Thou Shalt Be Careful

TMC Entertainment's two miniseries, Walking the Bible: A Journey by Land Through the Five Books of Moses and Abraham: A Journey to the Heart of Three Faiths, are scheduled to air on PBS during prime time next fall. The programs, each three hours long, are based on The New York Times bestselling books of the same names, written by award-winning author Bruce Feiler.

Imagine, if you will, the difficulties encountered in transporting Feiler; our co–executive producer, Jim Coane; our supervising producer, Rebecca Dobbs; our biblical archaeologist, Avner Goren; our film crews; and sophisticated technical equipment (including HDTV video cameras) to Iraq, Israel, Turkey, Egypt and Jordan—during war time.

With danger on all sides and production challenges of historical proportions, the sheer logistics of filming take on a new “let's get in and get out” sense of urgency.

The TMC Entertainment production team and I, in the spirit of the biblical Ten Commandments, would like to share with you our Five Commandments for a successful Middle Eastern production:

Honor thy Middle Eastern government officials by securing approvals well ahead of time: To avoid expensive delays, Dobbs got the critical production permits, visas, licenses and consents from the Iraqi, Israeli, Turkish, Egyptian and Jordanian governments two months prior to principal photography.

Thou shalt not commit major logistical mistakes: Don't put the talent or crew in dangerous situations. For example, to protect everyone's safety during our upcoming filming of Abraham's birthplace in the ancient village of Ur (a few miles northeast of Basra, Iraq), we have devised a plan we are hopeful will permit us to drive equipment from Kuwait City to Basra under the Kuwaiti flag, escorted by the British SAS. If our plan is finalized, Feiler and the crew will be flown to a nearby Air Force base and shoot this critical footage in less than 12 hours.

Honor thy hosts by respecting their faiths, customs and issues: As an example: Out of respect to our Kurdish guides, when they took us up the slopes of Mount Arrarat in search of Noah's Ark, we asked our Turkish crew to remain at base camp.

Thou shalt not kill thy budget by burning it in the hot summer sun: It is critical in filming the many stories of the Bible that filmmakers adhere to a strict shooting schedule, because summer temperatures in the Sinai Desert can soar to 120 degrees. This could cause significant equipment failure and heat stroke for us, dramatically increasing production costs.

Remember to keep holy on the Sabbath: To avoid exhaustion and burnout under these stressful circumstances, contrary to typical production schedules, we include time off for rest and recovery and for the spiritual connection essential to everyone's morale.