China Diary

Day 114: Up the hill backwards…

As I forgot to close the curtains last night, I’m now wide awake staring at the bright sunrise over the blue sea. The beach sand is still yellow, but the greenery around the hotel has started to turn brownish hue. The winter truly is coming to Qingdao. 

Sometimes, the scheduling in this production means we wrap three hours early, like yesterday; sometimes we’re flooded, packed, absolutely stuffed with ridiculous amount of scenes. On Tuesday, we had all in all 18 scenes to shoot (“only” four script pages, but still…), which luckily happened only between two actors in one location, but still… I was ripping my hair as I tried to figure out how to make it all happen. My first idea was to run it all in one long performance, but turned out it wouldn’t be possible: the scenes broke in three naturally born parts, which we then rehearsed for ages and then started to just run through.

One of the trickiest parts in directing is getting bored with the scene you’re shooting; it can happen, since all you do is run the same lines over and over again, and while it all feels natural and fun by the time you’re working on it in the beginning, it does get stale after 10 hours of the same, with only a lunch break in between. Especially, I would believe, for the actors: at least as a director I get to focus on different faces, different camera angles and details, but to them, it’s just minor adjustments in placing but other than that, the same-same, all day long.

“Up the hill backwards, it’ll be alright”, David Bowie sings

Well, for sure yesterday was that case exactly. The only thing that broke the rhythm was the realization that we were actually at an exact mid-point of the production on the 36th shooting day, at 17:15, which was the exact mid-point of the shooting day. I asked Annika to bring the two bottles of Jaloviina from the hotel room on her way to the studio, and poured a drink for the most of the crew and raised a glass for over-the-hill -celebration.

Last time I had this celebration was around two years ago on Iron Sky The Coming Race. In Europe, Over The Hill is a much bigger party, also a great one since most of the crew is still around, already know each other and have a chance to unwind the stress of the production for one night. For Iron Sky The Coming Race, our party was held in an old mansion outside Brussels, and everyone was there. We all got tremendously drunk, but the night’s mood was ruined, I remember, by the November Paris attacks which happened as the night grew longer, not very far Brussels indeed. Many crewmembers, including Tom Green, had thought about heading there there the day after for a day off, but had the plans changed…

Back to Qingdao, two years later. This time, there was not a party, we just continued shooting after the Jallu-shots (mine was a bit too strong for a shooting day, took a while to shake off the fuzzy drunk feeling; I could never properly direct under the influence of alcohol, I noticed). But nevertheless, I’ve been here 114 days and we’ve shot 36 shooting days, which is already two days more than there was for Iron Sky The Coming Race, and there’s still full another half to go. Luckily, doesn’t mean another 114 days here, though… From the point of writing this, merely five more weeks to go on this China trip.


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