About The Production
Principal photography on THE SHACK ambitiously took place over 37-days and took
the cast and crew to some of the most spectacular, if not remote, locations in
around the greater Vancouver, British Columbia region.
For production designer Joseph Nemec, the opportunity to work on THE SHACK
had was both a labor of love and a professional challenge he didn't want to pass
up. Having read the book years earlier, Nemec connected to Mack's journey of
loss and redemption. "I related to Mack's story," says Nemec. "Early in Mack's
life, as in mine, the travails he suffers before finally finding forgiveness and
joy in his life I identified with; so the opportunity to work on this film was
a hope and desire that began when I first read the book over five years ago."
Hazeldine weighs in on Nemec's approach in creating a world that both audiences
and actors would relate to and recognize. "Joseph was passionate about being
involved in this movie," says the director. "He's built the most amazing sets,
the cabin and woodshed are so beautiful and you get this real sense of serenity
when you walk into those environments. That level of attention to detail and
sensitivity has been a tremendous help to the actors because it's much easier to
act in a space that feels like you imagined, only better."
Throughout his design, Nemec focused on and was inspired by the relationships
between the characters and the environments that would lend themselves
organically to those interactions. "There are lots of theories and thoughts
about what the world looks like or doesn't look like, Nemec goes on to say, we
just kept going back to the relationship between Mack and Papa and let what that
environment should feel like kept us grounded. It was more about creating and
capturing the environment we wanted Mack to be in and supporting those moments
of transformation within himself rather than building something artificial."
Two of the most visually iconic sets in THE SHACK are Papa's cabin and "the
shack. "Papa's cabin and the shack were both built at Cultus Lake, a popular
summer recreation destination located near Chilliwack, British Columbia. Set
against a majestic background of a pristine lake at the foot of the Cascade
Mountains, Nemec designed a sublime cabin that would feel familiar but more
importantly, a space that would feel like a sanctuary for Mack - a place where
he could feel safe. "Papa's world is a protected world so it needed to feel open
and airy, a place where there are no barriers and we wanted it to have a real
sense of tenderness." notes Nemec.
Octavia Spencer was completely smitten with Papa's cabin. "I remember walking up
to it the first time and saying 'Oh yeah...this is definitely Papa's cabin!' This
cabin is one of the most beautiful, tranquil places I've ever been in and it
lends itself to where Mack can start to break down all those walls he's built up
over his life." But the actress also quickly adds "I want to take everything in
that cabin home with me....and I mean everything!"
In order to match the exterior shots for both Papa's cabin and "the shack," the
production took an unusual approach by first building the cabin and shooting
those respective scenes before tearing it down to erect the shack exactly on top
of the same spot. Nemec states they were able to make the tight turnaround as
the shack had a 2-week pre-fabrication at the stage, which left 1 week on-site
for set dressing and greens.
Nemec explains the complex balancing act that comes when presenting a visual
image that is already locked and seared into the audiences' psyche because of
the book's cover and everything it represents. "It was imperative that it didn't
look like a horror movie set," says Nemec. "It had to be recognizable to all
those that have read the book. The "shack" is the "bad guy" in the movie; the
only one, because we never see the villain - we only see the shack a couple of
times so it's impact must be powerful when we do. This is why it was so
important that the space feel alive, recently used, and even more recently
Also built at the Cultus Lake location was a third set, Jesus' woodshed. Nemec
designed an exquisite 16 feet by 24 feet shed with a lofty 24 feet high
awe-inspiring gable ceiling, which evoked a sense of sacredness and stillness in
the space. Adamant in keeping the integrity of the design consistent, the shed
was constructed using old world craftsmanship reminiscent of a bygone era.
"Jesus was a carpenter so we talked about different kinds of woods and we
embraced the use of a lot of the biblical woods such as sandalwood, ebony and
cedar," explains Nemec. "We built the wood shed out of cedar, like the Cedars of
Lebanon, and it was all done using mortise and tendon joinery with wooden
pegs-we did it old school with no nails and no screws."
The natural beauty of snow covered mountains, crystal blue lakes and old growth
forests served the production two-fold: not only did the locations "This cabin
is one of the Most beautiful, Tranquil Places I've ever been."
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