‘The Chosen’ sets up at The Salvation Army’s Camp Hoblitzelle

By: Philip Burn

In 2020, a production team was searching for suitable locations to film in and around the Dallas-Fort Worth area and made a chance visit to The Salvation Army’s Hoblitzelle Camp and Conference Center. On a tour around the pastures, creator Dallas Jenkins stopped Casey Bilbrey, director of operations for Camp Hoblitzelle, as they were driving and said, “This is it!” Jenkins fell in love with the location, and they quickly decided the camp landscape and facilities were perfect for their needs for the next several months. ‘The Chosen,’ created by Jenkins and distributed by Angel Studios, has been renting a section of the camp property for filming and production. The show is the highest crowd-funded project of all-time and has been translated into more than 50 languages.

“We are all incredibly proud of ‘The Chosen,’” said Chad Gundersen, producer. “To be able to bring this story to life in this way has in many ways been miraculous. Support for the show has continued to pour in from all over the world since the season one debut, and we can’t wait to release the remaining episode of Season Two later this year. This Sermon on the Mount, shot at Camp Hoblitzelle, is going to be the highlight of the new season and the most incredible retelling of that event in television history.”

Participants in the Sermon on the Mount scene, most of whom were fans and supporters of the show, traveled from around the world to be part of the filming. Each person provided proof of a negative COVID PCR test prior to their arrival to DFW and also received a rapid COVID test the morning of the shoot at the Midlothian ISD Multi-Purpose Stadium, which served as the extras holding area before being transported to Camp Hoblitzelle for filming.

“Between COVID protocols and dressing up 3,000 people, this was by far the most challenging scene I’ve ever attempted,” said Jenkins.

While the gates of Camp Hoblitzelle in the Texas Division temporarily closed for summer camp, overnight, and weekend rental groups, the opportunity to host the production of ‘The Chosen’ has been an exciting and unique opportunity. One which is providing opportunities beyond what we could have ever imagined.

“It has been a God-send to have ‘The Chosen’ production crew here at Camp Hoblitzelle, particularly as other rental groups have been cancelled,” said Bilbrey. “They are filming in an unused area of our property and have constructed temporary buildings where they build, and store set pieces, costumes, and the actor’s trailers. It’s not unusual to have Jesus and the disciples enjoying lunch in the dining room alongside the camp staff!”

One of the most important things about this new partnership is the alignment of our missions. ‘The Chosen’ was created to share the story of Jesus in a new and relevant way as can be seen in many episodes where “Jesus” says to his disciples, “Get used to different!”.  The Salvation Army was started when William Booth wanted to reach people in a new and relevant in the streets of East London and continues today as the organization shares the story of Jesus in our communities.

Production has been completed for Season Two and plans are underway to return to Camp Hoblitzelle for filming later in 2021 with the potential to shoot future seasons, including the construction of a set and sound stage. The production team and The Salvation Army staff are excited about future filming and potential partnership opportunities.