.
OUT OF LIBERTY’s creative team includes production design by William Rowan Jr, and costume design by Emily Jacobson. Cinematography by Jeremy Prusso (The Saratov Approach, Freetown). Edited by Connor O’Malley (The Saratov Approach, Freetown). Music by Robert Allen Elliott (The Saratov Approach, Freetown).
ABOUT THE PRODUCTION
In early 2018, writer/director Garrett Batty was exploring several options for his next feature film. Prior to this, he had received a message from writer Stephen Dethloff and was intrigued by Dethloff’s pitch, so encouraged him to come back to him with a completed draft. Several months later, deep into 2018, Dethloff re-emerged with a draft. Batty was instantly intrigued by the dynamics between the characters, the western-feel, and the relevant themes.
After Dethloff completed a few additional drafts, Batty and his writing/producing partner S. Mckay Stevens took the script and wrote additional drafts, building on to Dethloff’s framework. “History has always been intriguing to me, but as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ, this story was special. I didn’t know previously that these prisoners tried to break out of Liberty Jail multiple times, and I thought that would be a fascinating piece of history to explore,” says Dethloff. “We worked hard to keep our characters true to their descriptions and the storylines true to their records. Our goal from the very beginning was to make sure it was entertaining for any movie-goer, but also something that any historian would appreciate because of the lengths we went to maintain accuracy,” says Batty. S.
S. Mckay Stevens (Freetown, We Love You, Sally Carmichael!) had already worked with Batty on previous projects, but this would be his first as producer. “I’d been waiting for the right story to surface to be able to have the opportunity to produce something with Garrett, and ‘Out of Liberty’ was the perfect fit.” Batty and Stevens worked through the final drafts of the script together, then immediately jumped into pre-production.
Location scouting began early fall 2018. Batty and Stevens had already been discussing some possibilities during the writing process, and they knew they had the resources in the State of Utah to be able to keep locations somewhat close together to cut down on cost during production. “We found a perfect little patch of land just north of Utah Lake where there’s a near-360-degree view without a single mountain or sign of modern civilization. It was perfect,” says Batty. For their interior sets, they repurposed the interior of a barn in Lehi, Utah. Both the interior and exterior sets for Liberty Jail were an exact replica to historical accounts, in dimensions and furnishings.
Production began in November 2018. The 11-day shooting schedule was ambitious, and didn’t come without its hiccups, but ultimately worked. “We were updating our shooting schedule until the day before production,” recounts Stevens. “We ended up scheduling our biggest scenes for the first day. It was a bit wild trying to wrangle nearly 100 cast members on the very first day, but every single person there was committed to getting it done the right way. That mentality and focus set the tone for the remainder of the shoot.”
Along with shooting a period western, Batty had the added challenge of capturing the essence of some beloved figures during some of their most trying circumstances on record. “It was a perfect combination of gratitude and weight that drove every creative decision on set. I was grateful for the chance to tell such an important story, and we felt the weight of that significance throughout the shoot. This is our shared legacy, and we owed it to these men to do it right.”
Post-production began immediately after production wrapped in mid-November 2018. Editor Connor O’Malley (The Saratov Approach, Freetown) worked quickly to put the film together. With input from Batty and Stevens, the film began to take shape. “There’s nothing quite like seeing the chaos of production leading to a finished film. Watching that come together for such a meaningful story is a profound feeling,” says Stevens.
Robert Allen Elliott returned to compose his third of Batty’s three most recent films. “I count down the days until I get to score another Garrett Batty film,” says Elliott. “The moment I began to see footage from the film, I knew the score had to be as unique as the film itself, yet remain complementary to the storyline.”
AN EXCITING OPPORTUNITY
Described as an “intense, evocative western,” OUT OF LIBERTY stands out, singular in its space. But where it really stands out is in its striking parallels to modern trends. “It would seem with the saturation of social media and 24-hour news that there has never been another time like this in history where the voice of the people—regardless of motive or facts—overrules the truth and condemns without due process,” says Stevens. “Well this story painfully illustrates otherwise, and gives our protagonist—the jailer—a difficult but relatable position of figuring out where and how to take a stand in that kind of social climate.”
