Day 129: Slow burn…

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I was greeted by the restaurant manager as I dragged myself down to the breakfast room. “Hi, you are mr. Timo? From 52016? I never see you here at breakfast. You are that film director. Very good film? You work hard.”

Yeah, indeed. Usually it’s my assistant David who picks my breakfast for me because I try to sleep every possible minute and especially this week it’s been really hard to get enough rest. Every day I gain more and more sleep debt as six hours of sleep is just not enough when my brain goes full speed all the time.

At the car, David hands me the callsheet, and I see what we are shooting today. I must admit, I have no idea what we are planning to shoot during the week. I know the script inside out, and I know my sets, actors and the storyboards, but the schedule just doesn’t stay in my head. I focus so hard on one shooting day that the rest of the days are just a mash of unfinished work, and only on my 15 minute drive to the studio I have a chance to see what we are supposed to shoot today.

Barron the 3rd AD instructing the extras.

Well, this week is all about Command Center and William Russell scenes, so that’s what’s on the menu for the Wednesday, too. We will continue with what we were left with the other day – and it was supposed to be an easy start. The cameras were there, the scenes we knew already very well as we had been rehearsing them, and everything was built to work, but for whatever reason, we just couldn’t get started until around lunch. I didn’t really understand what took so long time, but somehow, it was a sluggish start.

The whole day dragged on slowly, shot by shot, scene by scene, and Andy was grumpy since we had to jump back and forth with scenes, and the rest of the actors were rather confused with what we were doing. Creating a big thing on a green screen studio can indeed be unclear, and although I know exactly what we are planning to create there, nobody else does.

By the time it was a time to wrap, we managed to crunch in the last few scenes and got a great result out of them, and then we called it a night. Andy invited me and Mika for a dinner at his hotel, and indeed, we had a very nice few hours over a glass of red wine and some nice food, talking about Cuban politics and sharing our Udo-stories.

In the night, we walked with Mika down the broadwalk. It was freezing cold. Even the packs of wild dogs had fled the cold. The resort is really strange at night indeed, there’s no lights anywhere, the beach is enormous and the small “German village” is empty. We chatted about actors in general, saying how much we appreciated Andy and the work with him, while Mika had some not necessarily so favorable experiences with some other actors from films he had worked with.

In the night, I called Annika and we talked for nearly two hours until I passed out out of sheer exhaustion to a restless, dreamless sleep.


Day 109: Early to bed, early to rise…

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Damn that white wine… Whatever they put in it, it gets in your head and leaves a nasty, grinding hangover for the next day to enjoy. This morning I woke up when it was still dark – it must’ve been 5:20 or something, but I had no way to get back to sleep. The bed was sweaty and the room smelled bad, and all I could do was to watch as the day slowly rose in front of my bed, revealing the beautiful ocean scenery and smoggy Thursday morning.

Although I had stuffed myself last night, I was still feeling hungry as hell, so I stumbled down to the restaurant for some breakfast. The place was absolutely packed with women in their early-to-mid 50’s wearing military uniforms (no idea what’s going on there), but I literally couldn’t find a seat for myself, which is indeed quite something since the breakfast room is massive. I crouched into one table corner and wolfed down my bacon and eggs, and then returned to my room.

I wasn’t still feeling any more sleepy, so I decided to watch a movie (Stand and Deliver, with Edward James Olmos as the leading character – what a performance!). Rest of the afternoon went past in a slumber, I did sleep a bit, played some Skyrim and Hearthstone and basically tried to do anything but think about the production itself.

What I also realized that actually Annika is flying already tomorrow over here! I had no idea the time had passed like this, since I was shooting long nights every night and we had our lengthy evening talks and all of it had become like a little lovely routine so that at one point I was feeling like hey, this is almost bearable like this, and although I can’t see her, we still have a chance to chat some good hour every night, which is always amazing with her. But to really have her here, with me? That seemed like a fantasy that’s just something written on a schedule but nothing real – but no, sometimes dreams do come true. And yeah, tomorrow she’s flying in the town! (So do excuse me for reduced blogging on that time, I intend to spend my evenings in a slightly different activities while she’s around).

In the evening, I went for  a great thai dinner downstairs with Mika, his girlfriend who’s also in town, our drone master and VFX supervisor. We had to plan a surprisingly complicated shoot that’s happening tomorrow VFX-wise and went through everything as well as we were able to. Then, back to room and early to bed. Day shoots (at least mostly) are the name of the game for the rest of the production, so early to bed, early to rise makes man healthy, wealthy and BORING!

China Diary, Uncategorized

Day 40: Nite Flights

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Production manager, mr. Zhu, discussing with 1st AD Lei about the scouting plan.

Last scouting day in Qingdao dawned promisingly beautiful, but as the sunwheel slowly rolled across the skyline, the mood turned dire. Every location we went to was either depressingly bad, full of vegetation (we’re supposed to make a film in the future where all the green is dead) or just so thoroughly rotten that renovating it even to the state that we could bring any actors or crew in there without fear of a serious infections would be impossible. The location team was suggesting an endless row of wrong kind of street stretches to us and eventually Lei made the decision that it’s better we just head back to Beijing and let them find better locations.

Luckily, one of the places we decided to re-visit turned out to be pretty much perfect stretch of roads. Somehow weirdly, they had built few years ago a massive multi-lane intersection in Qingdao, but so that it only partially connects to roads – rest of the roads just end up into nothingness, in twenty meter height. These unused roads turned out to be a blessing for us. We could use them the way we want, just blocking the endings to thin air with big concrete blocks and otherwise, bring in as many stunt cars and stunts as we wanted and shoot our scenes.



Being so close to the airport, unfortunately we can’t fly drones, which we were planning to do, but cable cam will have to do.

Still, this felt like only half a victory. We were still missing one key location and had no idea where to find it. What we were looking for was a block where we could set up one motorcycle action set. Previously, we had had a perfect one in the Qingdao center, but it turned out we can’t do any actual stunts there, so we had to give it up.

It was already very late when we had an idea with Mika to ask from our driver to go around for a quick drive around the center. Dozing on and off, we ogled out of our car window as streetlights waved past, one after another unsuitable street corner gliding out of our view. We were just about to head back, when suddenly I screamed: “stop”!

IMG_9798Ahead of us, was a perfect street. It was pretty wide, it was totally empty, and the neighbourhood was charmingly desolate and depressing. This was the old Qingdao center, very local, very New York. Also, exactly what I had had in my mind even before I set foot in China, for the location. It’s hard to describe the joy I felt as we wandered around the dead empty streets, each corner revealing more interesting sights and possibilities. The mess of electric wires crossing the streets. The restaurants with tons of AC devices nailed to the walls. The lonely guy sweeping the ground from trash, the slightly rotten smell of market stands… Perfect!

By the time we arrived back to the hotel, it was already 2 am and we had an early wakeup call waiting for us. I did try to down at least one glass of my big green beer keg, but managed to get only a glass full of foam and merely half a decilitre of actual beer… Ah, well. This relationship between me and the keg was just never was meant to be.