China Diary

Day 138: Dumplings, dumplings everywhere!

There’s no place like home! Even if it’s someone else’s home, and especially home of a character in a movie! Friday, our journey took us to the other side of the town, to a small studio we had been shooting before a hospital scene, and now came back for few scenes taking place in the home of our main character, Fang Qing, played by Vivienne Tien.

Änänäs! A Chinese set-building trick: to get rid of the fumes and the smells of construction, they chop few pineapples and spread them on black plastic bags around the set, and no more nasty paint or gas smells anywhere!

The scene included preparing dumplings, and it was actually very tightly devised in conjunction with mr. Duan Yihong, actor of Fang Mingtao, the father of Fang Qing. He had been very insistent on the importance of the preparation of dumplings through all of our discussions, and I had always been wondering why are they so important; but as I saw him playing the character preparing dumplings – the most everyday thing to do – in his home for his daughter, I understood what he meant. Through dumpling cooking, he was able to bring many layers to the characters, their relationships with other characters and make the scenes alive and feel real.

Surprisingly, it turned out the day was also in China the national Dumpling-Eating Day, something to do with the coming of the winter and eating the dumplings, so what better scene to shoot then! The whole day was very low-key, character-oriented and actor-driven, so it was relatively relaxing experience. It also was the last day of our wonderful steadycam guy Ants, who went back home in Estonia after the shoot. For the martini shot for him, we decided to do the last scene of the day with one single steadycam shot, and it was beautiful – and very complicated. Follow the character as she enters through the door, go to her side, the lower down on the level of the table to find the bowl of dumplings and message from the dad on a ipad, pick up the pad, the camera rises on an over-the-shoulder-shot, we read the message, then travel around the character to get her face on the shot, the back up to let her walk few steps and make a phone call. All in one shot, very dynamic, very film-like. A great sendoff for the man!

DOP Mika Orasmaa, steadicam operator Ants Martin Vahur and well, the hairy giant alias me.

Poor mr. Duan, though: he had to eat at least five to six huge plates of dumplings for us to get the scene, so by the time we were almost done he informed he can’t physically fit one more dumpling in him – his side of the action was done. That was all fine for me, so we moved on.

And yeah, for dinner we had some dumplings.

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