China Diary

Day 44: Killing The Flame

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I’m gonna start by getting this off my chest first.

It seems my wife Annika won’t make it here in China in the next two months. We were looking forward for her flying here next Monday, but thanks to some unforeseeable complications, the trip can’t happen now.

When I realized this, it felt like somebody had punched me right in the fucking stomach. That’s the only – the very *only* thing – that’s been keeping me sane here for the last one and a half months, knowing that on this specific date, she would be flying in – and now, well, she won’t. And the next window of opportunity will be in more than two months.

And I can tell you, she’s just as devastated about it as I am. We both fell apart over Skype collectively, and have now been trying to gather ourselves. It felt like somebody shoved a vacuum cleaner in my head and sucked all the motivation and inspiration out of there.

Oh, well. What can you do?


I was feeling pretty good yesterday, before learning all this. I skated around the town, visited an old Chinese observatory, called Beijing Ancient Observatory, learning a hell of a lot of things about the history of astronomy. The place has been there since early 1400’s, and still retains many of the original instruments used to observe the movement of the universe. Walking between the equatorial and ecliptic armillas, astronomical sextants, azimuth theodolites, altazimuths, celestial globes and quadrants made me think about all the great minds who had been tinkering with these devices for us to understand a bit better where is our little planet headed for.

Beijing has grown around this ancient observatory. When it was built, it was just one on the edge of a forest.

At home, I watched three movies. First one, 50 Children: The Rescue Mission of Mr. and Mrs. Kraus, was a touching HBO doc about a couple who set out on a journey to save 50 Jewish kids from Nazi Germany in ’39, reminding us that the last time USA turned down huge masses of immigrants was in the Second World War, when they didn’t want to let the Jewish refugees in, who tried to escape the Holocaust.

The other film was 50 First Dates, the Adam Sandler/Drew Barrymore -starred Peter Segal -directed rom com from early 2000’s. Well written, not a fantastic classic but served my mood perfectly. I’ve always enjoyed Adam Sandler, maybe as a guilty pleasure, and this is him at the top of his game.

The last film was the weirdest, a TV movie called 7 Days In Hell, a mockumentary where Kit Harington fought Andy Samberg on a a tennis court. I didn’t have a clue what was going on in that one…

Nevertheless, it was a thoroughly enjoyable day, and a much-needed day off, and today, waking up I learned about all this shit and now the whole world reeks like a dumpster. I was feeling so bad I thought watching a movie where divorced Jeff Bridges gets a dog to comfort him would cheer me up, but the Internet at the hotel had been shitty the whole day so no luck there.

So now I’m sulking in my bed, grumpy as hell. I better go to sleep early, and then start my two-month crawl towards the light with a bit brighter mind.


China Diary

Day 43: Hardcore Storyboard Action

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One of the things that everyone who has ever seen one film about Beijing knows is the local Hutong areas. Hutongs are typical Beijing local areas of small streets and a certain type of old buildings around them, located in the heart of Old Beijing. These street corners have been here forever – first ones were already built in the 13th century, so their historical and cultural importance is immeasurable.

Immeasurable to the level that it’s absolutely forbidden to shoot a movie in there. Of course, being Chinese, these crafty bastards have circled the issue and built at least two hutong sets in Beijing area: one in China Film Studios, the other one somewhere outside the city. And since we’re shooting in Wanda Studios in Qingdao, the production rather wants us to use the one outside the city.

We set in the car for over one hour to get to this one abandoned, huge warehouse located amidst some old, rotting buildings and a desolate lot which looks more like a place where the mobsters dump their bodies than an area to shoot movies. But lo and behold, stepping inside the warehouse is like stepping in a completely different world. A perfectly crafted Hutong streets spread suddenly in front of us, with flying walls (that’s a term for a removable wall, sounds better that way – and much easier, gives you an impression that moving the wall can be fast and easy like flying – I can tell you it takes hours of shooting time every time anyone so much as mentions a flying wall), green screens and whatnots. And inside the buildings, perfectly crafted houses, almost like the Chinese families living here had just taken all their furniture, trash, posters and vehicles and left, leaving empty buildings behind. I was, of course, very happy to get a fully crafted set for my use, and so was the poor production designer Gordon Lee, who already has a world and a half to build – and we’re shooting in just over a month from today!

