China Diary

Day 96: Rude Awakenings

IMG_1611Last night went on until 8 am, and the pickup to the last shooting day in Rizhao location would be at 13:00; I got barely 5 hours of sleep and felt like a truck had backed over me. As I staggered through the hotel room, gathering my thoughts and clothes I realized tomorrow would be the first day off in a long while, so that was worth the celebration, but first there was a rough day I had to soldier through.

We started during daylight to do a quick reshoot of something we had shot few weeks ago but didn’t like, and then went on to prepare the main action of the night: a fight scene between two key actors. The catastrophe was ready to happen when we realized none of us had thought about exactly how a certain piece of props would be destroyed on the day. So, it took us whole 6 hours (6 hours!!) to figure this out, definitely the longest time I’ve ever spent on set doing absolutely nothing. While the teams were trying different approaches, I sat in my trailer, then in my tent, then walked around watching things happen extremely slow… But after the other day’s row with the stunts coordinator, I also understood it’s not a place to go hurrying people up.

Mika going full-on Tetsuo

This happens on a set very often; things slow down, then everyone slows down. The set gets quiet. People work hard, but if there’s nothing much to do but wait for certain department to finish their part. I knew today was the last day in Rizhao, last day on the set, last day with one of the key actors and last day altogether to do any of these scenes, so I had to grab the mic and start running the show.

It’s really exhausting, running around and shouting to keep everyone on their toes. I don’t enjoy doing it, but sometimes that’s the only way to get what I need. We still had a full fight scene to be shot, and only three hours of night remaining, so I told Mika to grab a camera and then we started blasting through the scene. I barked orders like a general on a battle field and Lei translated, and kept my eyes nailed on the upcoming as much as current shots. Water down now! Get stunt mats out of the way! Half speed rehearsal, ready… ACTION! Get the actors in, full speed rehearsal, ready, ACTION! Ok, let’s shoot! Costume, help with the jacket, props get the weapon for the next scene, let’s do it again, ready, ACTION! The pace picked up very soon as the crew realised I was hell bent on finishing the scene tonight, and soon people were up on their feet running around, while I kept my eye on the watch and the other one nailed to the horizon to spot the first rays of lights, which would mean the end of the day and my failure.

I’m very proud of the fact how the cast and the crew performed tonight. We managed to slam through an extremely complicated fight scene like never before, never compromising, never leaving anything out. Only at the very last moment, when the night had turned from pitch black to slowly brighter shade of blue, the action coordinator came to tell me the last thing would take two hours of preparation, and we don’t have the time for that. But he had an alternative option in mind, and I went for it. A beautiful but simple flip, and BOOM that’s it!

When the sun finally hit the horizon and the rays turned the world into colours again, we nailed the last closeup and were done! I was absolutely exhausted from all the shouting and screaming around, but knew that we had shot a mighty fine fight scene and got what we needed out of the location. I staggered to my car, popped open a Qingdao and put on some Beatles and headed home.

Bye bye Rizhao, tomorrow it’s time to head back to Qingdao – and now, staying there for good. But not before a visit to South Korea, apparently…

The last sunrise over Rizhao for me.

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