China Diary

Day 160: A Family Reunion

Alright, the reason we decided to do two days reshoot was because the writer had written a scene into the movie which was very Beijing-style scene, and when I directed it, I obviously had no experience in such culture, and it turned out a fine scene, but not very authentic.

Producer Max decided to give it another go: we re-built the set, now in Qingdao studio, expanded it a bit to make it larger and more cinematic, and rewrote the scene slightly. What Max wanted was more of the communal feeling of a Beijing Hutong culture, a specific lower middle class culture which has long traditions in the city’s history.

The way we plotted the scene this time was that Lei spoke to the extras, and the writer, mr. Yu, gave his comments on some of the performances to make them feel more Beijingese. I blocked the scene the way I felt the best, and got consulting from the local Beijingese to make the scene feel alive, and suddenly the whole thing sparked to full speed and I was watching not a staged scene but something that even made our producer Max say “this is pretty good”. That’s a lot coming from him.

It was also super nice to see our kids coming back together. Wang Liang and Lin Yi came back for the shoot, as did the actress who played Lin Feng’s mother; it felt like the scene we were reshooting had been a great rehearsal, and now it all came together: the characters were more alive, the feeling was better and we had fun – also, it felt like a family reunion: I had missed these people, and also, it’s a nice way to end the shoot – a full circle. This was the scene we started out with, now it turned out to be also the scene we end up with.

The shooting had an interesting turn of events, when the leader of the Wanda Studios asked me and Max to join us for a dinner. Truth was, we had still a lot of things to shoot, but the production organized things so that a B-unit led by Mika and Lei took care of the remaining bits, and we left for the dinner.

The place we were taken to was an old German Navy clubhouse built over a hundred years ago. We had a great time talking with the studio executives, eating some German sausages and mashed potatoes and – of course – drinking white wine. I did feel a bit bad for the guys working hard in the studios blowing Moon Dust everywhere while we fine dine away, but sometimes filmmaking is about relationships, and besides, I trusted Mika and Lei completely to run the scene nicely.

And they did!
By the time me and Annika hit the bed, I got confirmation from the guys (all blackened from the Moon Dust) that they also wrapped.

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