Through the Night

A behind-the-scenes look at the deeper chosen shoot 2022. Charleston, SC

“idon’t think she’s going to show up tonight.” The text from our director flashed across my phone screen, interrupting my one hundred trains of thought. It was shoot day. We’d been preparing for months, carefully selecting locations, styling, picking actresses, making schedules. Our cinematographer from Los Angeles had landed last night. The set was built. We’d thought of everything. But our main actress had stopped responding to our texts and calls. The shoot was starting soon. I panicked, calling her one more time. She sent it straight to voicemail.

We had to find a new actress in the next couple of hours, and this shoot was particularly tricky because we were shooting through the night and completely underwater.

Tonight, we would be plunging someone underwater in front of a camera, telling a story about surrender. What does it mean to sink deeper into uncomfortable places, where God dwells with us? In those deep places, we surrender control, we surrender what we know. In those deep places, we are weightless, held in his hands.

The theme deeper for Chosen resonated with me. Lately, my mind was overfilled by a constant striving to be better, overwhelmed by details and checking off tasks to make people happy. I was internally exhausted. But I had no time to fix it. I had too much to do—especially on shoot day, with no actress.

As first assistant director and co-producer, I knew I needed to find a replacement. We sent texts, made pleading posts. And miraculously, within an hour, we found someone.

When the sky was dark, we were ready. Our new actress got in the water, her long black dress lifting to the surface and swirling around her. The pool looked eerie. We’d put black fabric over the sides and bottom so that all traces of concrete would disappear. It looked like deep, deep water. It was only eight feet, but through our camera lens, it looked like it could be 40.

We did a few practice takes, our actress going under, blowing out bubbles. She’d told us she wasn’t totally comfortable in the water, but we hoped Jenny, our underwater camera operator, who was a pro, could still work with her.

Our actress came up coughing. Again, she went under and came up coughing.

Time was slipping away. We had to get this done.

I need to do this. I knew it, or I felt it.

I told the team I could. “I’ve always loved water,” I said.

They asked me to try, and so I jumped in with my clothes on. I swam to the deep end, my arm resting on the ladder stretched across the length of the pool to act as a resting place. I faced Jenny. “Whenever you’re ready,” she said. I watched her dive under with her camera.

Suddenly, it all felt much scarier. The pool bottom was so very dark. There were many eyes watching me. I took a breath and sank below the surface, my eyes closed. My nose filled with water. Starting to panic, I came up for air, coughing.

God, help me do this.

Once more, I sank below and felt my limbs go weightless. My nose filled with water again, but this time I stayed. I could do this.

When I came up for air, the team sent me to wardrobe and makeup.

My heart raced as I put on the black dress. I’d worked in video production for years, but I liked to be behind the camera, ask the questions, frame the shots. Tonight, I was being pushed out of my comfort zone.

I fell into the water, the long fabric of the dress tangling with my feet. I made myself relax, despite the weights around my waist that helped me sink. I felt like I’d left our set and plunged somewhere strange.

I’d helped with the creation of the story, but now I had to become our character, Bianca. I needed to show her releasing control. And it was fitting for my own life. I had to let go of all the details, shot lists, scripts, stressors that had been swirling around my head for months. Now, my job was to literally sink into this uncomfortable place. I needed to feel God’s presence, to relax into his hands.

The success of the shoot depended on it. Don’t think about 20 people watching the camera feed on the monitor at the surface. Don’t think about what you look like. Feel peace. Trust that you are okay in the deep.

At 4:00 a.m., we finished our last shot. Hands reached to pull me out of the pool. Someone wrapped me in a warm robe straight out of the dryer. My eyes burned from the chlorine and were so cloudy that I could barely see. But I’d done it.

Two days later, we headed to Caper’s Island on a small boat to get our last shots. When we reached the island, I walked on the sand, the air soft and the sun low on the horizon, leaving behind streaks of hazy pink.

Hours later, the boat began to take groups of the crew back to shore, and I waded into the ocean for our final shot. It was twilight, purple and dusky. Finally, our director yelled, “That’s a wrap!”

As we gathered our gear and waited for the boat, lightning flashed in the distance. Just summer heat lightning, I thought. The sky turned orange, and the wind picked up. The boat was nowhere in sight. We stood silent at the edge of the island, watching for the tiny boat in the waves. We were the last 6 crew members left.

It grew dark. Someone handed me a flashlight, and I turned it on, waving it into the blackness. Still no boat. I felt sprinkles of rain on my shoulder.

Finally, we saw the light of the boat in the distance. When our captain, Kevin, arrived, we hurried to load our gear and pull away from shore, the rain now coming down hard.

“My phone is wet,” Kevin yelled. “The navigation system isn’t working!” It was pitch black. Wind blew against the sides of the boat, rocking it. Fear started to overtake my body. We were at the total mercy of this storm.

Slowly, we motored through the blackness. The sky and the water felt like one, dark and angry. As the wind whipped harder and the waves churned, our producer threw us lifejackets. I sat with our art director, Emily, in the back of the boat, and we began to pray out loud in the rain. I closed my eyes, and time seemed to stop. Cold and wet and terrified, I felt my eyes lock with Jesus in the dark. I was somehow simultaneously scared and at peace. With my eyes closed I felt my surroundings fade away, and I just focused on my whispered prayers to him. As soon as I opened my eyes, fear came pouring back with the rain.

“Even the wind and the waves obey you,” I prayed over and over. I thought of my priorities, and suddenly on a tiny boat in the ocean in a storm, nothing seemed to matter except for me and Jesus.

It was as if in that moment, I’d put my tiny humanness into perspective. God is so great, so vast, and I am so tiny, so in need of him. All the details, insecurities, meaningless goals, were nothing. I felt layers of meaningless stress peel back, leaving only the things that mattered. I thought of my family, our home, my life. Thank you, Jesus.

Every time a wave rocked us, I was sure the storm would only get worse.

Even the wind and the waves obey you.

For 45 minutes, we were in the dark of the storm. And then, lights. I saw houses on the shore, then the docks of the marina. Kevin had navigated us safely back. Relief washed over my entire body.

The rain stopped as soon as our boat reached the dock. We laughed off the tension in our bodies, stepping through warm puddles. People around us sat on a restaurant patio, drinking beers and watching a game as if nothing had happened.

“We’ve started to realize that every year, Emily said to me, "God shows us the theme for the conference in a very real way.”

That boat ride was the deepest, most uncomfortable place I’d been in years. But I felt his presence in the most gripping way.

As I drove home barefoot, because my sandals were lost in the frenzy, I knew that I would never forget this night. Clutter would refill my life, insecurities would reenter my mind. But whenever I thought back to me and Jesus on that tiny boat, I would remember the feeling of going deeper with him.

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