China Diary

Day 78: Silver linings


There are very few things more frustrating than having to cancel a shoot, but that’s exactly what happened yesterday.

The morning was foggy and smoggy, and I was feeling groggy. The food at the office was, again, horrendous and my head was completely empty of any creative ideas on how to make the day through and still be interesting filmmaker. Another four pages of script on the callsheet, and the absolutely last day in the studio, which would be torn down – not just the set, but the actual building it resided in – the next week, so there was no possibility to push anything back. We either get what we need, or we have to rewrite.

Another surprise was that in addition for us having to shoot quite a lot, we also had a reduced shooting day in our use: due to the next day’s company move to Qingdao, we needed to stop after 8 hours, instead of the 12 hours we usually shot. So there I was, facing a conundrum: how to make the day in only 8 hours, with so much to shoot, and still remain true to my main job as a director: to be an interesting storyteller.

But my day was about to turn much shittier. Just as we were about to start blocking, the unit production manager walked in – he’s a small guy with a cap and glasses and a loud voice – and told us everyone needs to go outside and present our IDs to the officials. Of course, Crystal had taken me and Mika’s IDs and to purchase the train tickets, so there we were, undocumented foreigners sitting in the corner of the studio hoping the local authority understands we actually have our IDs… we just don’t have them with us.

Eventually, after waiting for the fuzz to be over for nearly an hour, Lei walked in and told us we have to leave the studio, everyone. My hopes of shooting anything started to fade…

After few hours of sitting our thumbs up our asses we were informed we can not shoot anything tonight. It was of course frustrating, and I can’t even begin to imagine how much losing a whole shooting day costs to the production, but simultaneously, it’s a relief: at least I don’t have to rush through some of the most pivotal scenes of the beginning of the movie… So maybe there’s a silver lining to this cloud in the end.

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