At the same time, Stevens and Batty saw an exciting opportunity to deliver an intense, action-filled western to audiences everywhere. “Not only do we have these fascinating parallels to contemporary mob rule, but we also have this rough, gritty depiction of an old time that has been memorilized in film for decades. And this time, it has the added benefit of being true,” says Batty.
While containing some religious themes and historical figures, the story is much broader than that. Adds Batty, “You won’t see happy church-goers or baptisms in a river in ‘Out of Liberty,’ but you will see the authentic struggles of a man caught between the law, the mob, and the truth, and you will see a group of prisoners learning what it really means to trust in a higher power. There is something in this film for everyone, regardless of faith.”
ABOUT THE CAST
JASEN WADE – Samuel Tillery
Jasen Wade was born in Spain and raised in Utah. After spending years between New York, Los Angeles, and Colorado, Jasen and his family have settled back in Utah, where Jasen continues his ambitious acting career. He is best known for his roles as Levi Savage in 17 Miracles, Bud Curtis in Saints and Soldiers: Airborne Creed, and Ron Hartley in The Cokeville Miracle.
BRANDON RAY OLIVE – Joseph Smith
Brandon Ray Olive hails from Shreveport, Louisiana and has been working in the film industry for over 15 years. He’s best known for his work on HBO’s Mosaic, Steven Soderbergh’s Logan Lucky, and TV’s NCIS and CSI.
CASEY ELLIOTT – Hyrum Smith
Casey Elliott is an American actor and singer. He currently sings with GENTRI: The Gentlemen Trio, a cinematic pop trio.
CORBIN ALLRED – Porter Rockwell
Corbin Allred has been working in film and television since he was 12 years old, working on shows and films such as: Robin Hood: Men in Tights, CSI, JAG, Monk, NCIS, Saints and Soldiers, ER, and The Saratov Approach. His role in OUT OF LIBERTY marks his return to filmmaking after a 5-year hiatus to pursue a medical degree.
ADAM JOHNSON – Caleb Baldwin
Adam Johnson is an actor from Santa Monica, California who is most well-known for his roles in the Mythica independent fantasy film series, and he currently plays Munt in The Outpost on The CW.
JAKE VAN WAGONER – Cyrus Daniels
Jake Van Wagoner is an actor, writer, and producer from Utah. He has worked as a writer and producer on TRUtv’s Impractical Jokers and currently produces and performs on BYUtv’s Show Offs.
DANNY JAMES – Alexander McRae
Danny James is a multi-talented filmmaker in front of and behind the camera. His most notable on-camera credits include the tv mini-series NASCAR: The Rise of American Speed, Blood & Oil, and The Outpost.
BROCK ROBERTS – Sidney Rigdon
Brock Roberts was raised in Springville, Utah, and grew up acting in plays, but as he grew up, he took a more traditional approach with his career. After a car accident nearly took his life, he decided it was time to return to acting.
MORGAN GUNTER – Lyman Wight
Morgan is a young actor whose performances have stood out in every project to which he is attached. He’s been accepted to a prestigious acting program in San Francisco and will be relocating there this fall to begin intensive training.
ERIC WOOD – Neil Rowland
While being relatively new to the game, Eric Wood is easily one of the most sought-after actors in the state of Utah. His most notable project is PARABOLIC, a hit short film which Eric also wrote and directed.
ABOUT THE FILMMAKERS
GARRETT BATTY – Director / Producer / Writer
Garrett Batty’s company, Three Coin Productions, began as a post-production facility in southern California. His feature film slate includes SCOUT CAMP, the independent hit THE SARATOV APPROACH, and FREETOWN, an ambitious war drama set in Liberia. OUT OF LIBERTY is his fourth narrative feature-length film.
S MCKAY STEVENS – Writer / Producer
Mckay Stevens first job on a feature film with Garrett Batty’s second film, THE SARATOV APPROACH. Following that, Mckay worked as an editor, post supervisor, and writer on projects such as FREETOWN, WE LOVE YOU SALLY CARMICHAEL, and EXTINCT (TV Series). This is Mckay’s debut feature as a writer and producer.
JEREMY PRUSSO – Director of Cinematography
Jeremy Prusso is one of the most sought after cinematographers in the state of Utah and beyond. He has traveled the world as a result of his unique ability to capture the purest images available. His work includes THE SARATOV APPROACH, FREETOWN, CHRISTMAS TIME, AND JEWTAH, among others. This is his third film with Batty.
