China Diary

Day 182: Black Sleep


Jolting out from the blackness of jetlag-induced sleep is the closest experience of being dead I can imagine. The moment when your brains restart, the second they return from the blackness of nothing into the reality is a strange, alienating and slightly scary moment, during which you experience the difference – or the reverse – of what it may feel when consciousness is turned off.

Yes, I have, indeed, returned back to China. Only for about a week, but nevertheless, I’m back here, and we have a lot to discuss.

During my absence, a lot has happened.

The production of Iron Sky: The Ark has been marching on steadily after my return. We have started the so-called Cinesync sessions with our VFX company, and weekly they send me a big packet of visual effects in different stages of the process, and we have a dialogue over WeChat to comment the progress. So far, it’s been quite a lot on the conceptual level, postvisualization and discussing elements and effects, but by every session it gets clearer and more real. One thing is clear: our VFX team is top notch!

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Early stages animation previz of an individual element of the movie.

We have also started composing the music with Tuomas Kantelinen. With him, I had the idea to create a soundtrack that’s a bit out of his own comfort zone – always good when working with artist of any field – but is still effective and beautiful. Tuomas is an excellent creator of themes and melodies, and understands their gravity in film score. What I asked him to do, though – him being an experienced musician scoring with big orchestras – was to create as electronic soundtrack as possible, befitting better the modern science fiction nature of Iron Sky: The Ark.

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Working with Tuomas

Tuomas’ method is sometimes hard to follow, but I’ve enjoyed always working with him. It’s usually few hours sessions where we sit down together and he talks and plays themes and I comment them; we look at scenes and he improvises a bit on top of them, either melodies or just mood-fitting composition. I try to point out things I like and things I don’t think that fit the mood, and he makes notes and based on that moves forward with the final composition.

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Less of this…

In my personal life, I’ve had to go through two funerals, both elderly people but definitely sad, nevertheless, especially as the two deaths occurred in such quick succession. I’ve done my best to exercise (I do this thing called crossfit, look it up if you are interested, and imagine the worst and most unathletic person trying to follow the instructions – that’s me) and eat a bit more healty (I’ve taken up on cooking again, and, although I know I’m saying it myself, I’ve done some quite amazing foods). These both are the result of me visiting a doctor and finding out my blood pressure levels are elevated… So, less salt, more excercise and yeah, well, working on cutting the alcohol consumption too. It’s just too many events and parties and whatnots that make it the hardest part…

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…and more of this.

I’ve also been traveling quite a lot lately, although I do admit I did promise try to stay in Finland, but the trips have been bearable: I visited Stockholm in April for few days for a seminar; then Zagreb in early may for a scifi-con SFErakon, where I was talking about the past, the present and the future of Iron Sky franchise, and finally landed into Cannes straight after that, for yet another edition of Cannes Film Festival.

And now, now I’m back in China. I was brought here not actually by the production, but by China’s first science fiction convention APSFCon, who brought me and Tero to town to discuss – well, what. Remains to be seen. We are here under Iron Sky filmmakers name, but official program is more about general science fiction discussion on our behalf. We have two mysteriously named panels we are to attend, first one is called “Europa Report” and the second one is “The Secret History Of Cults”.

Nope, neither of us knows anything more. But here we are! And of course, we are using this time to push forward the production of Iron Sky: The Ark!

So, after landing we were hauled off to the hotel, I had a chance of few hours of total blackout, after which we had to brave the Beijing traffic, and headed over to Jiabo Culture’s office to a meeting with Max. We discussed topics ranging from the post production to distribution of the film, with a good general mood all over. It’s been a bit of a challenge to keep a good communication going on while things are happening in China, and I’ve felt from time to time being a bit of an outsider, so whenever it’s possible to meet face to face, it makes everything much clearer.

During my absence, Max took a stab at the edit, changing it a bit to make the story clearer, removing few things and adding something, and finishing off what we believe to be the final cut. He has also been screening the film a bit around to get some outside feedback, which is invaluable in this stage of post production, and I’m about to get a nice pile of feedback translated to me very soon.

Afterwards, back to the hotel – another 45 minutes in Beijing traffic – and few more hours of death-like sleep, and then off to the kickoff dinner of the event.

Now, I must admit that I don’t really feel at home at scifi cons; it’s not really that I don’t enjoy them – I really do – but I don’t always connect with the people. The crowd is mostly writers, gamers, cosplayers and fans, and it’s all good, but my kind of people tend to be more filmmakers than scifi fans. I admire everyone’s enthusiasm on fandom, but I just can’t share it – I’m a fan of very few things, mainly David Bowie, David Lynch and metal music – but can’t find a lot of connecting points outside of that. I’m an avid scifi reader, but the threshold question is big here; while I like to think I do know my scifi, when I really land among the scifi fandom, I am totally outplayed by these people. For cosplay, I never understood the magic, and while I’ve sat in multiple cosplay jurys, I admit finding it odd. And then there’s the professional cosplay, which I understand even less about.

So, I always feel a bit fish out of water at the cons, but I’m used to it – but for Tero, it’s another planet.

We mingled a bit with the crowd and eventually decided we want to head out for a beer somewhere. Now, being in Beijing, that’s a much harder job to do than one would imagine – Chinese don’t have the same kind of bar culture as the Europeans do, so we had to bring a piece of European culture with us. We went through a huge selection of restaurants with people sitting inside eating their dinners, and chose one which had a single table and a chair outside, meant for the owners to step out for a cigarette, and sat down. We declared the area the only terrace in the radius of five kilometers by ordering a beer outside – which was something people from around came to and laughed at, two finns sitting outside drinking beer, and not eating. Europeans are crazy.

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We had a nice chat but decided to call it an early night, both being still badly jetlagged, and headed back to the hotel.

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