The garden at the Hutong set.

Back at the office, we had a huge planning day with the stunts coordinator set out for us. We have basically storyboarded every scene in the film, and now it’s time to start splitting the scenes into single shots, into camera setups and into concrete shooting days. But this meeting was not about that – it was about the stunts. We had chosen two main stunt-requiring sequences of the film and broke them down into shooting days and what we’re planning to shoot every day. We had (well, Mika had, I would never have enough discipline for that) drawn maps of every location, pointed out every explosion, every special feature and every piece where something will happen in detail.

Our action coordinator, mr. Liu, is a great guy. He’s quite a silent type, unlike most of the stunt people whom I’ve worked with – they tend to be many, rowdy bunch of guys who love to play out their stunts, come up constantly with exciting ideas and loudly explain them. But not mr. Liu. Mr. Liu sits in the corner, listens dutifully as me and Mika blast away our plans on how to shoot this stunt, how to crash this guy through this piece of wall. When he speaks, he speaks with a soft voice, but he’s always on top of his game: he’s ready to suggest multiple ideas, all very story-driven (another feature that’s not as common in stunts as one would hope), but listens carefully to our wishes.

Pictured here are Mika, Crystal our assistant and Lei explaining the storyboards to a production person.

We sat around the storyboards and the plans for hours, but managed only to finish two sequences – but these sequences are already two of the three actual main action sequences, so we were pretty good. We decided to give it a Saturday celebration, since Sunday was a day off, and although Mika had to stay back and had another discussion with the gaffer, I headed back home.

Now, no matter what anyone says, understand one thing: in Beijing, nobody speaks English. And by “not speaking” I mean they have absolutely no kind of a vocabulary. For example, today I went to a restaurant and asked for a toilet. None of the five people had ever heard that word. Then, I asked for a Coke to go with my noodles. Five people, again, and nobody had any idea what I was talking. Google Image Search didn’t help much: the red Coca-Cola logo didn’t ring any bells – until one of them spotted the Chinese-written Coca-Cola sign on one of the thumbnails, ran to a big container full of Coke cans and asked (well, communicated) if this was what I wanted. Yeah. So no, nobody in Beijing speaks English. That’s rule nr. 1. Rule nr. 2 is: don’t get frustrated by it. Remember, it’s actually *you* who don’t speak any Chinese. I have no idea what a “toilet” is in Chinese, or “Coca-Cola”, so I’m no better – besides, I’m in their home turf, they are not responsible for learning my language… But still, you would think in a restaurant people speak few words. But let’s leave it at that.

Mika had his own trials with the gaffer. Being an extremely fast-paced and technical job which relies heavily on the duality of a Director of Photography and gaffer (that’s the guy who does all the lighting), a common language would be helpful. But in this case, there is none. Only way for Mika to communicate – and they even had a translator, but really you have to know the terms and the equipment so well to be able to be helpful – was by drawing the style of equipment they needed. Later on he looked like he had been drive over by a truck…

I took a false start of Type O Ctober this year and allowed me few songs of Type O Negative the other night… This inspired me to do this. Not quite Peter Steele, though 😦

We enjoyed a nice dinner at the restaurant Nola. Well, there was one hiccup: a woman came in with a scruffy dog. I’ve seen her there before, and warned Mika: she has absolutely no control over her dog. And it became very apparent quickly: the dog was sniffing under everyone’s table, and that’s fine for me (for others it may be a nuisance, but I like dogs, although I’m a bit allergic to them so I try not petting too much), but in addition to this, the dog is fucking loud. He barks out happily, loudly, randomly and constantly – and even that is bearable. Like I said, I like dogs. Sometimes, dogs do bark. But what I can’t stand is people who can’t handle their dogs. If you want a dog so badly, at least take a moment to learn to work with it. What she was doing was rather appalling: when the dog wanted to go somewhere, she grabbed it by the tail and dragged it. Of course, it was yelping. And when it did that, she slapped it in the head. So the dog was totally confused: whatever it was doing was apparently wrong.