SALLY MEYER – Casting Director
Sally Meyer is a household name for the Utah film community. There are few as well-connected to the breadth of talent Utah has to offer. She’s also an experienced writer. Her credits include: THE CHRISTMAS PROJECT 1 & 2, EXTINCT, and WE LOVE YOU SALLY CARMICHAEL.
CONNOR O’MALLEY – Editor
CONNOR O’MALLEY has edited all of Batty’s films: SCOUT CAMP, THE SARATOV APPROACH, and FREETOWN.
ROBERT ALLEN ELLIOTT – Composer
Composing music since childhood, Robert Allen Elliott received his formal music education at Cal Poly, graduating Summa Cum Laude. He has composed music for numerous television programs, web videos, and feature films. His notable film composition credentials include: THE SARATOV APPROACH, FREETOWN, and LITTLE WOMEN.
Where was OUT OF LIBERTY filmed?
The entire production was shot in Utah over the course of eleven days at three locations: a barn in Lehi, a field near the north shore of Utah Lake, and one day at This is the Place Heritage Park in Salt Lake City.
Are the characters based on actual people?
The story and characters are based on actual people. The prisoners (Joseph Smith, Hyrum Smith, Lyman Wight, Sidney Rigdon, Caleb Baldwin, and Alexander McRae) are based on the actual people who were imprisoned from winter 1839 to spring 1840. Samuel Tillery, the film’s lead character, is the actual jailer who was responsible for the prisoners during that time frame. Other true-to-life characters include: Porter Rockwell, General Doniphan, Cyrus Daniels, Judge Turnham, James Ford, and John Brassfield. The only noteworthy exception is that of Neil Rowland, the film’s antagonist. He is based on an individual by the name of Moses Rowland, who was the only man killed in the Battle of Crooked River. Neil is his fictitious elder brother, used as the face of the mobs and mob mentality of the time. His personal connection to the claims against the prisoners is an accurate representation of the mobs of the time.
What was the inspiration behind the story?
The story is based on historical accounts from members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and public records from the State of Missouri. The original writer of the story, Stephen Dethloff discovered in his research that while imprisoned at the jail at Liberty (it wasn’t formally called Liberty Jail at the time), that the prisoners attempted to escape multiple times, and knew it could make for a fascinating story.
When director Garrett Batty read the script, he immediately saw intriguing parallels to mob rule and social justice that exist in our day. He and producer S. Mckay Stevens collaborated to build a story that would examine the struggle of a man caught in the middle of justice, law, mercy, and truth.
How can I see the movie in my town?
The film will open in select Utah theaters beginning September 13th, 2019. The weekend after that, the film will expand to additional theaters. The film will play in any city where the demand is made.
The best way for the distributors to know where to send the film is to submit your email and zip/postal code on the website. You may also send in that information directly via Facebook or Instagram Messenger.
Is the cast available for theater appearances?
Our principal cast members keep a tight schedule, but they are doing their best to make themselves available whenever possible. There are a few showings they have already committed to attend, and more will follow as the official release date draws closer. Follow our social media platforms to stay current on cast appearances.
Q&A with Director Garrett Batty
Where did the concept come from for Out of Liberty?
I love a good Western, and I’ve wanted to do one for a while. The events at Liberty Jail involve a triangle of conflict between the jailer, the mob and the prisoners. It seemed like an intriguing plot to explore. Amidst some of the better known occurrences were attempted jailbreaks, repeated appeals to the legal system and an impromptu court hearing. With 1830’s Missouri as a setting, it’s the perfect backdrop for a powerful western.
What were some high points during the creative process?
Working in independent film is extremely difficult. It requires a lot of talented, passionate creative individuals to make things come together. Stephen Dethloff brought in the first several drafts of the script, and it was a high point to see that there was a cinematic story in Liberty Jail. Then, to be able to cast Jasen Wade, Brandon Ray Olive and Corbin Allred (who came back to acting after a 5 year hiatus just for this role) was a dream come true. Another high point was getting to see the set of the jail. We built 2 different sets, to cover interiors and exteriors. To step onto each set after they were completely prepped for filming made everything feel real.
What was your favorite scene on set?
