Editors’ Note: We have just come from the press premiere of Lamb of God and have three words to say: Don’t miss it. We wish we could say that louder, bigger, more persuasively. We are still glowing from its goodness.
We have loved this work by Rob Gardner for years because the music seems as if it came from the eternal worlds, calling out from some deep place in our inner lives our immense gratitude for the Savior’s magnificent gift to us. We have wept with testimony every time we have attended a performance, and the film now adds a refreshing dimension, bringing viewers up close and personal to the singers and musicians as they perform. Their love and passion for the Savior is undeniable, as, for example, when Casey Eliot, who plays Peter, has a tear roll down his cheek.
Rob Gardner receives more messages than he can count from people all over the world who tell him that Lamb of God has changed their lives.
The film is opening this weekend, March 12, at 100 theaters in 15 states. What most people don’t realize is that attendance that first weekend is critical for a movie’s success. It is what opens the door for the movie to continue to play in the theater and expand the market for other theaters to open screens for it. Make plans to see this movie as soon as you can. You will be so happy that you did and you may open the door for many others to have an experience with Christ’s last week that they would otherwise have missed. Maurine and Scot Proctor
The much-admired musical composition, Lamb of God, composed by Rob Gardner, is now a new, groundbreaking concert film. This work, which has been often compared in structure to Handel’s Messiah, opens nationally in theaters March 12 and showcases many amazing and talented soloists, a reduced sized orchestra, and a very angelic-like choir. The sacred nature and message of this film and the captured live performance serves as a perfect way to celebrate the Easter season and the everlasting hope of the resurrection.
Writer, director and composer Rob Gardner, in partnership with Excel Entertainment and Purdie Distribution, released this film concert experience to big screens across the country at a time when much healing is needed. This thought was certainly on the minds of the producers as they contemplated making this film when live performances are not an option.
The idea to write about the atonement of Jesus Christ stirred in Gardner’s mind in the summer of 2010 when he sent an email to the London Symphony Orchestra based on this lingering idea. He felt compelled to tell the story through music and word about the last week of the Saviors life. That email set in motion not only a recording session with the London Symphony but also created a masterful work that has been performed throughout the world by tens of thousands of performers for millions of fans encompassing nearly every Christian faith.
Through the eyes of those who knew Him, Gardner tells the story of the final days of the life of Jesus Christ, His passion, the atonement, His crucifixion, and His resurrection. Through spoken word and song, Gardner shows the actions, decisions, and dealings of characters like Peter, Martha, Thomas, Judas, Mary, John, and others and provides a feeling of hope even through the dark moments. “It’s about Christ, but it’s really about Peter, Mary and Martha and all of those people and their relationship with Christ,” Gardner said.
Gardner continued “I think music itself has an undeniable power to connect us with feelings and emotions buried deep within us. In writing Lamb of God, I didn’t shy away from going with these people into their darkest moments. We sit with Peter, Martha, Thomas, Mary Magdalene, as they grieve, as they question, as they mourn, as they hurt. That doubt, grief and hurt are familiar to all of us in one way or another. Like Christ, who wept when he saw Mary of Bethany and the others weeping at Lazarus’ death, we too often weep with these people as we watch them struggle, out of pure empathy, but we also may weep because we see our own struggles in their experience. Each of these people found hope in their despair, they sought and found Light in the darkness. And that’s the message that I believe really resonates from Lamb of God: no matter how dark things get, there is always Light, there is always Hope. To quote one of the lyrics, “Here despair cries boldly, claiming this its victory. Sweeter peace enfolds me: Hope did not die here, but here was given. Here is Hope.”
Certain challenges presented themselves as the decision was made to move forward and create the concert film adaptation on a shortened timeline which began in December 2020. If the film was going to be released by Easter, all the moving parts had to move ahead with precision and warp speed pacing. Casting the vocalists, finding the choir, writing new orchestrations, choosing a venue and navigating strict COVID protocols were all part of the process that began January 1 and will conclude with the release of the film on March 12.
This film and live recording session required a specific type of venue to not only provide the needed space but the right acoustics to match that space. Utah Film Studios in Park City, Utah was chosen as the location to create the right environment for all of these elements to come together giving the filmmakers what they needed to achieve the look and the sound quality as well as provide ample spacing for the performers.
There were many adjustments and concessions that were required to meet the demands of a shortened production schedule as well as additional challenges created by making a film during a global health crisis. Slimming down the orchestra and the choir was something that had to be done to create proper and safe distance between performers, but just that alone meant all the orchestrations had to be re-written to accommodate fewer instruments.
Mr. Gardner said it was at this point he drew on the inspiration of Aaron Copland and the classic orchestration of Appalachian Spring when Mr. Copland took a piece of music that was written for a chamber orchestra and turned it into a musical feast for a full orchestra.
While filming of Lamb of God Mr. Gardner had to do just the opposite, but the principle was the same. At first this appeared that it could be a weakness in the process, but ultimately that appearance of weakness faded and was replaced with the strength of the new orchestrations and a new song written and composed just for this film version.
“Almost every aspect of this film ended up being more difficult than I anticipated” said Rob Gardner. “There were several factors that complicated things, but in the case of editing, one of the biggest challenges was the short amount of time we had to make the film. Once we finished shooting, we jumped straight into reviewing all the footage, lining it up with audio, and cataloguing all of the shots. This just takes time, and we did not have a lot of it. I was editing in a hotel room and in the end, that was probably appropriate, too, because most days I would work from about 9am until 4 or 5 in the morning, with a few breaks for a walk to grab something to eat, then back at it. When I got too exhausted to keep going, the bed was only a few feet away so I would sleep for a few hours, then back to it!”
The elegant music combined with the powerful performances of the assembled cast which includes Casey Elliott, Oyoyo Bonner, Tyler Hardwick, Katherine Thomas, Joseph Hale, and Emily Moffat and others create an amazing blend of spiritual power and thoughtful storytelling that brings us right into the middle of the Saviors final days. “We brought together a world-class, once-in-a-lifetime cast and crew to create this film. And I am absolutely overjoyed that we are able to release it in theatres in time for Easter and help bring light and hope so desperately needed at this time.” said Composer Rob Gardner.
“In casting a concert, the look of a person, their age, their height, those kinds of physical things are much less important because you are presenting the music as opposed to acting it out, however, you still want to consider those things so that the audience isn’t pulled out of a moment dramatically, but the voice was really the most important factor,” explains Gardner. He continued to describe the process saying, “Of course, you are always looking for beautiful, powerful voices, but for me an interesting voice, a unique voice is even more appealing than just a pretty voice. It was important to me on this film to find new people I hadn’t worked with before, people from different places, with different backgrounds and experiences who would bring those experiences to this already well-established work and offer something new and unique. Some of the cast I found through friends and connections; others were already somewhat familiar to me, and a few I literally found from searching the internet and YouTube.”
This concert film gives movie goers the opportunity to experience these performances up close and more personal than any previous live performance could do and with the orchestrations and vocals coming through multiple speakers in a cinema environment equipped with the most current technology this could be something we see a lot more of in the future.
The music and the message combined with the recounting of this Easter story based on the biblical text will provide an engaging experience for audiences of all ages. “I’ve dreamed and planned for years to create a concert film of ‘Lamb of God’ and I am thrilled to bring this new cinematic, can’t miss experience to long-time fans and newcomers alike,” said creator Rob Gardner.
Telling this sublime story of The Savior through music, the spoken word and the masterful orchestrations can serve as a healing balm for the wounded soul especially after a year where many have struggled with uncertainty, pain, and sadness.
Visit www.lambofgodmovie.com to find a list of theaters and full cast bios.