China Diary

China Diary

Day 2: Impenentrable Language Walls


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The sleeping schedule here goes as follows: I get back from work at 8pm, go to bed at 9pm, wake up at 1:30AM and stay up watching Netflix, films, playing Hearthstone and catching up with whoever is awake back in Finland (wife for sure, maybe my son on his way to bed and some friends). Then, at 7am I head to the gym, then make some breakfast and then take a nap waking up around 12 noon.

This usually gets normalized over the course of 7-10 days, so that every day I go to bed a bit later and wake up a bit later until I’m in normal rhythm again.

Yesterday was exactly this. Today, the weather was beautiful. The sun was shining bright and the pollution clouds had drifted away. As I finally cruised my way to the office around noon, there were tons of meetings waiting for me. First, costume department wanted to go through in detail several costume designs. Then, we met with production design team who presented me a set of ideas for some of the key locations. It seems we will be shooting a big portion of the movie in Qingdao instead of Beijing, which suits me well.

The language wall is unfortunately impenetrable with so many people here. Since there is no common language, there’s no way to enjoy the camaraderie of filmmaking family with each other. Since they don’t really understand me, they are mildly afraid of me(maybe also because I’m a fucking giant here..) and treat me gently, always smiling and never understanding what I want. On the other hand, I don’t really know how to make them feel any easier since we just can’t share the inside jokes, the glances and the eyerolls or the victories easily with them. When people talk to me, they rarely look in my eyes, they talk to my 1st AD who does the translating. Of course, the jokes never get translated, only the business. So very quickly I start to feel pretty lonely, all business and no fun makes Jack a dull boy…

But the business, the business is good.

China Diary

Day 1: Moist landings


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Seven hours had gone flying past as the plane touched down on Beijing Capital International Airport. I was greeted with a dreary, gray and damp morning of Beijing with a heavy layer of smog floating over the city. Breathing in, I felt my lungs filling with particulate matters, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, ozone, volatile organic compounds and of course, good old carbon monoxide. Welcome home, I sighed, for this was to be my base of operations for the next half a year.

I hadn’t slept on the plane, so I was grumpy and tired with a nice headache building up, but meeting with our new translator turned the tide: it’s hard to remain grumpy when there’s a someone waiting at the airport holding a sign with your name written on it (correctly), and speaking fluent English.

I was whisked away on a car to my new apartment through the Beijing traffic. Watching the endless streams of cars and the pollution-darkened skies, I started feeling hopeless, and climbing to my apartment, which was probably top notch in the early 80’s but now slightly outdated, the realization that I’ll be here, mostly by myself thousands of kilometers away from my beloved wife and my son and my parents, stroke me like a ten ton hammer.

At the office, the production is in full swing. Not everything is in place yet, but everyone is really pushing these last two months before the shoot, so I have a good trust there is enough time. I read the latest script and was relieved, the little tinkering we had done had made it better, and we also had a chance to discuss with the producer for the first time the world we actually are building here. Few adjustments were needed, but we’re pretty well down the right path.

I had requested a welcome dinner, a huge hot pot meal and meeting the production family I’m starting to get to know slowly. There’s Max, the producer. He’s positively crazy, a whirlwind of thousands of things happening simultaneously, but very clear on what he wants, and not a very patient guy for waiting. Lei is the first AD, a Chinese who has worked a lot in the USA, so his English is flawless, and a top notch first AD, probably the best I’ve worked with. There’s the only-Chinese-speaking line producer who looks strangely amazed at everything constantly, whom I bet is a hilarious guy based on reactions people have for his stories. Maxine is the sharp second AD, and then there’s May, the executive producer from Canada, and her son Jonathan, who both are also in my field of communications, speaking perfect English as well. With this rowdy group we’re about to kick off Iron Sky: The Ark, and I couldn’t think of a better posse to do that with. Oh, and Mika will join me in few days as well, he’s still busy finishing Unknown Soldier’s grading back in Finland.

The only really sad piece of news was that since we’re pushing the start date a bit, it seems I’m going to have to spend Christmas here. I was really, really, really looking forward being home by Christmas to see my family, but right now it seems it might be right in the middle of the last shooting week.