Greece: Secrets of the PastGreece: Secrets of the PastGreece: Secrets of the PastGreece: Secrets of the PastGreece: Secrets of the Past
Greece: Secrets of the PastAbout Ancient GreeceGreece: Secrets of the PastAbout The IMAX FilmGreece: Secrets of the PastRelated TopicsGreece: Secrets of the PastFor TeachersGreece: Secrets of the Past
Greece: Secrets of the PastGreece: Secrets of the PastGreece: Secrets of the PastGreece: Secrets of the PastGreece: Secrets of the Past
Introduction Family FunLinks Credits
The Making Of...

GREECE: Secrets of the Past explores two equally fascinating periods in Greek history: first, the Bronze Age when early Minoan and Mycenaean civilizations made rapid progress in trade, politics, culture and art; and then, the Classical Period, that century and a half when a tremendous flowering of the Greek culture began in Athens and when many of the great works of literature, sculpture, philosophy and drama that we associate with the Greeks today emerged.

Aerial of a modern boat zooming through a tiny hole in a huge cliff off Santorini
Aerial of a modern boat zooming through a tiny hole in a huge cliff off Santorini.
Courtesy MacGillivray Freeman Films

To capture these ancient stories, the film crew traveled across the Greek Isles, from cosmopolitan Athens to the Bronze Age ruins of Mycenae to the famed oracle at Delphi; then on to the island of Santorini where the buried remains of Akrotiri are yielding answers to centuries-old mysteries; to Euboea, where statues such as the towering bronze of the oceanic god Poseidon have been retrieved from the sea; to sacred Delos, one of Greece's most magical locales; and then on to nearby Mykonos, where Greek myth has it that Hercules slew the Giants.

“We experienced some truly remarkable locations” says director of photography Brad Ohland. “From the volcanic caldera in Santorini to the archaeological finds of Akrotiri to the time-lapse photography we did at ancient Athenian ruins, we were amazed by how incredibly and powerfully visual this ancient story of Greece could be thousands of years later.”

Although they had neither lofty mountains to climb nor treacherous rivers to forge, the MacGillivray Freeman team still faced some daunting challenges in modern-day Greece. One of the biggest initial challenges was simply getting permission to shoot in some of the most sensitive, fragile and beloved historical sites in the world. In the wake of the 2004 Olympics in Athens with the crush of crowds and cameras it brought to the country, the Greeks were wary of allowing further film crews into their most prized landmarks and vital scientific sites. Admits Greg MacGillivray, “Getting the permissions we needed for production was a bit like pulling teeth. However, once we were able to get through all that red tape, the famous Greek hospitality began to shine and we knew we were going to have a lot of fun."

To gain unprecedented aerial views of Greece, the filmmakers recruited the renowned skills of Ron Goodman. Goodman is the inventor and leading operator of a revolutionary, helicopter-mounted system known as Space Cam- which uses laser focusing and a special gyro-stabilization system as a way to obtain thrilling aerial cinematography with a wider range of angles and at far greater, adrenalin-pumping speeds than ever possible before. The Space Cam has radically changed action cinematography in action films over the last decade and has the potential to heighten the visceral excitement of IMAX panoramas to ever more gripping dimensions. This technology paid off bringing back unforgettable, you-are-there images that no one has ever seen before.

Idyllic setting on Santorini.
Idyllic setting on Santorini.
Courtesy MacGillivray Freeman Films

The hands-down preferred shooting location for the crew quickly became Santorini, the idyllic volcanic island that was once part of a much larger island named Thera, before a massive eruption blew it to smithereens. “It was really my favorite place”, Ohlund says, “to be surrounded by this ancient world that had been perfectly preserved like it was packed away for future safe-keeping is just an incredibly-moving experience, and one that I think lots of people who might never get to go to Greece will be able to share in this film.”

Another favorite locale was Poseidon's Temple, perched on the cliffs above Cape Sounion, South East of Athens. Known for its romantic sunsets, this is one of Greece's most popular tourist destinations, which created havoc all of its own. “We wanted to capture the sunset behind Poseidon's Temple- but so did hundreds of tourists,” says Ohlund. “This called for some creative finagling to get a pristine image.”

The setting sun twinkles through the columns of this temple in Sounion
The setting sun twinkles through the columns of this temple in Sounion.
Courtesy MacGillivray Freeman Films
 
Night shoot at the Parthenon
Night shoot at the Parthenon.
Courtesy MacGillivray Freeman Films

Says Greg MacGillivray of the shoot at the Parthenon: “We knew it would be very difficult to carry of these complex helicopter and dolly shots at this world-famous tourist destination, but it was key that we capture this stunning symbol of democracy in a deserving way. Ultimately, we achieved perhaps one of the most time and labor intensive sequences ever created for an IMAX theatre film: we start at dawn with a stirring helicopter shot then merge into our CGI, 3D recreation of the Parthenon, then merge that with a dolly shot of our modern-day archaeologists walking through the door and seeing before them the grandeur of the recreated Athena sculpture as it has not been seen for thousands of years.

As the production came to a close, the filmmakers found themselves completely seduced by modern-day Greece along with its illustrious past.