The Saint House
A huge set is built which will become the Saint house, used for a number of scenes with Nate Saint (Chad Allen), young
Stevie, and the missionaries. Young Stevie, played by Chase Ellison, is a key element in the telling of the story. Director (and
co-screenwriter) Jim Hanon says that Stevie is the literary device through which the viewer connects with the main part of the
story. For the purpose of the film, the character is eight years old, however the real Stevie was only four when his father was
killed. It is one of only a few changes made from the actual facts of the story. In most cases, great pains were taken to
adhere closely to the original events. Even if the timeline was compressed, the order and meaning of events remains intact.
I read quite a few reviews online after the movie was released and came across a very negative one from the "Village Voice" in
New York City. It was less a review than a diatribe to say, "how dare" these missionaries go thousands of miles to impress their
beliefs upon another culture. But this man obviously does not know about the grace and love which God had kindled in their
hearts to give them such passion and perseverance. These missionaries were very cognizant of tribal customs and societal
differences. They were not there to change those so much as to reach out with the truly good news that God has redeemed
us from our sinful ways and wants to give us a life of purpose, meaning, and joy - within our own cultures. Read "Jungle Pilot"
by Nate Saint, "Through Gates of Splendor" by Elizabeth Elliott, or "End of the Spear" by Steve Saint, and you will see their
true heart to (literally) save these people from their violent and deadly ways, and guide them toward the Spirit of love from the
great heart of God.
We not only film the good times, like the party scene above, but also the tender scenes when the wives and Rachel are told
the men are confirmed dead. Steve Saint has a cameo appearance playing Frank Drown, who went with the soldiers on the
search in Waodani territory. I have gained trust by now to be closer to the action, however I find it ironic that many times
during the first weeks of shooting in the great outdoors I was told to stay back, when here, in a much more confined and
delicate scene, I am allowed to lean through an opening and shoot quite close. Here is a sequence of pictures to give you a
behind scenes view (my view) and also a picture of the real movie scene.
We shoot for a week in a coastal area of Panama by a small river with a
sandbar just long enough to set the small airplane down. The missionaries
in the story had spent 13 weeks dropping gifts and pictures and were now
attempting to land and make personal contact. They did this
surreptitiously because they wanted to avoid mission board red tape and
they felt an urgency that the many oil company skirmishes with the
Waodani might soon lead to a government crackdown and the extinction of
the small tribe.
We have a safety meeting for all cast and crew about the dangers of the
airplane and a helicopter involved with filming. The talk in English is
translated into Spanish for the Panamanian crew members, as well as the
Embera language for the many local tribal people who are portraying the
The set is cleared to film the first landing. We’re all pumping pure
adrenaline as Steve Saint pilots the small yellow plane low through some
huge, leafy trees, banks to line up with the river, banks again at the bend,
then drops to the sand and brakes to a halt well before the sandbar ends.
Many of us have a feeling of awe at seeing history come alive from nearly
50 years ago. My mind's eye recalls the actual 1956 film footage of the
plane landing from the documentary, Beyond the Gates of Splendor. Now it
seems like I’m seeing it live. I am left with a tear in my eye and a lump in my
throat, knowing both the tragic and miraculous outcomes of their efforts.
We film many happy moments re-creating how the five men meet three
tribal people and attempt the use of a limited vocabulary of Waodani
words. These “fifties” styled guys being portrayed are all heart as they
excitedly film the natives in 16mm, drink lemonade from jars, and tell them
“we are your sincere friends” in Waodani.
One of the men is Jim Elliot, born and raised in Portland Oregon. He has a
pistol with him, but the plan is to only use it to scare the natives away if
problems arise, not to shoot them. The men, and their wives, were well
aware this was a dangerous mission. Much prayer and planning had gone
After what is known as the “friendly encounter”, one of the Waodani visitors
and his single girl companion are met in the jungle by a hunting party
which demands to know why they are without their chaparone. Nenkiwi is
now in a difficult spot. The girl’s brother is livid with rage at this breach of
cultural norms and this could quickly turn into yet another spearing death
among the tribe.
But Nenkiwi thinks quickly and tells a lie that the foreigners were after
them, trying to kill them. This had happened before with oil company
people and was completely believable. So the hunting party turns its rage
to spear a different prey, and sets off to find the foreigners.
The tribe becomes enraged at finding
Nenkiwi alone with Nampa's sister.
When he lies about the foreigners to
save himself, their rage turns into the
deadly spearing raid against the
|The "real" Steve
Saint takes a
break along with
who plays Steve
as a boy. The
Saint House set
is in the
while Nate Saint
the "bag drop"
principle to Jim
CLICK to enlarge
|The actresses get a
check of their
make-up, hair and
wardrobe during a
polaroid shots are
used for continuity
purposes. This is
the back porch at
Aquativity; hot, but
with a much needed
breeze from the lake
in the afternoon
Director Jim Hanon works with the
actresses, no cameras yet, other crew
stays out of the way. Oh, except for my
competitor for "extra space" on set... looks
like the sound guy (left), Rich, is hoping to
stake out some ground early.
Now other actors and cameras start to
appear as we move closer to "Action."
Looks like Rich found a prime counter-top
location! (Far right.)
Getting very close to "rolling" now. Note
the actresses are getting in the mood for
this distressing scene. Also note my
viewpoint... behind the glob of cameras
We're rolling now and I'm down low,
trying to sneak in a good shot while not
distracting. More cables and camera
parts in the way... drat!
Aha! I go up high and make an end run
to actually get a shot similar to the movie
scene. I guess it can be done, and I
think this shot turned out fairly well.
Safety meeting with pilot Steve Saint
(white t-shirt) and Ass't Director
Eugene Mazzola (green jungle garb.)
The plane has just landed and swings
around to park. Note camera on right.
The "friendly encounter" reinacted.
Nenkiwi (left) even got an airplane ride.
Shooting a scene