China Diary

Day 172: Second Act Troubles

Sound people love their sound equipments and get slightly nervous when you don’t respond to their enthusiasm, and sales people get slightly nervous when you don’t respond to their sales pitches. That’s the reason I usually try to be excited about some tech I have no idea about when being presented with, or nod along and ask questions when sales pitch is being presented to me, but yesterday I just couldn’t get there. I had slept two hours in the night, in one hour blocks, so I had this constant pressure around my skull which made me more quiet than grumpy than usual.

It didn’t help that I had again encountered a masterful example of shitty Chinese customer service. I had decided to, instead of my usual McD lunch across the street to head over to a place which called itself something like Old Style Beijing Lamb Hot Pot. Unfortunately, around the hotel the restaurants and services are pretty often crafted for the hotel guests, so the prices are ridiculous. I was watching the prices and decided to want something that they didn’t feel like doing to me, and after a bit of “meiyou-meiyou” I realized they wanted to sell me something more expensive than what I was picking, and looking at the 200RMB bill that would’ve got me to, I decided to cancel the whole order and walk out.

Luckily, there’s also a a delicious little noodle place just around the corner from the office, so I went there and grabbed a 22RMB bowl full of delicious noodles added with a service which – unlike usually anywhere – included a smile to the paying customer.

At the office, I had a clear plan of trying to figure out the midpoint of the movie, but somehow we got stuck trying to solve a scene which actually was already in a pretty good shape. We fiddled around the shots and tried to come up with a way to make them all fit differently, while avoiding the actual problem of the 2nd act we had been battling it, and by the time we had to leave for another sound company meeting we were all quite lost on what it was we were even trying to do.

The visit to the sound company was, as I told, a tech demo and sales pitch, to which I didn’t really respond very much because my mind was working on the edit, and I saw mrs. Fang going through the same process in her head. We were both miles away while Max and the sound company people discussed options, and while there’s nothing I can really say whether this or that is better in sound as long as it’s Dobly Atmos and all that stuff, color grading suite would’ve been of great interest to me. Yet, we couldn’t visit the grading suite, which indeed was disappointing, so we left home not much wiser than when we came in, but it was good to meet the people and see the admittedly professional facilities (although, having worked with Rotor in Babelsberg, Germany, everything looks tiny compared to their massive mixing/grading suite…).

As we were leaving, our original plan had been to head back home or hotel, but since we both’s minds were working on the cut, we decided to give it a few more hours. We went back to the office and opened the cut and started to really work on the actual problem of the second act.

What I did was I gave each scene a name and placed them in front of me. Soon, just by looking at the scenes, I realized what was the issue: by naming the scenes I noticed a certain description following up with each, and that I was able to identify as the problem. It wasn’t really so much what happened in the scene, but the rhythm of the events inside the scene. It all become rather predictable, and we realized that in order to keep the audience entertained, we need to keep them constantly on the edge of their seats, surprised and wondering what would happen next: never let them get lulled by a familiar rhythm of events. Find the surprises; like the editor of the first Iron Sky once taught me: get in the scene as late as possible, and get out as quickly as possible. It’s a general golden rule in editing, keeps the viewers on their toes and the filmmakers just one step ahead of them.

So we started to kick around an interesting idea which came to my mind when we were trying to solve the pacing. The idea would change the actual script a bit, but it sounded like a fun aspect to look at, so we decided to give it a try. I gave mrs. Fang the instructions to try this crazy idea out, and decided to let her work on it by herself and headed back home. Well, New Otani hotel, that is, but anyway. As close as I can call it home..

I had big plans to just quickly change and head over to enjoy the Tacos at Taco Tuesday, but my tiredness got a hold of myself and I crashed on the bed, only to wake up six hours later, at 1.30 am. No more sleep for me for tonight, but at least I feel slightly more rested than yesterday.


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