On a tour of one of the movie studios during our family’s trip to Los Angeles last week, we visited some of the backlot sets. There was a city street backlot. An Old West backlot. A Europe backlot. And old Mexico. One of the things we learned was that most of the buildings in the backlot are just for show. If you walk through the front door, well, that’s about all there is. These sets, called facades, run no more than about five feet deep. They’re just made to be seen, made to be photographed, but there’s nothing behind the facade. If you want to shoot an interior shot, you have to put the actors in a sound stage or another building.
The other kind of sets on the backlot, as you may have guessed, is completely built out. They’re real buildings, as opposed to facades. You can shoot a scene on the outside of the building, or you can use the inside too. The name for these kinds of sets makes perfect sense: they’re called practical sets. Practical, because you can use them. You can follow an actor through the front door; move a scene from exterior to interior without editing.
One other thing I learned: it’s tough to tell facades from practical sets from the outside. Facades are made to fool you, after all. They’re intended to convince you that they actually are brownstones or saloons or hotels. At first glance, you might be convinced that a facade is a practical set.
But look inside, and the difference is obvious.
For several hundred years, Christians have struggled to come to terms with how verses in the Bible tell us that we’re saved by faith and not by works reconcile with verses that tell us that we’re saved by what we do, and not faith alone. There are texts, after all, that says both of those things. And it’s fair to ask how both can be true, and it’s understandable that we might think one contradicted the other. But like a lot of deep theological mysteries, this one dissipates with an application of common sense and a dose of experience. And, as it happens, a trip to a Hollywood backlot.