China Diary

Day 11: The Finns! The Finns are here!

I finally woke up around 2pm, after having a slept relatively good night, despite the fact that I really fell asleep not before 8am. That’s good six hours, and I know you think I’m being one boring blogger reporting in such detail my sleeping habits, but honestly I need to keep up how much I get sleep or I’ll end up breaking myself, and that won’t be any fun at all.

After fumbling around my apartment for a while, I skated to the office for some lunch – and I was happy to find out Mika Orasmaa, my director of photography, had arrived earlier in the day to Beijing. Suddenly, the whole production was in more concrete swing: we were not just rambling on about script, but talking about camera equipment, shooting schedules and locations – you know, concrete stuff, not abstract concepts.

And I had another Finn to talk to. It makes a big difference: no more am I the loner in the office, but can at least joke around with someone, no matter how much the rest go on in Chinese around me. After two weeks of being the one who sulks in the corner looking grumpy and having no access to the inside jokes of the production crew, I was now part of a completely new ecosystem of jokes and stories: the Finnish crew.

So of course, the first thing we did was we started trolling the office with a bag of Tyrsk Pebers, the Finnish salty licqourice black candy Mika had brought with from Finland. “Here, have a Finnish candy!” “Thanks!” And then the expression, which first goes from neutral to surprise, then disgust, then to disbelief. As Maxine put it, “everywhere in the world people try to make candies as sweet as possible, but you Finns are the only ones who actually make them as salty as possible.”

Mika was whisked away amidst the craziness of the production right away. The costume lady, whose name I for some reason keep on forgetting, is quite a personality. Actually, come to think of it, I’ve never met a costume person who wasn’t probably the weirdest personality of the film crew, save the cast maybe. Anyway, she was demanding Mika to explain in exact detail in what kind of a way a helmet breaks up, and in what angles will we show it, and that he provides a full concept artwork for a certain helmet breakup. Mika was trying to explain to her, showing a storyboard drawings by Anssi that it doesn’t matter, just make a hole in the helmet about the shape of this, but she went on and on demanding a detailed explanation. Luckily I wandered in the room to see what the commotion was about. She posed the question to me (through a translator) and I pointed at the same picture on the wall saying do it like this, just like Mika had been trying to tell for the last half an hour. Somehow director’s word is indisputable here, and that ended the discussion quickly.

We also finished our script discussions with Max in a much more peaceful environment now that all the hurdles had been solved and the general storyline was agreed on. There’s one change still which I just can’t accept, but I decided to push that discussion of that to a bit later date, otherwise we’ll never get to actually shoot the film.

Later in the evening, we had a welcome dinner for Mika at the local hot pot place. Hot pot has become my absolute favorite Chinese food, and the practicality of it just thrills me. They serve a pot of boiling water in front of each diner, and fill the table with different types of raw meat. Then, everyone just sinks the pieces of meat in the boiling water, preparing the food for themselves. It takes some twenty second for few slices of meat to boil, then you dip it into a bowl of  sauce and eat it. Absolutely delicious, and definitely illegal in Finland because of some EU regulation I’m sure (like “food in a restaurant is supposed to be prepared only by professionals, not by diners” or some crap like that).

A hot pot serving

Joining us this time was also Tuomas Kantelinen, a friend and a musician I’ve had a chance to work with over several projects. He was in Beijing celebrating the release of a film he composed the soundtrack for, titled The Adventurers. It turns out Tuomas and Max had actually worked together, although they’d never met each other – Tuomas composed the music for Max’s first-produced movie Mongol, and oh boy the stories they started to share from the production. If I thought making Iron Sky –films had been complicated, the stuff they had to go through to get that film made, shot somewhere in Mongolia near Kazakhstan border with 14 countries collaborating one way or another, led by an inexperienced young Russian producer… Wow.

We finished the day off with Mika over few beers at the hotel beer talking about Finnish films. I got to see some clips from the upcoming Unknown Soldier –film and I can tell it looks really promising. For once, there’s a Finnish movie I hate to miss (although I’m sure it’s still in the theatres when I get back early next year, it’s going to be probably the most viewed Finnish movie in a decade or something like that).

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