As an illustrator I enjoy seeing how others tell stories and the pains they go to to make things feel "right", so I jumped at the chance to visit the recreated Holy Land. I had seen some of the short New Testament film clips, so I knew that the set was impressive, but I was not prepared for the level of design and craftsmanship that went into this layout. Most movie sets are built to last the life of the movie shoot and are then either dismantled or even left to disintegrate in the the weather. This set however was built to last at least 20 years. In that regard, it felt more like the set pieces you would see in Disneyland, minus the props and set dressings. All of the angles and layouts were aligned to take advantage of sunlight and shadow at any time of the day. The sheer number of possible camera angles and shots was mind boggling. I felt like I really was walking the streets of ancient Jerusalem.
We toured the complex during the last day of filming and we got to see some of the scene rehearsal for the execution of the apostle Paul. The costuming was amazing in detail and certainly up to Hollywood standards. While we roamed the set pieces, I got a glimpse into what an amazing and integrated process making a film must be. A set decorator was even sponging different earth colors onto a faux stone wall to pop a little more color right before the film rolled.
I shot tons of photos, learned a lot and was inspired for possible future Christ centered works of art during my tour. Unfortunately, I signed a non disclosure on those photos as part of gaining access, so I can't show any of mine. All of these images are all floating online.
Coincidentally, today the Deseret News ran a nice feature on the Jerusalem movie set that you can read here.
The LDS church wants the world to enjoy these short films on the life of Christ and have made them available for everyone. All the videos are available for free viewing here.