Midlothian, Texas will soon be home to a full-sized recreation of the ancient town of Capernaum – the town where Jesus’ disciple Peter lived and where Jesus worshipped in the local synagogue – with construction underway on a film set for Season 3 of hit TV series, The Chosen.
The set includes houses belonging to various disciples, a synagogue and fishing wharves set on the (almost) “Sea of Galilee”. A film complex is also being built on the property – consisting of a 30,000 square foot sound stage (where filming can take place in ideal sonic conditions), props, hair and makeup facilities, a woodworking room for prop construction and a multi-purpose room.
When complete, the site will be worthy of an LA film studio location. So how did it end up in the cement-industry hub of the city of Midlothian, in northwest Texas?
Fans of the show will not be surprised to learn that God’s providence played a part in the story – this is not the first time God’s favour has been evident in The Chosen’s production.
The site is actually owned by the Salvation Army and is part of the 1,000-acre Hoblitzelle Camp and Conference Center. And, like many businesses of its kind, the onset of the global pandemic had left the Salvation Army officers overseeing the property in desperate need of a miracle.
Business “stopped immediately” Lt. Col. Randall Raymer, a 40-year Salvation Army officer, told the Washington Times. There were no bookings for camps for inner-city and disadvantaged youth or
Christian groups. And, given the large budget required to sustain the place, “without an income, we found ourselves in dire straits financially.”
The Chosen’s creator Dallas Jenkins and his team were looking for a place to film scenes depicting the Sermon on the Mount, when an assistant producer suggested the Salvos site – and the rest is history. What began with a one-year rental agreement has now been expanded to cover the entire seven-season projected run of the show, after which time the entire facility will be donated to the Salvation Army.
Fans were given a sneak-peek at the set, in a video interview with construction oversight Tad Eckerle, screened in a recent live stream on YouTube. Standing in front of the set’s synagogue, with frames extending skyward, Eckerle was positive about construction’s progress. The film complex was already 95 per cent complete, with Capernaeum’s recreation about to become the focus.
“Just like the synagogue, we laid the foundation a couple of weeks ago and we’re already building the structure. Everything will start moving really quickly once all these foundations go in.”
The show’s creator Dallas Jenkins spoke to production designer, James Richard Cunningham, in a live stream in which he updated the show’s fans on filming dates, current challenges and behind-the-scenes happenings.
Cunningham and Jenkins have not only worked together for years, but they have also been friends since becoming college roommates more than 20 years ago. They have done theatre together, and Cunningham has worked on every project Jenkins has filmed since his first.
“This guy was in my wedding,” Jenkins told live stream viewers.
So it’s no surprise that Cunningham – who is responsible for designing everything seen on camera, aside from wardrobe and makeup – is feeling the pressure as the season 3 shoot fast approaches.
Cunningham explained that poor weather, Covid and general logistical challenges, such as getting appropriate building permissions for the site, had all contributed to construction delays. There were whole weeks when no work was being done.
Originally, they had hoped to begin shooting in March, but that date has now shifted until April 18 or April 25.
But now, Cunningham says, good progress is being made. A dock made from wood that has been distressed by a wood artist is almost completed and the walls of the synagogue are up.
And fans of the show will be pleased to see some impressive sets from previous scenes being used again, including Photina’s dining room and the bedroom where Jesus, James and John sleep in episode 1, season 2.
“And The Nomad we’re going to completely gut and turn into something else,” Cunningham says. ‘The Nomad’ is the tavern seen in episode 6, season 2, that Mary Magdalene returns to when she is struggling with her “old demons”.