The entire shoot was extremely cold, and the pressure to get everything just right probably impeded me from being able to feel like I had a favorite scene during the shoot. But now that the film is done, I can look back at some of the scenes and more accurately choose favorites. There’s a lot of recorded stories about the friendship between Joseph (Brandon Ray Olive) and Porter (Corbin Allred.) The scenes in which we tried to portray that friendship have become some of my favorites. Also, the jailer, Samuel Tillery (Jasen Wade) has a classic western stand-off with one of the characters. I’ve loved that scene from the moment it was in the script, through the final edit.
Any learning moments you want to share?
Any film presents opportunities for learning moments. Whether in the research phase, fundraising phase, production, post, or distribution, I’m always learning more and more about the process. One lesson that relates specifically to OUT OF LIBERTY was learning to respect the humanness of whom the story is about. Often I read historical accounts, but fail to recognize that they are written about real people, who deal with the same human hopes, dreams, faith and fears that I go through. So I learned to not only show their actions, but to help the audience understand the human emotion that was driving their actions. So in a moment of weakness, when Sydney Rigdon (Brock Roberts) doesn’t live up to my expectations, appreciating his humanness helps me to be more understanding of his actions.
What is the inspiration behind the story?
OUT OF LIBERTY is based on the true events that happened at Liberty Jail in 1839. Mob rule and public opinion collided with religious liberties and expressions of faith. It lead to a conflict that escalated beyond what either side wanted. Today, with ever-present social media and opinionated commentators stirring up reactions and attacks toward any differing belief, the similarities felt very relevant. Fortunately, we see in both cases, that principled individuals, dedicated to the good of society, can make a difference.
What advice would you give to aspiring filmmakers?
Stop aspiring, start doing. We need great storytellers!
If you had to summarize the film in one line what would it be?
OUT OF LIBERTY is a western drama about a jailer caught between his civic job to keep Missouri’s most wanted men held for trial, and his personal duty to protect them from those who want them dead.
What do you hope people take away from this film?
When audiences go to the theater to see OUT OF LIBERTY, I hope they come away thinking “Wow, that was an awesome film! Let’s see it again.” It’s really a cool story, and to see it in theaters brings it to life in a way that no other format can.
What most surprised you in the making of this film?
One of the surprises along they way was how dedicated and committed the cast and crew were to telling this story. One example of this is with the character of Caleb Baldwin played by Adam Johnson. I’ve been friends with Adam Johnson for years, and have loved watching him in everything from CHARLY to The Outpost on The CW. He was gracious enough to come do this movie as a favor for me. I anticipated he would show up, deliver a good performance, keep the set fun, and be on to the next project. But Adam surprised me. He brought a performance that gave a level of humanity and depth that turned Caleb Baldwin into a real person for me. It was humbling, inspiring, and it has stuck with me. Every actor gave their all, and it shows on screen. It was really quite a nice surprise to have that caliber of talent on this film.
What scene was the most difficult to film?
Each scene had its own set of challenges, but for this project I’d have to say the first day of shooting was the hardest. The film is dedicated to my mother-in-law, who unexpectedly passed away only two days before filming began. With this personal tragedy very much on my mind, it was difficult to try to focus on the film. I was grateful to be surrounded by a supportive cast and crew, and a wonderful family. One message of the film deals with enduring extremely difficult circumstances, so that inspired me throughout the shoot.
What other films have you directed?
OUT OF LIBERTY is my fourth feature film. Other features I’ve written and directed are THE SARATOV APPROACH, FREETOWN and SCOUT CAMP.
How long did it take to film your movie?
We filmed OUT OF LIBERTY in November, 2018.
Do you have a favorite story from set?
One fun story – I was holding auditions, and was surprised when Jasen Wade showed up to audition. We had never worked together, and it was an honor to have him audition. He read for a role and did a great job. But I felt I should ask him to read the part of the jailer, Samuel Tillery. He looked a little disheartened, but agreed to read for the part. He was perfect for it! About a week later, we offered him the part and he graciously accepted. I asked him to make some time for a call so that we could discuss his approach to the character. As we discussed the character, he paused for a minute, then said “Wait a minute… I’m just playing the jailer, right?” He was shocked to find out that the jailer was the protagonist of the film. He was expecting it to be just a small supporting role.