China Diary

Day 130: Extra hours

Thursday was one of those endless days where the despair grabbed me few times over. The production had given me an ultimatum: I had to finish off all the extras today, or good things wouldn’t be swinging to me as we say in Finland. We had already had some issues with the extras because some of them were supposed to be wrapped halfway through the day, the others could stay later. That made no sense since they all were manning the service stations and if suddenly some stations would be empty, Lotus the continuity girl would murder me, and later my editor would murder me the second time.

I had agreed with the production that the extras stay as long as they are needed, but that I would finish them off today, no matter what. That meant a lot of work for us: we had tons of Andy’s scenes to go through, and then a lot of reactions to be recorded from the extras.

But first, we focused on getting the beef of the day done. The first scene we needed another English-speaking actor, and I had nobody left who could do it. I asked Chris our English teacher, who works with our actors on pronunciation of their English lines, to do it. He was game after few words, and he did a wonderful job as a flight commander, being able to sound very convincing. Andy’s scenes were exhausting: his grande finale was complicated to do as he went in with such emotions, and we had to take it few times because the focus was always somehow lost on the closeups. After he was done at nine – when we had already shot for 12 hours – we sent him home and started to work with the extras.

We had nearly 30 scenes on the script where we needed reactions from the people, so I created this “reaction script” which I then taught to the group, and then we started running it. The plan was that we have a Moviebird crane capturing one side of things, Ants on Steadycam running around like a madman and third camera on tracks grabbing wherever there was no camera in place.

This guy was amazing. He was sleeping *every* time the camera wasn’t on, and he was sleeping *everywhere*. This is after every other extra had left, we found him fast asleep in the middle of the set!

It was a hard script, because the people had to be surprised, they had to be moved, they had to be angry, they had to be neutral… just impossible. And as it is always with extras, there’s always someone a bit too excited about the situation who overacts so loud the cameras need to do everything they can to avoid him.

I was standing on the podium, screaming through the script in English while Lei was behind me, translating. It was really hard for everyone, and of course we also had some light effects that needed to be timed correctly… we spent nearly three hours working with them, and afterwards we were all exhausted and it was nearly a midnight. That was sixteen hour shooting day… No rest for the wicked.

But we got it made! I thanked the extras, they all circled me and we had a million photos taken of us, selfies after selfies and I spoke with the people. It was a fun way to end the day, and I thanked everyone for staying up with me although we did long days.

Selfie time!

In the meantime, Andy had gone for his farewell dinner with the producers and the cast. They had apparently fun night, but by the time we were out of the studio, it was already too late to join and I was mentally a wreck, so it was home and bed for me.



Very nice, the Bokononist would whisper.




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