'Five loaves and two fish' story gets real: Dallas Jenkins tears up on set of The Chosen Season 3
Behind the Scenes at the Feeding of the Five Thousand (#F5K)
Fans of hit TV series The Chosen know creator Dallas Jenkins’ “five loaves and two fish story”. (And anyone reading this who doesn’t should read ‘I didn’t want to do Christian movies’ says Dallas Jenkins, creator of record-breaking Jesus series ‘The Chosen’ before continuing.)
So it will be no surprise to fans to discover that Jenkins was brought to tears on set today when, for the first time in real life, he met Alex, the man who sent him the famous 4 am email from Romania that changed his life.
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As Jenkins mentions in the above Instagram post, the cast and crew are on their second day of filming the Bible’s ‘Feeding of the Five Thousand’ story (F5K). As you might imagine, there have been thousands of additional actors (“extras”) on set.
So who are the lucky people who get to perform the show’s depiction of the miraculous moment?
Last year the show announced that anyone who ‘Paid it Forward’ $US999 or higher between August 22, 2021, and December 31, 2021, had qualified to be on set when cast and crew filmed the biblical story. Supporters who qualified and their immediate families could register to attend on June 7 or 8 and pay a fee to cover catering and facilities. Extras organised their travel, accommodation, transport and costumes (as per The Chosen’s ‘Style Guide”). There were 10,000 spots available, and it was first in best dressed.
The result was that super-fans of the show from 32 countries and every US state signed up to take part in the once-in-a-lifetime experience and make TV history.
“This is very uncommon,” says producer Chris Juen in a behind-the-scenes live stream when asked by Executive Producer (and live stream host) Derral Eves asks him if he has ever seen a set with 5000 extras before. Juen is responsible for all the production detail and all the show’s special effects.
“I can’t think of a time when it has happened this way,” he tells Eves.
Usually, this large crowd scene would be created in post-production using CGI. But Juen says, while having a real live crowd on set might not be the easiest or even the cheapest way to film a scene like the F5K, it’s the best way and is “actually about the heart of the show.”
Having an enormous crowd of people who believe in The Chosen – to the point that they are willing to spend some of their family budget supporting it – clearly brings a very special atmosphere.
“It gives me goosebumps,” says the show’s writer Tyler Thompson.
“It’s honestly just humbling to see so much enthusiasm and people willing to fight through the elements and travel all the way from London and Ecuador – and what’s the furthest someone has come from? Sydney, Australia? It’s just wild what people are willing to do to step into this thing.”
“We didn’t make up this story, we just dramatised it on the stage, but there’s more going on than just the Feeding the Five Thousand – there’s characters’ storylines that are weaving in and out f it. So there’s a lot more going on than just a miracle because that would be a spectacle and we don’t do spectacle.”
“It never made any sense from the beginning. It’s completely miraculous.” – Ryan Swanson, Writer, The Chosen
The set has a festival atmosphere between the shade and catering tents, live music entertainment, and massive props purpose-built for extras to take photos with. It seems like a morally pure Woodstock, except with people clad in biblical costumes rather than hippy garb.
“There’s no writing gig like this,” writer Ryan Swanson tells live stream fans. “It’s more like we’re at a comic-com or a rock show.”
But Swanson isn’t talking about the vibe as much as the essence, about everyone involved in the show coming together as a community. So much of the process of creating The Chosen happens in isolation and in small groups, with each member of the cast and crew contributing their specific skill.
“So we are each bringing our two loaves and five fish,” he says. “This is one of the few opportunities for us to experience it together. To break bread – literally.”
Swanson shares how moving it has been for him to see the famous story unfold before his eyes.
“Sitting there looking out at the field, and of course, we’ve written it, we’ve read it, we’ve re-read it, we’ve done it again. And it wasn’t until Derrell [Eves] leaned into me and said, ‘Can you believe the bread lasted?’ that this spectacle became spiritual,” he says.
“All of a sudden, I was there and you could see that it wasn’t a matter of making the seeds stretch or ‘We’ve just got to give them a few more crumbs’. It was like… No. It never made any sense from the beginning. It’s completely miraculous.”
For Swanson, the writing process is focused on staying true to “the best source material” – the Bible. Each writer shares how they are reading the material and envisioning the scene, and they work to bring those insights and ideas together.
“And, of course, we’re a television show. We can never have the impact the Bible has. So we’re shooting in a field in Texas, and we’re so blessed to have it, but it doesn’t look anything like that moment,” he says.
“The moment it becomes a spiritual moment again is when these folks who’ve believed in us, who are able to be closer to the word because of the show, and who want to be here with us, start to populate this space. That’s when it starts to feel something like the impact that we read in the Bible.”