China Diary

Day 131: The Last Mile

Andy’s last day was packed, since we had to do every last closeup we could ever imagine with Andy, plus two scenes, out of which the other one was quite a heavy one. What I loved working with Andy was his ability to come up with great, improvised ideas to freshen up a scene. He taught me a way he likes to work, calling it “free takes” – a director gives the actors a free take, which means he gives no directions and they can do whatever they want. Coppola does them, for example.

So whenever I gave the actors – especially Andy – the free takes, they usually brought up something that’s just brilliant for the scene and definitely will stay in the movie. For example, we were working on one scene which was just two guys meeting in a room. Nothing wrong with the scene, but the staging felt dull. Then, Andy suggested that what if instead he was laying flat on the floor, in a strange yoga pose, to bring up the eccentricity of the character instead. That sounded first like a really bad idea, but when we ran the scene few times, it became the one greatest thing in the scene.

The whole shoot was full of that kind of moments, where he just with his personality and sense of filmmaking was able to bring up that little something that sets good scenes apart from regular scenes. I was watching the other day some scenes that had been edited from the movie, and the character – actually, all the characters – just work brilliantly.  It’s too early to say how the whole film works, but at least I know we have a good handful of great scenes to work with.


After the whole day was done, we finally wrapped Andy with flowers and a glass of Maker’s Mark. I thanked him – and his amazing assistant Joe – for their work here in China and the trust he had given to us joining the project, and wished him well. We planned the last dinner together but instead decided to call it a night – I had a terrible 6am pickup and they had an early flight.

Arriving to the hotel room I was feeling weirdly empty inside. I had built so much expectations to working with Andy Garcia, and we had such an intensive weeks working together creating great scenes and moments, and now he was already wrapped. That also meant the whole film would actually be on its’ real, final stretch. The next week, I would be wrapping Lin Feng and Da Fei, the leading male and his best friend! Then, it would be only mr. Duan, Rhydian and Vivienne left for the last few weeks.

It’s incredible to realize that there is less than a month to go until we wrap the whole film.

When I started this job coming over 131 days ago in Beijing, I wasn’t even sure we’d be able to start shooting. We had so many challenges ahead of us, and I was so afraid of our shooting schedule falling apart, but here we are, I can already see the finish line.

Of course, I shouldn’t be fooled by it. There’s still a lot to go, and the last mile is, as they say, the hardest.


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