China Diary

Day 73: Nervous breakdowns


When the filming begins, the Chinese are – as Lei described them – like soldiers. They are fully focused on the shoot, and all the extracurricular activities – that is, days off, turnovers and parties – are just a nuisance. For us, Europeans, it’s quite the other way around: days off are written in stone, turnover time is the law of God and there’s always a party of some kind related to the production. When the filming begins, there’s the kickoff party. After every 100 shots, you drink “klaffijallut” – meaning, the crew gets a shot of Jaloviina. Halfway through the shoot, in Europe we celebrate the “Over The Hill” -party (which is usually the best party, since mostly everyone has gotten to know each other, nobody has been wrapped yet and everyone really needs a good party) – and of course, the wrap party is hugely important at the end of the production.

Here, there’s none of that. Everyone’s too busy prepping the film to do proper kickoff, halfway through they are too focused to party and at the end everyone’s already on their way to the next production. That doesn’t mean people don’t drink during the production, but it’s a bit different, since in China people don’t drink just for the sake of partying, it’s always associated with food. So yeah, there is great dinners and white wine flowing during the shoot, but … yeah. No “parties” the way we understand partying.

Yesterday was the second-to-last day before the shoot begins, so me and Mika demanded to have at least some kind of a kickoff dinner. In the end, they managed to get our male lead to join me, Lei, Mika and Maxine for a nice but silent dinner in a nearby hotel. We discussed through the upcoming week and talked about the production in general, and I tried to ask if anyone was nervous or anything. I mean, we’re about to start shooting soon and all that…

No such luck. Lei was pretty cool, Maxine maybe even cooler, Mika was pretty comfortable with the set and everything and the male lead – young kid, age 18 – was actually surprised there was anything to be nervous about. So I was the only one freaking out… Great.

But there are many reasons why I’m freaking out. Firstly, I’m still missing two actors, one of them being shot on the third shooting day already! The script is still alive, changing here and there. The sets in Beijing are not finished yet, and in Qingdao – there are so many huge sets to be built that I’m worried they’ll ever have time for them. The animatics – previsualizations – are still heavily under way. And then there’s the national meeting – we are forced to shoot during the night, because daytime it’s not allowed to convene, and even still, if the officials decide to shut down the shoot for whatever reason, they can do it.

So yeah, I see a reason to be nervous. Actually, a few.

But in the end, it’ll be fine. I’m sure. A bit of nervousness is actually a good thing.

IMG_0705
Preparing for a key action sequence of the movie. With toy cars.

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