China Diary

Day 31: Keep your damn jack…


Having to deal over the Internet with a VPN is driving me mad. We all know China has blocked its’ country from normal Internet, which is fine and it funnily doesn’t seem to matter almost at all to the locals, but for us, who are used to using Spotify, Netflix, Dropbox, WeTransfer, Skype, Whatsapp, Gmail, Google Calendar and Google, we’re pretty much screwed over here. So the only solution is to purchase a 100€/year VPN account. The problem is, whenever VPN is on (I’m using ExpressVPN, which is probably the best here in China), the data transfer is slow. And by slow I mean it doesn’t happen.

But it seems to have its’ bad days and its’ good days. Yesterday, I was able to watch a film on HBO Nordic via Finland VPN connection quite well. Every 20 minutes it stopped for some buffering, but it’s bearable. Today, same connection, same site – I was able to watch maximum 30 seconds of Twin Peaks at a time, with 5 minutes buffering time for every new 30 seconds. Needless to say, I decided to give it a rest for the night. Keep your damn jack…

We had a lengthy script meeting today with Max. These meetings tend to always go the same way: at first, we talk. Then, we argue, and Lei tries to translate as Max goes on like a bullet train and I’m trying to keep up to where we are headed for. Then, we settle for a solution – whether Max writes his bit and or I write mine (last time it was me, now Max wants to add few things by himself), and then we have to wait for the translated versions to hit us and see what changed.

Luckily, we are both trying to deliver the same kind of a movie, but it’s interesting to see the little cultural differences there are. For example, the importance of “hero” in Chinese storytelling is much different than in Western films. In Western films, a hero is usually an ordinary person who has an unordinary set of skills, and using them he or she saves the day. In China, it seems, an ordinary person is an ordinary person and possesses no unordinary skills, and becomes a “hero” through circumstances, not through given set of skills – and even the term “hero” doesn’t really mean the same. It’s just a person whom we decide to follow through the movie, and he or she doesn’t have to be in the center of the main events at all! So, trying to fit both of these worlds into one can be challenging, but I feel we’ve struck quite a good balance by bringing best of both worlds together.

The meeting started off grimly, but ended on a high note, and I’m quite keen to read the changes. Meanwhile, the production train is moving forward, so I of course hope nothing too dramatic will change set-and-scene-wise, but we both understand that.

I’m also happy to say we have found pretty good solutions on the costume design and the production design front. I’ve struggled to find the right look for our male lead, but finally, after a lot of googling, references and tons of discussions I’m happy with what the costume designer has provided me. It’s simple, it’s very “regular” but it works well with the character.

We also had a huge problem finding the right look for the Moon Base in the film – I mean, it’s an Iron Sky, so the Moon set is the one people come to see in these films, right? I had tossed tons of different ideas to the trashbin, until today I wandered off just almost by accident to the production design department, and saw one of the guys working on something interesting on his screen. It turned out to be a new, unfinished sketch of the Moon Base, and it was spot on! I was very excited to see it, and told right away to mr. Wang the whole thing was beautiful. He was happy to hear it, and I could hear the unified vision clockwork slowly starting to rattle on, like Götterdämmerung’s engine on the first Iron Sky!

Since Tuomas is still in town, we went out for a hummus and guy talk (we have it too, ladies – it’s not as sophisticated as yours but we do share our heart with our friends every now and then!). Then, I came back home and tried watching Twin Peaks, failed at that, spoke with wife an hour or so and well, now I’m watching through the window as the steady flow of car headlights flicker on the street fourteen floors below and chewing the life’s gristle.

Always look on the bright side of life, as Eric Idle reminds us to do. I will! I just want that damn VPN to start working…

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