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THE SHACK

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 abandoned."

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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