By Edward A. Price
Where did I leave off? Oh yes, location scouting Spain!
So, the first step was to visit Spain and search for locations. We shared our script with Fresco Films and, in response, they compiled an extensive list of potential locations which might fit our needs. In February of 2017, I went over to Spain, with Bob and Keith and with Kayla (our superb field producer), and we spent ten days driving from place to place making decisions about locations. We wandered through winding narrow streets, trekked through wilderness areas, climbed through narrow portals in an ancient castle, crawled through caves, inspected bridges, walked through town squares, got stuck in the mud in the middle of a river bed, met the friendliest dog on the planet, and ate the most amazing Spanish cuisine. We were treated like real VIPs by the staff of Fresco Films. (It was hard to get any work done because they were always feeding us at the most spectacular local restaurants! I guess they wanted to be part of the Báb project.) Bob had the final say on locations, but I was the only Bahá’í present on this trip, so I had to advise him on the acceptability of the locations from a Bahá’í historical perspective. Keith and Kayla, and the Fresco team, gave their input as well.
The entire trip was amazing, but I’d like to mention two moments in particular. When we were searching for ways to portray Maku we came to a very interesting mountain area, where for centuries people in the area used to live in caves that had naturally been carved out of the mountain. We ended up using the location, but when we arrived for the first time, we were greeted by the friendliest dog on the planet. He just had the most joyous loving nature of any creature I ever met. When he saw us in the distance from the valley below, he came rocketing up the side of the mountain just to greet us and jump all over us. For a split second, I didn’t know if I was being attacked by a mad dog or not. But it was quickly evident that he was all about love.
Here is a picture of me being “assaulted” by my new “best friend”. (Notice my archaic flip phone in hand. I was going to take a picture, but I couldn’t do it, he was all over me.)
The second thing I’d like to mention is how we found one of our most iconic locations. We were wondering how to shoot the opening scene with Mulla Husayn entering the city of Shiraz. We needed something that could look like a city gate. But we could find nothing. We had almost given up when, in our travel van, we were zooming along the highway to our next location, and someone said, “Look at that bridge over there.” We literally backed up the van with cars zooming by, climbed down into a dry desert-like area, marched across a barren field, and then climbed down into the dry river bed where the bridge was located. Guess what? We all agreed it was perfect. This is how a random bridge by the side of the road, which we almost missed entirely, was transformed into the entrance to the city of 1844 Shiraz in our movie. Here is a picture of the bridge, unadorned by any of the creative work of our art and props department, just as we saw it that first day.
Here is one more brief story. At the end of the movie, we have a night scene where the Bábís come to rescue the sacred remains of the Báb and Anis after the execution has taken place. As you recall, the authorities had thrown the bodies into the moat which was outside the city of Tabriz that July day in 1850. Well, would you like to know where we filmed that? In Grenada, right next to the world-famous Alhambra! Yes, right next to the Alhambra. Technically, we were still on the property of the Alhambra, but in the valley down below. Looking up from the site, we could see the Alhambra.
I’ll mention one last thing before closing this blog (which is already getting to long). Despite our best efforts to find locations that could be used for the upper room of the Báb’s house, where the meeting between Mulla Husayn and the Báb takes place, and the square where the Martyrdom of the Báb takes place, we could not find anything close enough to the historical images we have, so in the case of the former we decided to have Fresco’s talented craftsmen department build our own replica of the Báb’s upper room, and in the case of the latter Fresco’s excellent carpenters built the wall where the execution took place in the middle of the main square of a 1200 year old castle. That is how our last two locations came together.
All in all, our experience in Spain was phenomenal. We were treated incredibly well. Our colleagues at Fresco Films were of the highest calibre professionally. We were in the best of hands the entire time. I feel that our efforts were being assisted by the Báb the entire time.
There are still more stories to tell, but I’ve got to stop now.
-Edward A. Price