China Diary

Day 55: Yo! This is a test


It’s nice to be back on the set, even if it’s just a test shoot. Having worked at the office for the last two months, or at my hotel room, or at a small scouting car, being where there’s actually cameras, actors in costumes and sets (of some kind) make a huge difference. I used to think I don’t actually enjoy the actual filmmaking part of being a filmmaker, but I was wrong. Once I’ve started to understand how things work, it’s a pleasure to watch the well-oiled machine pump away.

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The tests were shot at our equipment rental company’s spaces, which have rooms designated for this. What’s fancy about the space is that the walls are made of wooden panels painted to look like grim concrete slabs, which works for this kind of film – actually, for my kind of films as general – as quite a perfect backdrop.

We arrived to the rental house after a long ride, and found our actors getting ready, in makeup or costume. After the casting, I hadn’t obviously had a chance to meet with them, and of course had no idea how the costumes and makeup would work, but I was positively delighted to see that each and every one had a distinct, really well-established look that served the characters perfectly.

Even more so, Mika had created a beautiful light setup, which I’d like to call strangely “Spielbergian” (meaning: it reminded me of many of Spielberg’s adventure movies) with the blue tones, and added with Mika’s beloved lens flares, we managed to shoot some pretty amazing shots of our cast in front of the camera. Also, seeing people in 2.35:1 wide screen format suddenly makes them seem larger than life, cinematic and smashes the production values through the roof!

What was also a relief for me was to see how well the set worked, despite everyone but me and Mika working in Chinese. There are translators at the crucial junctions, and the only problem is that when two languages clash, the sound level of the set tends to rise quite quickly. This brings back memories of first Iron Sky, especially the German shoot, where Tarja, our production coordinator, had to scream on top of her lungs every ten minutes: “SILENCE!” and “SPEAK ENGLISH!” I’m sure her unapologetic style didn’t sit well with everyone, but it did the trick – after a while, everyone learned to whisper on the set, and that made it so much more enjoyable to work.

After the tests we had a little dinner with my main cast and then I headed back home for few hours of chat with Annika and then few hours of restless sleep. All in all, a successful day!

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