When you read a book you come up with a mental image of the world and its different intricacies. And there is no world that entrances me more than that of Cassandra Clare’s Shadowhunter World.
Heading into my visit to the Toronto set of The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones I didn’t know what to expect. For so long this world had existed only in my head and on the pages of Cassie’s books. So when I walked onto the set for the first time it was an experience unlike any other.
As a fan it was such a surreal experience; just imagine what it must be like for Cassie to see a world she had crafted in her head and on the hundreds of pages of her books come to life before her.
Our tour began in a lobby where we met with Cassie, who would be touring the set with us. We received some cute bracelets commemorating the filming on the film in Toronto before beginning our tour. As we made our way to the wardrobe department, we stopped and looked at some concept art that hung on the walls of the main office. There were several panels of scenes, which included the greenhouse scene. From there we met Gersha Phillips, the costume designer, who gave us a tour of the department.
In the room there were walls dedicated to each actor/character filled with magazine clippings of clothing that inspired the “look” for each character. There were clippings of famous actors, nobodies and different looks for the characters, for example, Clary in the beginning of the film and Clary the Shadowhunter. From there we walked around the department where racks and racks and racks of clothing hung for the various characters.
We also got a quick tour of the art department, where we got a peek at the Angel Raziel painting, which was simply beautiful, and learned that one of the artists in the room had actually illustrated the painting.
From there it was on to tour the sets where we would see the world of The Mortal Instruments come to life.
THE INSTITUTE GATE
The first set we stopped by on our tour was the Institute Gate, which is seen in a couple of the trailers. Of course that was minus the glamour effects. The gate was massive and haunting and everything you’d expect of the New York Institute. There were varying runes etched into the metal gate. It was a small but important detail that gave me confidence early on that this film was in the best hands possible.
You know a set is impressive when you walk onto an unfinished one and are blown away by the sight of it. Such was the case for me when I stepped into the Institute library. The set was nearly complete with the exception of the missing props—books and the like—as we were told they had just finished this and wouldn’t be filming there for another couple of weeks.
The moment we all walked into the library we all had the same look of awe and splendor as we gazed up and around the vast library set. Once again there were runes scattered throughout the library—on the floor, etched into pillars—it was like playing I-Spy Shadowhunter Edition.
One of the things that stuck out was this massive hole in the wall that dipped down a bit in the ground, which we were told was a portal. We also later got a peek at the portal door that had a variety of runes etched into it. It was really neat to see the constructed portal come to life in the trailers.
CLARY AND JOCELYN’S
This set was still very early on into its construction, but we got to tour it anyway. We walked up a flight of stairs into a dark and hollow set. The interior of the set was dark and still under construction. But we saw the different rooms, including a constructed bathroom and what would be Clary’s room, and our guide pointed out a wall that would be blown up for a scene. After seeing trailers, we assume this would be the kitchen where Clary attempts to blow up the Ravener demon.
CITY OF BONES
By far my favorite and the most impressive set was the City of Bones. It was something truly special to tour that set. This is where we conducted our interviews with Lily Collins and Robert Sheehan, as well as watched filming from our special director’s chairs the studio set up for us.
In the middle of set (where the monitors showing takes from filming) was a large clairvoyant sight rune that Clary stands on in the scene. When you stood in the center on the clairvoyant sight rune and spoke it created an echo effect as if you were hearing someone speak inside of your head, which was really cool. We got to stand in Clary’s shoes for a moment.
The attention to detail in this set — and all sets — really amazed me. Once again I saw the inclusion of runes in the architecture. There were several archways with angel wings protruding, where the Silent Brothers stand in the scene.
Behind those archways was a sort of corridor that was still being worked on a bit. They hadn’t yet filmed the scenes in the City of Bones and it was something Lily Collins told us she was looking forward to filming. Walking through that dark corridor felt like stepping into the City of Bones which was chilling and thrilling. I noticed that there were skulls and bones built into the walls. It was incredible.
While we sat in our director chairs in the City of Bones set we got to watch filming, as well as some dailies from the previous days. We watched two scenes filmed live on two different monitors side-by-side, which were from two different angles: Madame Dorothea’s possession and Clary, Jace and Simon with Madame Dorothea.
MADAME DOROTHEA’S POSSESSION
I presume the latter scene with Clary, Jace and Simon happens before the first scene we got to watch, which is Madame Dorothea (CCH Pounder)’s possession and ftransformation into the Greater Demon Abbadon. The scene starts off with Dorothea sort of shaking, as Abbadon possesses her body, and then she turns around and walks up to the camera and begins touching her face. There are motion dots on her face as to show the transformation into Abbadon that will later be accomplished with CGI. She smiles evilly and then walks out. CCH was incredible in this scene. It wasn’t much of a scene, but CCH really delivered and gave me chills.
CLARY, JACE AND SIMON AT MADAME DOROTHEA’S
The next scene we got to see involved Clary, Jace, Simon and Dorothea. The scene begins outside the door when Simon breaks down the door and tackles Dorothea to the ground (the part near the end of the teaser trailer that everyone was wondering about, that’s Simon). Simon is on top of Dorothea as she claws at him. He shouts, “Clary!” as Dorothea continues to swipe at him. Jace and Clary come running into the shot and Jace reaches behind him for a seraph blade and delivers a blow to Dorothea. Clary then reaches down and grabs the Mortal Cup from Dorothea’s clutches. She stumbles back and (looks like) she forces the Cup back into the tarot card (a guy runs and takes the cup and leaves a card in her hand, which will all be CGI). Then she looks at Simon and rushes over to him and they embrace. Jace stands back watching jealous, broken and hurt. You know, that scene where Jamie Campbell Bower throws up his heart.
(Isabelle?) calls for Jace and he rushes away. Clary and Simon go to watch Jace run off and share a look before the scene ends.
This was the first time I had seen any footage of these actors portraying these iconic characters and it was mind-blowingly surreal. Not only were the actors incredible, but I watched these characters come to life before my eyes.
We watched them film both of these scenes several times, but we definitely weren’t complaining. When they took a break from filming that was when we departed. But we would have gladly sat in those chairs all night watching them film.
We also got to watch dailies of a couple of scenes they had filmed earlier.
CLARY PULLS THE MORTAL CUP OUT OF THE TAROT CARD
The shot begins with Clary reaching her hand carefully into the tarot card (an open rectangle in which she can fit her hand) and pulling out the Mortal Cup. This will all be CGI with the Cup. This scene was filmed earlier in the day most likely.
JACE AND ISABELLE TEND TO ALEC WITH STELE AFTER ABBADON ATTACK
The shot begins with an unconscious Alec lying on the ground and Isabelle drawing an iratze on him with her stele. When it doesn’t work she desperately calls out for Jace, who rushes over and kneels beside her. She says, “It isn’t working.” Jace looks worried. The shot ends with him looking off camera.
I would like to extend a huge thanks to Sony Pictures, Constantin Film, Cassandra Clare, the cast, the crew, the other site runners and everyone involved in the set visit. To be able to see a world you have seen only inside of your head come to life before you is a feeling unlike any other. It was an incredible experience that I’ll never forget.