We had to move inside before getting into a fight with this madame. Fuck her. Some people shouldn’t have a dog…

Later, I introduced Maggie’s to Mika. It was another rather slow night, although it was nearly midnight on Saturday. The same band was playing the same versions of the same songs, as they have done every day for the last God knows how many years… My friend bartender was there, so were the pretty girls who spotted me – the big tattooed guy – instantly and came swarming about. We had few drinks there with Mika, talking about everything between the Earth and the sky above it, and I did a bit more of people-ogling. This time, a group of ugly fat businessmen had parked their asses into one of the cabinets, and pretty callgirls were swarming around them. The evening was headed for something I’d rather not picture, and didn’t care to stay to witness more, so we decided it’s time to head back home.


China Diary

Day 42: The Meaning Of Life

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As I woke up, the room was dark. I decided it means my jetlag is back and it’s too early to wake up. But it took me a while to understand that no, it wasn’t because the sun hadn’t risen yet, but because I had pulled the blinders down the night. I scrambled my phone to my hands and realised it was already 9 am, and I had slept full nine hours last night. No wonder I was feeling good.

After a breakfast (yay, I found out they actually do have oatmeal, but the kettle has been so well hidden none of us Finns have ever found it!) and an hour at the gym, I skated at work. I didn’t have anything planned for the day, but as soon as I sat my ass on my chair, Lei pulled me for a big meeting regarding our recent Qingdao trip.

We went through every location and spoke in detail of their pros and cons. I made a big point in trying to emphasize the importance of the otherwise easily dismissable island location, which I really believed would make a huge impact in the film as it was the best, although not the most accessible, location we could imagine of. Max shared my view and we both pleaded the production to really find ways to use it.

“Astronautti viimeinen, teitä kutsuu asema Maa…”

They also had produced the first copies of the spacesuits we would have in the movie. They were these big figures that were presented to me to discuss the tech and the details, before they actually start producing them, because they will be a massive task for the costume department, not to mention the costs, but after being slightly disappointed with some spacesuits in first Iron Sky, and after shooting one video with paper-made spacesuits, I wanted to have pristine, high-end space suits for Iron Sky: The Ark.

And based on what I saw, that’s what I’m going to get.

Max is about to leave to Iran for some business for few days, so we were about to have a hot pot dinner, but that got cancelled the last minute, leaving me and Mika scrambling for food. We settled in a nice Japanese restaurant right across our hotel, which serves some amazing sushi and assorted meats.

Home – Skype with wife, some blogging and off to bed. Tomorrow is early.

China Diary

Day 41: Where I Lay My Head Is My Home. Or is it?

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I must say I’m not made for this lifestyle. Being an international filmmaker is probably what I thought I wanted, but now that I see the reality, I think I’d prefer going back to working more from home, not staying abroad such a long times. First I thought it would be really cool, flying around in business, being treated in style by a very international crew – but truth be told, the novelty soon fades, at least for me. I know there are people out there who are able to enjoy it, popping into a hotel, popping out, flying to China, then to USA, then back to Europe somewhere, but I really have come to realise I need to root down, properly. “Where I lay my head is my home”, Metallica sings. Although a very romantic thought, I can’t agree with it.

I’m no different from anyone else, I want my own home, my wife every morning next to me, my son and my family close. I know, it sounds like cheesy country song lyrics, but sometimes those guys and gals down South got it right.

Does it mean I can’t do films like this, shooting a film every now and then outside of Finland, doing post production elsewhere? I think not. Only thing it needs is to have a better plan for the future. I’m working on it. I just haven’t nailed it yet, really.

But I have time. Endless evenings in my bed, wishing the Internet would allow one continuous Whatsapp call without constant delays, hang-ups and bad sound quality.

Still, it’s weird what can become a cheap substitute for “home”, when one is not available. I think it’s an innate need for humans, to find one place they can call their own, be it their tribal grounds, their home cave, farm or even a spot under the bridge somewhere. For me, it’s far from that, but I too have it: my little hotel room (it’s really not that small, I’m just being emotional and make too much out of this feeling) at the hotel here in Beijing.

