China Diary

Day 14: Wandering the Wanda City

On the second day of the recce, the weather got much better. The sun was shining bright, turning our little rubber-wheeled muskrat trap into a Swedish sauna. This time, we drove a long way to the area where Wanda Pictures, one of the world’s biggest film companies, have their studios. We visited a newly finished shopping mall we could close down to shoot a scene in, and then went to visit the studios.

Located just across the street from the sea, the thirty two studio buildings line the Wanda Studios lot in a neat order, basking in the sun under the big “Wanda” text hoisted on the mountainside, to remind us that we indeed are in East Hollywood. Here, they’ve just shot such films as Kong and The Great Wall, and just finished the shoot for Pacific Rim 2, so we knew we would be in good hands. The quality of the studios is just amazing: stages of different sizes and heights, with high-end rigging solutions, water tanks and whatnots ensure best possible filming experience.

It was also nice to sneak in another scifi film’s (“The Wandering Earth”, based on Liu Cixin’s novels and produced by China Film Group with $50m budget) set and see all the great set pieces being constructed. The Chinese art department surely know their stuff.

On the way back, I started to feel suddenly really bad. My stomach was doing somersaults and I asked for a toilet break. Of course, we were just then at the busiest highway in the area, which was – of course – stuck because of an accident, and there was absolutely nowhere to stop. Searching for a toilet, our driver decided it’s probably the quickest to take the bridge back to the city – the longest overwater bridge in the world. I’ve rarely been in such pain when riding on this 25-kilometer-long bridge, praying for a McDonald’s or Burger King to appear from somewhere. And of course, they didn’t. I mean, usually they line every possible human-populated area densely, but when you actually need them, they’re nowhere to be found. So finally, when I found – after forty-five minutes of searching – a toilet, I decided it’s time for me to learn to go the Chinese way.

I’ll save you the details, but one thing I will say: every day you learn something new.

The evening ended again with a huge hot pot dinner. I had finished my work on the script earlier the day and got it sent out to the production and to the writer, so the production manager wanted to celebrate with me with a bottle of Jägermeister to go with the dinner. Many glasses were raised in appraisal of the crew and I even did a little dinner table speech, which I usually abhor, but since we had another early morning the next day, there was no time for too heavy partying.

At home, I had a nice two hour talk with Annika. Even as we’re far apart, it’s nice that she’s still the person I most prefer spending time with over anything, even if it’s just a Skype call. She was just finishing the Iron Sky making-of book, which is coming out around the same time as the film, in February next year. Annika has interviewed the crew, cast and even some fans for the book to tell first hand the (sometimes a horror-) story of how the film got made. I won’t spoil you for the fun, but I can say that it’s quite a strange, chilling story to read.

So congratulations, Annika, for finishing your first book! Now, I’m married to an author!

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