China Diary

Day 127: Day In, Day Out

Filmmaking creates a bubble around the reality, where everything outside is faded, distant and blurry, and everything inside feels very real, important, relevant and focused. The only escape from the bubble are dreams, since there’s really no way to get out when you’re shooting 6 days a week – the only day off is for recovering. But when even the dreams start to become dreams of scenes that are not in the script, discussions that you want to have on the set, dreams of directing a scene, you know you’re in it too deep.

As I’m writing this, I have about a month to go on the job, a little less. Still, there’s Christmas and New Year in between, so it feels a much longer time: I know I’ll be done not before next year. Funnily, I haven’t stressed too much – to be honest, I’m not a very stressed person to begin with. I mean, we’ve had busy times and we’ve had rough days and I’ve been tired, on the brink of mental breakdown and felt helpless many times, but it never transpired into a feeling of stress as much as just need to rest a bit. Last week shoot I felt the jolt of sudden exhaustion sweep over me as I was, again, bombarded with questions on set and we were going overtime seriously. All I could do is to just walk away from all the people, walk into my green room and stare at the wall for good 10 minutes. I gathered my brains and went back on, apologised the team for the wait and in no time we were back on the saddle, shooting. I bet that was one of the moments when actual stress just shut my brains down, but luckily, reboot did the job.

The other thing that bothers me is that while the brain is being fried on a slow flame constantly, the body isn’t doing great, either. I haven’t had a time to go to a gym in the last two weeks not one time, as I’ve been just way too tired after the shooting day, and mornings I barely make it to the pickup anyway, so I’m feeling my body is not doing good, either. I like lifting weights to keep my back and upper body in shape, but not doing it in a while really starts feeling, in the back mostly. Sitting down most of the time just isn’t a good position for a human, and directing is mostly hunching over monitors in the most unergonomic position. Slowly, it gets to you.

The food on set has been bad through the whole production (it always is, no matter which film, that’s my experience), but when Andy came, they hired a cook and for a while we had some decent chicken and meat for lunch and sandwiches for the snack. Now that he’s gone, I’m yet to see how the on-set food situation is. Before Andy, I always asked David to get some regular food for me – Burger King or KFC or McD or something easy and surely edible, but haven’t had the need for that in a while. I’m not really looking forward going back to the BK diet, but when I’m shooting, I just can’t do with weird Chinese food, that’s just not happening. Nevertheless, the food I’ve been eating during the shooting days is not something I can be proud of: either burgers or pizza for the most parts. On days off and dinners we’ve had some really good meals, but on set I eat like a cardiac arrest candidate. Yeah, I’ve gained some weight and lost some muscle, and feel like shit for most of the time. I can’t wait to get back to Finland and get back in (some kind of) shape after all this.

Also, I’m running out of clothes! That’s another thing. When I left to China, I brought *all* my clothes with me, but I don’t really own a huge amount of shit, so the little I do own has been in heavy rotation ever since. Usually, I end up buying new stuff, but here the clothes just don’t fit me and I’m tied to what I have – plus, I don’t really have time to go shopping, either, even if I did find a place to shop. So there’s that. T-shirts get out of shape and jeans wear out after having to go with exactly same rotation for 127 days.

thumb_IMG_0733_1024thumb_IMG_2275_1024I’m growing by beard, too. I cut it when we started to shoot, and looked like a child for the first weeks, but now it’s getting mushier and darker and thicker all the time. I’m not sure I’m going to keep it this long, but at least it’s an interesting experiment. Turns out my beard growth is not as fast after it gets to the basic thickness, so I don’t really see the difference that well, but I think it’s right now fashionable to have a scruffy and bad beard anyway, so I’ll let it grow more. Doesn’t make me look any more attractive, but hides my second chin, the creation of the shitty food diet I go by here.

Working with Andy on set

Anyway. Monday we shot the second day at the Control Center set. It was Andy’s time to shine the whole day, and he was brilliant. His style is to get all in and we better capture it in as few takes as possible, because he puts so much intensity in his performance. He can be a bit scary, too, when he assumes the character of William Russell. He went off to few extras during the shoot as they were fiddling with their phones while he was performing, which I totally understand. “IF YOU DON’T WANT TO BE HERE, GO HOME PLAYING THAT THING!” We then denied the use of cellphones on set (but the Chinese don’t really care, they have them out anyway…). After we wrapped him the other day, though, he noted that it was not Andy Garcia shouting to the extras, but William Russell, his character. When the cameras are not on him, he’s the sweetest guy.


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