One on One with Producers of the movie FREETOWN

FREETOWN​is a religious thriller based on actual events starring Henry Adofo, Michael Attram, Phillip Michael, Bright Dodoo, Clement Amegayie, Alphonse Menyo, Great Ejiro, Nuong Faalong Bill Myers and Godwin Namboh. The screenplay is written by Melissa Leilani Larson and Garrett Batty. FREETOWN​is directed by Garrett Batty (The Saratov Approach) and produced by Adam Abel (Saints and Soldiers, Forever Strong) and Batty.

The Movie which premieres at the Silverbird Cinema Accra Mall will be on March 12th 2015 through March 19th.

Its HashTag on Social Media is #Freetownmovie

Below is an Interview with its Director, Garret Batty and Screenwriter Melissa Leilani Larson


Why choose FREETOWN​as your follow-up to The Saratov Approach?

I gravitate towards stories where people rise above their situations and accomplish something greater than themselves. The Saratov Approach was a very intimate film, but FREETOWN has a much bigger feel to it.

Though the story takes place twenty-five years ago, there is an urgency that runs throughout it. People are hunted for no other reason than they were born into a certain tribe. That kind of discrimination–determining the value of a person based on a snap decision–exists today, definitely. As a society we generally believe that a person can worship how, where or what they may. But what if those rights are threatened by forces beyond your control? I wanted to further explore that intersection of faith and fear.

What did you use to shoot FREETOWN?

We used a RED camera. It has a flexibility that other cameras just don’t have. The richness of the picture still comes through. We also were able to use a GoPro on a drone for aerial shots.

How did the shoot for FREETOWN​differ from The Saratov Approach?

For The Saratov Approach, we had thirteen shooting days, three of which were in Ukraine, the rest in the basement of our production office in Draper, Utah. FREETOWN was shot completely on location in Ghana for four weeks. You absolutely cannot fake the West African landscape. When you’re on location as opposed to a closed set, you can lose control very easy–the weather changes; you lose light faster than you think. It’s a testament to the resourcefulness of our Ghanaian crew that we were able to shoot FREETOWN on time and on budget.

What is your approach to independent filmmaking?

It’s been my experience that skill and tenacity trump everything else. You have to refuse to rest on any laurels you may have earned. I don’t ever want to do the same thing twice–I have to push myself technically or thematically with every film I do. You have to stay a little uncomfortable if you want to grow. Filmmaking is a tough business; you can’t do it alone. I tell stories that uplift and inspire; working with people who believe in my vision is one of the most rewarding things about being a filmmaker.


Already an accomplished playwright, FREETOWN is your first produced screenplay. What research did you do to write FREETOWN?

I read and studied the stories of the missionaries depicted in the film. My first contact with the story was an article in The Church News (a publication produced by the LDS Church) that Garrett had sent me. I read it, and was blown away by it. I needed to learn about Liberia, and the political climate. I studied about that country’s history and politics. I paid particular attention to the events surrounding Samuel Doe and his corrupt government, and how they triggered to the rebel invasions that serve as the backdrop of the film. I also read about Liberian culture and the history of Christianity—specifically Mormonism—in Africa.

What was the greatest challenge writing FREETOWN?

There are a lot of worlds in FREETOWN that are new to me: for starts, I’ve never been to Africa, and I haven’t served a mission. But I think there are elements in the story that are universal. It’s a story about survival, about companionship. About believing so strongly in something that it pushes you past what you thought you were capable of. Probably the greatest challenge, though, was to take this group of men and make them all individuals. I’m personally very interested in drama that is driven by characters—by real people with honest wants and needs who are placed in real and difficult situations. I discussed early on with Garrett that it was important for each of these men to be individual and stand apart from the group in some way. It’s the kind of challenge I love and can sink my teeth into. I’m pleased with the result.

What was the best part of writing FREETOWN?

I think a lot of people who know my work may be surprised that I wrote FREETOWN. In a very general sense, it’s not the kind of story I typically tell: it’s a story about men; it’s a thriller; it takes place in a time and locale that aren’t familiar to me. But those were all challenges that were attractive to me. As a writer, I know what my strengths are, but I’m always looking for ways to expand myself as an artist. I simply want to tell stories—all kinds of stories—as well as I possibly can. All that said, the best part of writing FREETOWN was getting lost in the story. It was really exciting to create something so intense, doubly so because it’s inspired by actual events. I’ve gotten to know these characters; I feel like I know them. Telling their story became a personal endeavor.

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