China Diary

Day 86: Lost in Translation, part 2.

Some days just start off with a wrong note, and it takes a lot to fix it; today was one of them. It all begun with Annika having to leave off to the airport at 4am, so there was much sadness in the air to begin with. Things got even worse when my assistant hadn’t taken in account that a certain doors in the hotel were not open this early, and Annika, after leaving the room went downstairs and found out there was no car to pick her up. She couldn’t get back in because the room key was of course with me, and hotel Internet didn’t work well downstairs, so there was a moment of panic of nobody being anywhere and her not being able to get back to the room; luckily, in the end, Crystal found Annika and they made it just in time to the airport. She even fast-talked her into special VIP line to get past the massive rows of people, and Annika was eventually on her way back to Finland.

I’d be lying if I’d say I didn’t hope at least for a bit that she wouldn’t make it and had to stay few more days with me, but that’s just selfish thinking.


Today, we shot the first actual day at the Wanda Studios, but not really at a studio but actually at a smaller office room which was dressed as an office of a side character. I had received some thoughts from Max earlier on how he thought this side character should be portrayed, which is very new to me: producers usually leave that stuff to, you know, directors. But his idea was fun to begin with, so I was happy to try it out, and we stroke an interesting balance there.

At night, I took some of my actors out for a dinner downstairs. They have this amazing Korean BBQ joint sitting right there, and we enjoyed a terrific meal. Just as I was in the happiest mood, I received a message from Lei, who had just spoken with Max, and he was not very happy about how some of the actors work the lines on the set, going around the script. My heart sank and I went back to my hotel room, trying to get a grasp of what was he actually meant, and I couldn’t get much clearer answer from Lei.

To be honest, I knew there was something like this brewing under the surface. When I directed the first Iron Sky, much of it was in German and I had no grasp of German language, but still – it’s an Anglo-Saxon language so you’re able to understand the basic way the language is being used, although you don’t understand the words. But Mandarin is Sino-Tibetan language, and of that, I have absolutely no grasp of, so it’s a much bigger challenge to follow that they actually say what they are supposed to.

In the night, after few glasses of wine, this felt like a huge blow to me: that from now on, I would have to establish a system where I check every line from the producer the actors want to change. This sounded like an impossible task, you’ll have to do changes on the fly on the set and often there’s no chance to confirm the change from anyone, only thing I can do is to ask from three four crew members if what they are suggesting makes sense.

Later on I did learn this was not what Max had actually said; he had asked me to keep an eye on the lines of the main cast, who are pretty young and don’t have as much experience as most of the other cast, and make sure they don’t go changing the lines in between the takes, which would make editing impossible. That makes total sense…

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