As we came back from our Qingdao trip and as I slipped my hotel key card to my door at room 429 (number changed, fans, don’t come swarming behind that door, I’m not there, really), the one the production had so thoughtfully had me keep even though I wasn’t there, I felt a slight tingle of the feeling one has when returning home after a long trip. My clothes were where I had left them, some fruits I had bought were still in place, my Playstation was patiently waiting… It was far from home, but it felt good after the few days in Qingdao.

We had planned to go to see a movie with Mika, and even booked the tickets, but right when I was stepping out of the door, my Skype chimed: “we’re ready!”. Shit! I actually was supposed to have a big VFX meeting on Iron Sky The Coming Race, starting right now! So I had to cancel my movie night, leaving Mika to have to go by himself.

The meeting went well, although it was quite taxing as we were following four Excel sheets and cross-referencing them, and I didn’t even have the movie on my hard drive so I had to try to remember each frame – but as Thilo, our VFX supervisor, said: you know your film. And funny enough, I do. The film is in my head, both current cuts etched almost in frame-by-frame detail, and I was able to discuss it as if I was watching the cut, only few times I had to admit I have to see what we’re talking about. It’s amazing how it really goes in the head and stays there in detail.

Anyway, that was the day. Sorry for rambling on about this nonsense of loneliness again, it just struck me harder than usual today. Kisses to home in Finland, wherever you are.

Like Arnie always says, I’ll be back.

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.

China Diary

Day 39: Stu-stu-stu-stu-studio Line!

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Wanda Studios in Qingdao are bound to become the biggest film studios in the world, when the additional buildings are finished later this year, and I have no trouble believing it. Riding through the rather unimpressive gates, the first thing you recognise is that there are no huge logos hanging above them like in Paramount or Universal studios, but then again, there’s neither the same charm since they only made a handful of films there so far, not like the other ones with nearly 100 years of history.


The studio lot itself is typical: big, square-shaped white and rather uninteresting buildings line the empty streets – riding around in a golf cart makes you feel almost like being on a university campus after an aggressive Zombie outburst. Only thing missing is some of them creepers starting to swarm out from one of the buildings…

These studio halls house some of the biggest film productions in the world today. Just recently, they had wrapped shooting Pacific Rim 2, so you get the scale. Many of them are, of course, Chinese pictures, but nowadays, as the Americans are hungry for slice of the Chinese markets, more and more films are done either completely or partially here.

Inside the studios is – of course – nothing. And that’s the very point of a studio building: it’s a huge hall without anything in it. Well, that’s not true: each building has been built with extreme precision to keep the stages free of any external light or – and that’s another important thing – sound. Thus their alternative name: soundstage. The roofs are built also with complex sets, stunts, light rigs and different kind of green, blue or black screen hangings in mind, so although they rise up to twenty meters in height, the roof structures are easily reachable.


Other than that, studios have very little difference in the structure. Each is different in size – they range from 1500 square meters to 10000 square meters – and some of them may have an water pool (kinda like swimming pool) for underwater shots in them. Then, the filmmakers choose what size sets they build, book the studios and shoot there for as long as required. Each studio has also green rooms, makeup rooms and other stuff like that required for comfortable shoot.

In few words: I love shooting in studio.

Everything is in control. Everything is much faster. Everyone is more relaxed. Everything works better.

So, I’m happy we get to shoot quite a lot in the studios. It’s more convenient and effective. If it was up to me, we would build everything in studio, but… well.

Say hello to my little friend.

We’d run out of money very quick.IMG_9762IMG_9762We spent most of the days checking out the studios, and before that, another key location some two hours drive away from the center. In the evening, the production got this idea that I had once said I really enjoy the Tsingtao beer, that I would like to have a full keg of it. Now, I do love the beer, but honestly, what do I do with a keg of beer in my hotel room? It’s not like I’m going to start drinking alone in my room a keg full of beer and work the next day? But nevertheless, now I have a keg of beer in my room.

Many don’t.

China Diary

Day 38: Here comes the Sun! (Tydydydyy…)

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Hello, Sun!

