As Director of Communications at ICR, I’ve had the delightful task of being immersed in the production process for our upcoming series, Made in His Image. I’ve discovered that most people are curious about the filming process. As we all know, any major project is bound to be met with laughable moments and lip-biting challenges. And during the making of this film, we had our share of both! So, here’s a casual look behind the scenes.
After extensive planning with the film production team, and writing and rewriting treatments and scripts, we interviewed doctors, scientists, surgeons, engineers, an astronaut, and other experts about the wonderful design of the human body. As a professional engineer who is also a medical doctor, Dr. Randy Guliuzza offered his unique insights during the scripting phase as well as during the interviews. Our scriptwriter worked closely with all these brilliant professionals, and she now claims to be qualified to enter medical school. I have every reason to believe her.
The production team spent time in the studio as well as on numerous locations, including parks and hotels, an opera house and a music store, a bike shop and a bridge, a softball park and a golf course, a gym and a pregnancy center, and even a restricted floor at NASA.
This filming process offered my first look at a camera drone in action. Incredibly cool! It looked like an alien bird with helicopter propellers and sounded like a giant mosquito. At the parks where we filmed, it drove the dogs crazy. At the construction site in a business park where we filmed, it drove the businessmen even crazier. Something about spies and security breaches.
Small children and grown-ups alike were drawn to the drone—it is, after all, a big guy’s toy. At the gym, the drone clipped a climbing rope and crashed. Thankfully, it fell on gymnastics mats and only needed a few propellers replaced. But for an instant I was afraid I was about to see grown men cry.
Many of the shoots were scheduled for outdoor locations, and they happened to be at the beginning of a record-breaking rainy spring that pulled North Texas out of a years-long drought. Some of our scripts spoke of sunshine, so our host was talking about sunny days in the middle of thunderstorms. We obviously had to make many last-minute script changes.
During one chilly early morning shoot, Markus Lloyd, our host, was demonstrating refraction with a pool net pole. He was wearing a T-shirt and swim trunks (while the crew wore coats) at an outdoor pool at the top of a Dallas hotel, when a thunderstorm hit, complete with lightning and hail. And yes, his script referred to a sunny day at the pool.
Teleprompters are difficult to read outside. Markus is such a pro that he can quickly memorize lines—even in just a few minutes—when the teleprompter fails him. We’ve found a real gem in Markus. He loves the Lord and believes in ICR’s work, and the authenticity shows when he delivers lines. Although, during the golf scenes, he almost hit those of us sitting at the director’s table. Filming stopped while the crew quickly set up screens for protective shields. Golf lessons may be in Markus’ future.
Markus sings and impersonates famous people while he’s waiting for filming to start. He also likes saying words like “Herodotus” and “vestibular” and “puncta.” Over and over. I know this because I eavesdropped on his line rehearsals—his mic was on while I wore headphones. And by the way, Herodotus doesn’t appear anywhere in this series. It’s a holdover from our previous Unlocking the Mysteries of Genesis film experience with Markus. I guess it made quite an impression on him.
We filmed in a gated outdoor area owned by the Joule Hotel in Dallas. The enclosed area held a piece of artwork unlike anything I’d ever encountered—a giant eyeball, complete with bloodshot squiggles covering the surface. It also had an empty chair positioned next to it as part of the art. The purpose of the chair is a mystery since the iron gate stays locked and no one can get to the chair to sit in it. Artificial turf surrounding it stays a constant green year-round, completing the masterpiece. I’m not sure what any of it means. Word on the street was that at one time the hotel wanted to put up a parking garage there, and the city wouldn’t let them. The story goes that city officials claimed a parking garage would be “an eyesore.” So, as contemporary Dallas urban legend has it, the hotel opted for eyeball artwork instead.
Filming outdoors in the city provides many challenges, including planes, trains, buses, cars, people walking on sidewalks while laughing and talking on phones, crying kids, barking dogs, birds, boats, golf carts, motorcycles, music from neighboring businesses, doors dinging, backhoes, back-up beepers on construction equipment, and more planes after you’ve already waited for one to pass. Indoor filming also has its noise issues, including doors shutting, people walking on tile or talking, elevator dings, and the people who want their five seconds of fame. For the record, the ever-present planes, trains, and buses can still be heard indoors. And it’s worse when you’re filming in a location near the flight path of a major airport.
I discovered that important people at opera houses don’t like to be told “Quiet on the set!” even if the instructions aren’t aimed specifically at them. Their heels click louder and quicker on marble floors when the director yells those words.
