China Diary

Day 81: Containeryard Days

The first location in Rizhao takes place at this old, abandoned shipyard, which is practically a huge empty lot with loads of big cranes and even a massive container ship berthed at the pier. Located some 40 minutes away from the center of Rizhao, the shipyard is quite an ideal location for two big set pieces we have in the movie.

The first one is a container yard. Now, one of the most beautiful things about being a filmmaker is that you are forced to get to learn about things you’d never really think would have any relevance to your normal day-to-day life. One of these things in the case of Iron Sky: The Ark is – indeed – how does the container transport happen, actually.

Ever since we had an action scene written in the script that takes place in a big container yard, I’ve spent quite a lot of time reading about the basic operations of a container yard.

The basics are simple: a ship full of containers comes to the port, and the massive cranes in the yard start stacking the containers off the ship. Then, a container picker – that’s a specific machine, designed to do exactly that – picks the containers up and piles them on the container yard, from where lines of trucks pass by, picking a container each to be transported somewhere inland. In even more detail, I learned there are two kind of containers – 6 meter long ones, and 12 meter long ones – and that a picker can pick up a 12 meter container, but a forklift shouldn’t. Walking among the huge piles of stacked containers I contemplated the soulscape of a container yard much deeper than I would ever have done, had I not been a film director. It was kinda zen, in a way, and also rather depressing. Rows of containers continuing into eternity… Scary.


Me and Pekka

The other thing new to me was shooting during daylight. I hadn’t really thought about the fact that once the sun sets, you can’t see shit in recent years when making movies, because Iron Sky The Coming Race was completely shot in a studio, and the first Iron Sky was so long ago. So yeah, you may be able to guess what was the problem: the sunset. Once the sun goes down, there’s nothing you can do to light an entire container yard to match the lighting situation just half an hour ago. Also, here in Qingdao, the darkness falls fast. So there we were, chasing the last rays of sun and then trying to set up a scene to be shot during the magic hour (that’s the half hour after sunset when everything is blue but not dark as night, but kinda something in between), and failing at it pretty hard. Mika actually got pretty pissed off because the last big crane manouver just didn’t work and then the sun finally dipped below the horizon for good, and we were done for.

Annika joined me on the set after waking up. I was so happy and proud having her walking around, charming everyone as she usually does and getting the weird glances from the crew, the tattooed couple we are.

In the evening, we decided to try out the executive lounge, and found it loaded with amazing, tasty Western foods, beers, wines and what not. Me and Annika, we are not much of a traveller couple – we’d rather stay in the hotel and enjoy each other, so totally missing the beauty of Rizhao the port city was a completely viable option for us and we decided to go for that.

This is the most of Rizhao we ended up seeing with Annika, a view from our hotel room, but that was quite enough already. Plus, she doesn’t like heights… 

It was so strange sleeping with someone on the same bed after being by myself for so long. I found myself waking up in the middle of the night, and us talking for a long time just there, about everything, without constantly crackling Whatsapp line, without having to worry about the VPN connection randomly snapping on and off… It was the way it was supposed to be, I recon.


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