I must say one thing of our main actress, whom I’m only starting to get to know now as we’ve worked a little bit with on tests and castings and costume fittings and so on: she’s a real gem of a person. She’s a very skilled actress, that’s obviously a given fact, and I definitely casted her because of this, but her personality off-screen is just tremendously easy-going. She’s always around, she’s always happy but miraculously for an actor, her ego is not taking over, ever. She’s just like anyone of the crew, from best boy to makeup assistant, but when she steps in front of the camera, all eyes are on her.
The second test shoot day begun pretty late, and we had a lot of technical issues with a certain light table. It turned out nobody in the crew had any idea how to use the table, and for some reason, nobody really stood up and told us straight that they have basically no idea what they are doing. We wasted a lot of time trying to get that damn thing working, and eventually as it did work, we still had problems operating it.
Another effect we tested was reflection on glasses. Being a modern scifi film / geek hacker -themed picture, the film features a lot of different kind of screens: from cellphones to monitors to huge LED screens. In order to get them working the way we want, we needed to try out how the reflections work on glasses. Turns out, it’s a huge difference, based on what kind of a coating the glasses have. Some are “non-reflective” (meaning, in practical terms, they reflect less), some have a blue light blocking feature, which of course turns the eyes weirdly green or cyan, and so on. It’s this kind of little details that need to be thought out, because on the day, we really don’t have time to put someone to go shopping for new glasses if something doesn’t work.
In the evening, after the sundown, we started to do tests on the outside street scenes of the movie. We created a small light setup outside the studio, brought a motorbike there (there’s a big motorbike scene in the movie) and started to wet down the street to get nice reflections out of it. At one point I was staring at the picture and thinking it reminded me of something… almost like. Yeah. Rendel. The light setup, blue background light and orange spot light, the smoke machine, the wetted-down street and people in leather made me realize it was just like a shot from Rendel, the new Finnish superhero movie. Now, I love what director Haaja had done to the look, it’s very dramatic and graphic-novel-made-into-a-movie -like, but for our film it wasn’t what I was trying to achieve. I mentioned this to Mika who was running around between the lights, camera cranes and steadycam operators, and he stopped, started to laugh and went to take the orange spot light down instantly, for starters.
The two test shoot days were altogether very helpful. In the evening we had a dinner with Mika at Nola, burgers and a splash of wine, and then walked home, stopping by at the whiskey bar for a nightcap with Mika’s girlfriend – and then headed back home. Home being Hotel New Otani Chang Fu Gong, an old Japanese hotel in the heart of the old international business district of Beijing.