Going Places

Day 1: Out of the Frying Pan…


London, Heathrow.

A single traveler sitting in front of me, at an otherwise completely empty departure hall. Every 10 minutes, speaker reminds us of unattended luggages, which will be destroyed if found. A handful of planes are scattered outside, but compared to what it usually is, it’s really empty there, too.

Empty Heathrow

My mask is straining my ears lightly, but the fogging of the glasses is the thing that annoys the most. Yes, it’s uncomfortable as well, but one gets used to it. I’ve invented a way to relief the ear strain, though: wrapping the ear strings around my noise-cancelling earphones. It works, only makes removing the mask much harder.

Travel Hacker!

I’m on the road again, but this time, not headed for China. The Chinese production is currently in post and I’m attending the finalizing of it over the Internet. It’s slow, but the Covid hit the industry there the worst, so that’s understandable. But now, I’m on my way to shoot another movie. At this point, can’t tell you too much, as it hasn’t been yet announced, but since it’s a weird time to do movies, I thought I’ll start another daily blog on the topic of filmmaking in Covid-19 era.

To be honest, I’ll probably talk about Covid and filmmaking pretty little as we go along. Just like my China Diary, I write this because drifting in the world alone can get pretty damn lonely.

With my wife, we’ve established a pretty great method of really extracting our brains daily, by talking and sharing our worries and joys and thoughts. Now, that this is out of my life, I really need an exhaust vent for things I see and experience; it’s not the same over Whatsapp anyway. So more than anything, this diary is a personal one, you’re welcome to read it if you wish, but don’t expect it to be interesting or educating in too many ways. It’s me progressing my angst of having to travel yet another three months alone, in the far corners of the Earth.

I’m in Heathrow on my way to Dubai. More about that in a bit, but the reason for me being in Dubai is because I had a one-day stopover in London, where I met my producer and the team at their studio. Located outside of London, in a pictoresque small town, village really, the studio will be where we will shoot portion of the film later this year. But before that, we’ll shoot in USA, where I’m headed for myself now.

First lodging was a pictoresque little farm in English countryside.

To get to USA nowadays is pretty tricky. You have to have been in an applicable country for 14 days prior to entering USA, and most of the countries in the world don’t apply. That’s the reason for Dubai. United Arab Emirates is welcoming travelers, but require a negative Covid-19 test 96 hours prior to entry. So, when leaving Finland on a plane yesterday, I went to take an Express corona test at Mehiläinen, the only outfit that promises results the same day.

Testing takes place in the most forlorn, desolate and drug-trade-gone-bad -worthy dock area in Hernesaari, Helsinki. There, a full HAZMAT-suited woman comes and sticks a long, long stick up your nose, and keeps on pushing it further and further, until you start feeling lobotomized. My dear wife drove me there and kept laughing the whole way as I slapped my knee in discomfort and disgust during the whole process.

After that, you have to wait for around six hours for the result to come in. My ticket was at 4pm and the test was taken at 7am, so I should be able to make it, unless something goes wrong. Mehiläinen has a special app for their operations and true enough, around 1 pm, the apparatus pinged.

I froze. “Shit”, I exclaimed. My wife grabbed the phone, “what, what?” I said, I’m positive. The text said: “COVID-19 virus nucleonic acid test. Positive result means that the mucosa contains the virus.”

Oh fuck. Now I have to cancel my trip. The ticket is already booked. Also, I have to stick around in Finland for at least 28 days to get things settled. This really sucks. And my wife, she can’t do her job anymore for a month, and her son is confined at home, too. This sucks.

Only then I read the text below, which gives the date of the test, and the result: Negat.

Phe-fucking-wh. So I do not have the virus. But whoever made that app should re-visit the wording, a real heart-stopper, that one.

But not only that, you still need to get the printed, stamped and signed paper from Mehiläinen offices. That was luckily easy enough, just grabbed it on the way to the airport, a paper which tells that “To Whomever It May Concern, I hereby confirm that the patient shows no signs of Coronavirus infection at laboratory results.”

This paper would later be needed. But for now, I was able to continue my journey.

Helsinki Airport is these days nearly desolate. Getting thourgh the security happened swimmingly and soon I found myself in air, on my way to make a movie. Hopefully. Covid permitting…

Empty halls.

If I was a film school teacher, there’s one thing I would teach to all the directors about the job of a director. 90% of your work will be all about dabbling with dead-end projects that never see the light of a day. The trick to survive in this business is to attack each project thrown your way, created by you or suggested to you with the same fire and passion, because among those, there’s one that actually gets realized and then, boom, you’re off. Each of the dead projects that never happened, or might never happen still teach you a lot, they leave a mark on you, something you’ll carry to the one that eventually gets made. So it’s all work, it’s all the same work actually. You’re doing one job all your life, each of the films you finish and get out are just interphases of the huge project of leaving your mark in the world of cinematic storytelling, no matter how small and insignificant it may be.

And still, there’s so many things that can go wrong, so many moving parts – especially these days – that can jam the wheels and break the well-oiled machine that even if you’re on your way, flying to the set, cranking the camera and casting the actors, things can go wrong and the production might stop. Even getting it shot still means nothing: the only time you can really relax is after the premiere screening.

Then, it’s out. Someone else but yourself and your team has seen the end result and no matter if it’s good, mediocre or utter, horrendous shit, it’s out there and out of your system. Then, you are free to attack the next 9 projects that never get made.

But this one, I have a good feeling. I believe we’ll get there. And it’s going to be awesome!

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