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Filmmaker Igal Hecht says his new TV series will inspire new understanding of Biblical stories

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“The majority of biblical narratives occur in the most desolate of places, ”Igal Hecht explained.

” I can tell you that when filming in The Wilderness, you really get the sense of the power deserts have.” (Photo: Chutzpa Productions Inc.)

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The Wilderness, created and produced by Igal Hecht, is a new 10 part series premiering in Canada on YES-TV on December 6. Filmed in the biblical heartland of Israel and the southern region of Mitzpe Ramon, the episodes explore the connection of God, the Prophets and the desert through interviews with historical religious experts and dramatization. Viewers will explore the life of Moses, Abraham, Jesus, Mary, Jacob, Hagar, King David and King Saul, Cain and Abel, the story of Job, The story of Lot and many others.

Hecht, who is also a frequent contributor from Israel for TheJ.ca, provided us an advance look into the filmmaking process and how his series might help people cope with the uncertainty caused by Covid conditions.

What inspired you to do this series?

A few years ago I created a show called Daughters of Eve. The show was very successful and aired all over the world. It was a biblical recreation show about stories of women in the Bible. Not too long ago, Lior Cohen (who helps me produce all my shows in Israel) and I, drove back from a shoot in Mitzpe Ramon. We started reminiscing about the DOE and it got me thinking about doing something similar. We stopped to get a generic desert shot and as we were setting up it came to me. The majority of stories from the Bible happen in the midbar, the desert, the wilderness. What if we tell that part of the story? I got really excited about the idea and I started developing it for a number of months. I put a short demo together and pitch the idea to YES-TV in Canada. They were very enthusiastic about the idea and gave me the green light.

What challenges did the production have in filming at the locations?

There were a number of challenges. We had to decide where to film. The biggest problem was having a limited budget and 10 episodes to produce. I knew there would be over 30 actors, we’d need various locations, wardrobe, and it slowly became a logistical nightmare. Then I remembered that I once worked with a wonderful director by the name of Avivit Shaked, who lived in Mitzpe Ramon.

I contacted her and asked her if she thinks we can shoot everything there. She said absolutely. She also mentioned that there’s an acting school, along with a clown school and lots of wonderful actors (not to mention me having a beard at the time). So I made the decision to shoot everything in the Mitzpe Ramon area.

Myself, Lior Cohen and Sergey Maydin, our amazing Canadian/Israeli director of photography, basically moved to Mitzpe Ramon for almost a month. The wonderful aspect of working in Mitzpe Ramon is how professional and eager all the actors were. They had so many suggestions and ideas and it was just a wonderful and collaborative effort.  

The area is beautiful. If you love the desert, Mitzpe is your town. Not to mention, amazing people live there. We casted everything and began filming. Because we had a limited time to film the show, we used two cameras at the same time, with me and Sergey filming.

The cast was unbelievable and we were lucky enough to work with a local make-up artist by the name of Gai Hoffmann, who connected us with so many people and suggested epic locations that we used in the series. I wanted the series to really have an epic feel. So our crew was very small, four people, and we had to hustle constantly to get the shots and performances.

My biggest challenge on a personal level was making sure that we were getting everything I needed, with the limited amount of time we had. As the director, producer, writer and editor of the series, if we didn’t get a shot, I’d have only myself to blame.  Thankfully my crew was top notch and we got it all done. There are so many challenges along the way, but it really all comes together when you have a great crew. Having worked on projects where that wasn’t the case, I have to tell you that I was really blessed to get a chance to work with these talented people.

What was the production schedule like?

We filmed the series over a span of 6 weeks. A week was spent in a studio in Tel Aviv. Lior Cohen and Gabriel Volcovich helped me interview our biblical experts about the 14 stories we explore in the series. Production took about 3 weeks, with the southern part of Israel (mainly the Sde Boker and Mitzpe Ramon area) being used as locations for the episodes. We filmed in over 20 locations. One episode was filmed in Judea and Samaria in the Wadi Qelt area.

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Were there aspects or details in the stories of these historical figures that you learned or were surprised by during the production process?

I think that finding out about the tense relationship between Lot and Abraham or the motivation behind the story of Caine and Abel surprised me. Since we are also doing 3 stories from the New Testament, one of the most fascinating characters for me was John the Baptist and how powerful of a leader he was he was for so many Jews. There are many more aspects of Abraham’s story, the story of Job, Ruth and Naomi that we explore, that would really make the viewer understand the story.

The Wilderness: official trailer (Video: Youtube)

Was there a particular story or historic figure portrayed that you think might resonate with viewers in 2020?

I think what makes the Bible eternal is that you can always find deeper thought and meaning when you get beyond the shallow understanding of the story.

What I find fascinating is that the majority of biblical narratives occur in the most desolate of places. The Wilderness is where one is fully exposed and I can tell you that when filming in The Wilderness, you really get the sense of the power deserts have. The heat, exhaustion, it hits you pretty fast. I think that the challenges and decisions that individuals in the series make, are similar, in some way, to our daily lives. Good and bad, jealousy, the ultimate struggle of finding who and what one is all about, is found in these stories. That alone, at this day and age of Covid-19, where we are all searching for a meaning and understanding of our place in the Universe, the series might put things into perspective by using the Bible as a guide. 

Who is your target audience, and what is the message you hope to convey through presenting the series?

I think the target audience are individuals who love history and want to have a better understanding of stories from the Bible. The show does not preach. It is an entertaining  and a cinematically beautiful show that takes an in-depth look at the stories you might have explored as a child, and  really strips them down to have a better understanding of what the story actually means.

We try and understand the meaning behind each story from a scholars’ point of view. At the same time, we want the audience to buy into the world of the Wilderness that these iconic individuals from the Bible and the New Testament walked in.

The world premiere will be on YES-TV Sunday December [email protected] EST and will be repeated at 11pm. Check your local provider. To get an advance view: Trailer for The Wilderness

Shirli East has been a licenced esthetician in Manitoba since 1994. She has been a spa manager, instructor, MC College school director (hair, esthetics and fashion design) and is currently a professional training coordinator with the province of Manitoba and is considered a subject expert in the area of esthetics. 

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Thank you for choosing TheJ.Ca as your source for Canadian Jewish News.

We do news differently!

Our positioning as a Zionist News Media platform sets us apart from the rest. While other Canadian Jewish media are advocating increasingly biased progressive political and social agendas, TheJ.Ca is providing more and more readers with a welcome alternative and an ideological home.

We revealed the incursion of anti-Israel progressive elements such as IfNotNow into our communities. We have exposed the distorted hateful agenda of the “progressive” left political radicals who brought Linda Sarsour to our cities, and we were first to report on many disturbing incidents of Nazi-based hate towards Jews across Canada.

But we can’t do it alone. We need your HELP!

Our ability to thrive and grow in 2020 and beyond depends on the generosity of committed readers and supporters like you.

Monthly support is a great way to help us sustain our operations. We greatly appreciate any contributions you can make to support Jewish Journalism.

We thank you for your ongoing support.

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