China Diary

Day 142: Artistic Integrity

I was dead tired after a really nice hotel room Christmas day with Iiris and Mika (we had some Finnish delicacies Iiris had brought from Finland with her, watched It’s A Wonderful Life and enjoyed the day off), but for some reason I couldn’t catch the sleep. I tossed and turned around until three am, and then Annika popped online and we had a long talk about our kids until way too late. It was not before 5am until I finally hanged up and fell asleep, only to be awakened in mere three hours time.

Not surprisingly, the day went in a zombieland. I was staggering through the first half until lunch, as we were doing some stunt action shots, and after lunch everything just jammed: the actors didn’t come to makeup, the costumes were (again) broken and needed a lot of adjustments, the wireworks needed rehearsals… It was already five pm when we managed to really get the first thing we needed to do done. A day nearly wasted.

Well, not wasted, we did have some good shots with everyone, especially with Rhydian, with whom we’ve struck quite a good companionship off-screen. We probably share a bit of a same taste in music and sense of humour so we seem to find ourselves having good chats while waiting for the light or camera to set up.


In other news, we have decided to go back and tweak one scene, which will add one additional day to our shooting schedule. This scene, an opening of the male lead character, is a challenging one for me, because it’s a very traditional Chinese, to be more specific Beijingese, and more specifically Hutongese scene circling around a very local setting – one, which I have of course no idea of.

I directed the scene the way I interpreted it from the script, but now as we’ve started to look at the scenes put together, Max pointed out that there’s nothing wrong with the scene, only that it’s not finding the right tone in this style which is very typical in Chinese films, the same way as if a Chinese director would come to Finland to direct a scene set in Kallio… I just don’t know all the subtleties of such a setting.

We decided, quite drastically, to reapproach the scene and reshoot few bits of it to find some more Chinese undertones to it. This is by no means a small task, we have to rebuild the set and make it match the original one, but we’ve done it already once so no problem doing it again. The bigger issue is to really try to perk up the scene to make it more accessible for the Chinese audience – but still, I’m a Helsinki-born Finn who only spent six months in China so far… I really don’t know where to go with it.

But we agreed with Max and Lei that they’ll be there to consult me, so we try to dig out the small details that make the scene alive, details only a Chinese can find in a setting like this. At first, I was a bit against the idea, first and foremost I’m pretty happy with the scene as it is, plus I really am not looking forward extending the shoot any more, but at the same time… There’s a point in it. For the Chinese audience, to whom we make this movie for, we have to make it believable. Much of the movie takes place in crazy settings, on the Moon and secret military bases and what not, and those locations are already by definition so far out that we get to set the rules the way we want, but with a very local scene like the one in question, there is few hundred years of traditions to follow, and we are expected to hit those marks.

So, one more day of production added to the shooting days. As long as it results in a better movie, it’s a sacrifice I’m willing to do.

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