Behind the Scenes of ‘Training for the Apocalypse’

By Alexandra Fuller, Producer of Training For the Apocalypse

When you’re making a documentary about people preparing for an apocalypse, you spend a lot of time thinking about it. As in, the end of the world as we know it. But despite ploughing through multiple books about 2012 and the coming end times, despite spending a lot of time with people passionately trying to convince me of impending doom, and even despite the recent financial crisis, massive global earthquakes and the newest unrest in the Middle East, I remain obstinately an optimist.

It takes a lot to get me down, but the double barrel shot of morning sickness and food-borne pathogens during a shoot in Lago Atitlan, Guatemala nearly made me wish the world really would come to an end. Preferably immediately.

Our director Rob VanAlkemade is a very cautious and prepared man. He and executive producer Gregory Smith already had some qualms about sending me alone into a potentially violent location to scout subjects and locations. Telling them that I was pregnant only made Rob more worried, and I figured the additional news of virulent morning sickness might be too much to handle. So, I hid my suffering. My green face and the retching noises coming from the restaurant bathroom during our last pre-shoot meeting gave away my agony.

Despite all the vomiting, the scouting mission was incredibly successful and by the time Rob and Greg arrived in Guatemala a week later, we were ready to start shooting. Least favorite moment of the shoot: when a mid-level Mayan shaman insisted that Greg and I participate in a spiritual ceremony involving musky incense and literally hundreds of lit candles. By this point in the trip, those pesky intestinal demons who plague me whenever I visit developing nations were working in concert with the early pregnancy hormones to turn my gut into a nuclear blast of apocalyptic levels. I could feel the beads of sweat forming on my skin and the sheer focus of containment made me feel like I was hallucinating. As soon as the ceremony concluded, I ran for the outhouse.

Most favorite moment of the shoot: during our interview with Elder Mayan Shaman Pedro Cruz Garcia, known as Tata to friends, told me “If your baby is a boy, it means I am going to die soon and I will be reborn as your child. If you have a girl, then I will live on and finish my work here.” My daughter, Lowe, was born the following June, and Tata recently realized his dream of opening a school of Mayan culture and heritage. We both remain optimistic.


Training For the Apocalypse chronicles the journeys of survivalists, truth-seekers and prophets united in their quests for personal peace as they prepare for global cataclysm and the near-extinction of humanity. In an era when rumors, prophecies and theories have often eclipsed various evident realities at hand, TFA serves to humanize, enlighten and inform, with a cautious respect for the words and deeds of our subjects rather than a capitalization on vague fears or subjective judgments. Practical discoveries are made while distinct personal stories develop about those striving and struggling to live their best, while preparing for the worst. Tune in Monday at 10P et/pt for the full story.


  1. alan leepal
    May 1, 2012, 3:30 am

    I am glad that such ignorant people live out in the middle of nowhere.

  2. zack
    May 7, 2012, 5:47 pm

    These people are nuts. The guy that calls himself a “badass” is probably living in his mom’s basement.

  3. jennifer stewart
    san antonio texas
    June 7, 2012, 9:10 am

    this is the reason why i have no utter faith in humanity and i’m learning too use an old stock rifle and then a shot gun this summer once my brother is done with his schooling see ya bye is it just me or did nat geo just jump the shark bye

  4. ViewRoyal
    June 29, 2012, 4:17 pm

    The big question is: What are these people going to do 6 months from now when it is 2013, and their 2012 apocalypse hasn’t arrived?

  5. Ken
    July 19, 2012, 5:13 pm

    When will Nat Geo be showing “Training For the Apocalypse” again?