Interview by Paul Salfen

SYNOPSIS: Recently paroled thief Gabe Russell is back at it again. After a botched armored
car robbery turns up the heat from the FBI, he’ll have one last shot if he hopes to escape and
provide a new life for himself and his estranged daughter.

Kyle Kauwika Harris
Out of Exile is my first feature narrative film. I have produced and directed music videos, short
films and two feature documentaries, including the Emmy winning I Stand: The Guardians of the
Water, which told the story of Standing Rock Sioux Nation’s opposition to the Dakota Access
Pipeline and fight for clean water rights. I have been repped in LA since 2018 and have done
rewrites on the upcoming films Bright Path: the Jim Thorpe biopic now titled THORPE and Wind
River 2: The Next Chapter as well as work on many other projects. I have written over 20
screenplays and recently founded SafeHouse Films in Oklahoma City, OK, as a branded
content company that produces film in the crime/action and thriller genre space. Our focus is
character stories with strong themes. But my love of storytelling began as a kid growing up in
rural Oklahoma. My grandfather was a historian and he had hundreds of books in a library cabin
next to his house and I’d spend a lot of time reading books and would attend his speeches at
Judge Parker’s Court in Fort Smith, AR, and just soak up all the history. I was the kid who read
all of the Franklin W. Dixon Hardy Boys and Louis L’amour’s western books among others like
Cormac McCarthy to Tom Clancy. My parents got divorced at a young age, and with my alone
time I would spend that time watching films. I was drawn to the deeper thematic material. I
remember being moved by Clint Eastwood’s A Perfect World, Malick’s Badlands, Cool Hand
Luke as well as so many others. I found a different tonal sensibility that spoke to me emotionally
at that time in my life. I also use these same authentic themes in my scripts today, father’s and
son’s, failed parenthood, etc because I know what that looks like and can speak to that in my
characters. After high school, I got my Associate’s Degree, then went into the Navy and after
that spent time playing in rock bands before finally settling in Phoenix with my daughter and
enrolled in a two-year digital cinematography program at Collins College. During those two
years, I practiced composition behind the camera shooting ghost towns while listening to Nick
Cave and Warren Ellis’ scores for The Proposition and The Assassination of Jesse James by
the Coward Robert Ford. It was soon after that I started writing, producing and directing my own
material. With Out of Exile I wanted to write a crime thriller that focused on family dynamics, or
the lack thereof. That was something I felt was authentic to my own upbringing, as mentioned
previously. I had been watching a lot of films like The Town, Out of the Furnace, The Place
Beyond the Pines etc and was inspired to do something similar. After I had written the script, it
had went out in LA and had interest from producers but I ended up turning down selling the
script for the chance to direct it myself. Soon after, the pandemic hit and everything shut down
in LA. This was my opportunity. I knew I needed to keep the momentum for myself and the
project and spent the next six months raising money. Eventually I was able to safely produce
the film with a solid team of professionals that I knew in OK who believed in my vision for it. I
knew that I needed to take control my own destiny, and making the film myself was the right
path to take. From a style/tone/filmmaking approach, Out of Exile takes so much from Heat,
Triple Nine, The Town, Out of the Furnace, Point Break, etc. I fondly remember sitting around a
fire pit with Adam Hampton, the lead actor in Out of Exile, and discussing the hope of casting

Peter Greene, Ryan Merriman, Danny Boy O’ Connor, Jake the Snake Roberts as well as the
amazing Hayley McFarland to be in the film and thankfully we were able to get them all. And
most of them were ex-patriots of, or were currently living in Oklahoma. It was an honor to get to
work with so many I had grown up with. In addition, there were so many amazingly talented
actors that I sought out locally and that far exceeded anything I could have ever imagined. This
also helped us achieve a better state film incentive rebate that I knew would be attractive to
investors. Working with the local actors, actresses and crew was one of the most important
things for me. Many of the actors I had worked with previously and when it came time to cast for
the film I knew exactly who I wanted and why. I typically don’t use casting directors because I
tend to write towards an actors essence or write with someone specific in mind that closely
resembles the character. It’s that disposition and temperament that I’m most interested in the
person vs how good an actor is in an audition. I prefer a more lived-in instinctual quality vs an
exaggerated performance in my actors. In addition to casting, Adam Hampton (Gabriel Russell),
Kyle Jacob Henry (Wesley Russell) and Wilson Navas (Marcos) went through extensive
weapons and tactics training two months in advance to filming. Matt Moulton, our armorer and
Executive Producer and also co-founder in SafeHouse Films, helped train the actors to get them
into a space where they could react instinctually so that when it came for camera roll, they’d be
ready. Being ex-special forces, Matt used his knowledge in communications strategy and
weapons tactics to ensure the actors would be ready. The characters in the movie rob an
armored car and have to do it in 30 seconds flat. And by the end of the training these actors
could perform that seamlessly. The experience working on this film will help me with future
projects because it gave me the confidence to trust my instincts on a bigger set and with
working with name talent. Making low budget films is mostly an exercise in compromise,
however the better prepared the filmmaker is the easier and more confident one can be to make
decisions in a moment’s notice. The film was shot on the ARRI Alexa mini with Cooke lenses
over the course of 20 days in OK. There were 37 locations in the film shot over three counties
and that presented many issues with moving and striking sets but I knew it would give the film a
more lived-in and authentic quality for viewers but also for the actors within the scenes. With
COVID restrictions, low budget film challenges and time compromises included, I am very proud
of the movie that we made. I think Out of Exile will find an audience in viewers who enjoy a good
heist flick but with a twist, and will find it interesting even though the budget is smaller than
most. There’s a heartbeat at the film’s core that I believe will speak to audiences.Being Native
American, I have written and developed a slate of Native American crime/action thrillers to bring
to life with my production company, SafeHouse Films, and the company is currently working on
a slate of projects for 2023 with many amazing scripts developed and ready to be brought to life.
We are currently in pre-production on The Unbound, a frontier thriller similar to The Revenant;
Endgame, a corrupt cop thriller; Bloodroot, a crime thriller set deep in the mountains similar to
Nicolas Cage’s Pig and a family shapeshifting horror film similar to Black Swan in Adolescence.

DIRECTOR’S BIO- Kyle Kauwika Harris
Kyle Kauwika Harris is of Hawaiian heritage and an enrolled Choctaw Nation citizen of
Oklahoma. Kyle previously served in the United States Navy and has worked in Tribal
Government Relations.


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