We made the trip to NASA in Houston to film astronaut Col. Jeffrey Williams. He has graciously provided several interviews—our staff and film crew were in awe after spending time with this amazing man. What a testimony to God’s goodness, provision, and grace!
When we arrived at NASA, we were photographed and received badges that gave us access to the facilities. We had helpful guides and were allowed on the training room floor, which was like a giant playground for most of us. We even took photos of ourselves in the “Unity” and “Destiny” Modules of the ISS.
The film crew was so mesmerized by the facility that we made the fateful mistake of staying at NASA too long. We had another shoot scheduled for a nearby Houston park, but by the time we made it there, it began to rain. The sky turned black, and we filmed during a thunderstorm under makeshift tents. The poor audio guy had his work cut out for him, and our medical expert in the scene was incredibly gracious about enduring such challenging conditions.
We asked some former college baseball players to participate in high-speed filming. My son was one of them. The young athletes hustled after work to make it to the filming and good-naturedly donned girls’ softball uniforms that the wardrobe provider had mistakenly arranged for them. One of the players’ pants split almost immediately, and the “gaff guy” was there with tape to put the pants back together. They played on a softball field, which is very different from a baseball field. The pitcher threw with no mound and a dirt infield. The batter, who rarely strikes out, was instructed to intentionally miss the ball. The catcher, who was left-handed, used a right-handed glove to catch the 90-mile-per-hour fastballs. And nothing stopped them from trash-talking as if they were in a real game.
The gaff guy had a challenge with the athletes, since logos are on everything related to sports. He applied colored tape to change the appearance of trademarks anywhere they appeared on clothing, shoes, hats, equipment, furniture, props—everywhere.
We discovered during the shoot that our fictional father Mr. Miller couldn’t pitch, so we pulled in an extra to pitch for him. That required another script change.
When we shot the gymnastics scenes, a homeschool group participated. The parents were enthusiastic about their kids being a part of the project. We had a lot in common—I homeschooled my own four children from kindergarten to high school.
During the shoot on a bridge, the scene called for Markus to put the final piece of a puzzle in place as he delivered his last line. The prop guy provided a 500-piece puzzle, but it wasn’t put together at the beginning of the scene. How hard can it be to put together a 500-piece puzzle? Well, over an hour later with seven crew members frantically attempting to fit uncooperative pieces together, the puzzle barely had the edges connected. That scene was re-shot later that week. Live and learn. Puzzles aren’t just a challenge for kids.
You may wonder when you watch the bridge scene—what is that thing waving in the background? Yes, it’s a Texas flag behind Markus as he sits on his bike. As I watched that flag fluttering in the background during the film preview, I thought of a previous plane trip in which the military young man sitting next to me laughed as we landed. He saw the Texas flag flying and remarked only Texans flew their flags alongside the U.S. flag. He grinned at me and said, “Well, welcome to the Republic of Texas.” It’s hard to film in Texas without capturing a glimpse of that proud banner.
Film vocabulary is like a foreign language at times. When you hear the word “craft” on a film set, it doesn’t mean scissors and glue. It refers to a table of food and an ice chest of drinks. “Slate” is that iconic clapperboard that we all think of when we envision a camera beginning to roll for a shoot. The “boom” is the pole that holds the long fuzzy mic. When the director yells “Nat!” that means it’s time to be quiet and still so that the audio guy can record the natural sound of the environment. And they really do say “That’s a wrap!” at the end of a shoot.
When the production crew used fog machines in the studio, they had to keep the room cold—so cold that I wore a down jacket and had a sweater across my legs. I even wore gloves in earlier fog scene shoots.
The Downtown Pregnancy Center provided a sonographer and an exam room to film the fictional Miller family sonogram scenes. Mrs. Miller wore three different-size pregnancy bumps during those shoots. The rest of us had donuts that tasted like cake for breakfast, and I hoped my stomach wouldn’t end up looking like Mrs. Miller’s final bump before the filming was complete.
I scrutinized most scenes through the monitor, making notes and checking off the script during the process. Did the set look and sound real? I learned to watch for flares, wardrobe malfunctions, and stealth logos. And more than once while Markus was reading some detailed technical scientific jargon, he stopped his lines, looked my direction, and said, “Really? Really? Who talks like that?”
ICR scientists, Markus. Really.
The moments I’ve provided here are a few of the incidents that made me chuckle during the making of the series, but the message of Made in His Image is engaging and impactful—a resource we hope God will use to touch this generation of believers and unbelievers alike. Watch for it in the fall on our online store at ICR.org/store.