Walking out on the balcony of my hotel room here at Mangrove Tree hotel in Qingdao is every morning quite an amazing experience. On a foggy day, the sea blends into the horizon and it feels like you’re staring into the gray abyss – or, more like you’ve went past the designed area in a game and are now floating in the nothingness. The difference between these two is, actually, rather small.

But on a sunny day, that’s a whole different story. Living on the 22nd floor, the sunlight pierces my eyes painfully as I step on the balcony. Below me, the people walk on the beach as small dots, while the sea, gleaming in the sunlight, drifts to horizon, changing to the blueness of the sky in an inimitable manner. It’s a glorious way to start the morning, stepping butt naked to greet the scenery. Hello, Sun. It’s me, and I’m made mostly out of particles from you. Hope you have a great day dying the speed of hundreds of millions of tons of hydrogen a second!


Today’s agenda was pretty rigid: we had two hours drive ahead of us to a small, desolate island located far out of Qingdao, a location we’re hoping to use for Iron Sky: The Ark. We packed in the car and dozing on and off, I enjoyed the world slipping past me, reading a new book (“What Do Women Want”, by Daniel Bergner) and listening to some music. Mika was fast asleep next to me for the whole time – which is mostly a necessity for him, since his motion sickness doesn’t allow him even to glance at a phone when he’s riding in a car, let alone to read or work on the laptop.

The island itself has an extremely interesting composition of rocks, which make walking on it extremely painful, even with good boots. The surface is uneven with jagged stones digging into your feet, and just to get there, you have to wait at the tide that’s opening a walkway for 6 hours a day, then closing it again. With these elements in mind, you might already figure out what kind of production problems the location might prove.

Np. Edu Kettunen – Tuulisilla rannoilla

First, getting anyone there is already a pain in the ass. Usually, you prelight a location on the night, then get people there first thing in the morning for rehearsals and when the sun is up, shoot for as long as it goes down, and there you have a full shooting day. In our case, we first need to wait until 11:30 am until the tide goes down and opens the route, and only then can we go there.

The surface can be really tricky for the crew hauling heavy equipment on the island, and the unforgiving, scorching sun is staring down at us constantly. Being located at the seaside, the weather can also get very nasty quite quickly, and when the tide goes up again – the whole island is flooded underwater until the next day! This really leaves the team some three effective hours of shooting time.

The main problem, though, is that it’s the best, the only and the most beautiful location I can think of for this scene. It’s either this – with challenging shooting schedules and complicated logistics and safety – or we shoot the whole scene in a studio, which of course allows much more easily controlled environment, but also explodes things like VFX budget etc.

Still, I really want to shoot there. And that was my message to the production: let’s try to make it work. They are.

In the afternoon, we wandered around several locations until hitting the restaurant for a hefty dinner and some white wine. In the evening, I decided to get to know the local nightlife and wandered downstairs, to a club called MOVIE BAR. Great name, I says to myself, and walk in. And it is huge place – and of course, as Chinese bars usually are – completely empty. Only bar staff having fun with each others, music playing loud (because that’s how it is in bars… only, usually there’s also people to enjoy it)… There was even a casino, but for some reason, you couldn’t really use the tables, although the casino staff was there…

So I sat down and Whatsapped with my friends back in Finland instead of interacting with anyone. The Finnish way. Not to say there was anyone really to talk to, but at least it was nice to hear shitty music being played too loud for a bit. Then, back to my room and ready for the next day’s challenges.

China Diary

Day 37: Rainy Sunday Scouting

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IMG_9676Qingdao trip started off in rather rainy mood. We headed over to scout some of the locations we had already visited; them being namely an abandoned construction site and the mall that’s just below our hotel. After the welcoming dinner, the day started off in rather tired mood, but lightened up as we started to do some practical planning on how we would actually shoot some scenes, what kind of stunts there would be, and discussions of that sort. The most amazing thing about this location is that it has been here for years without anyone taking over the building – but there’s no graffitis on the walls, anywhere! If this was anywhere in Europe, the walls would’ve been filled with tags and colorful art pieces which we would’ve had to cover with art department, but not here in China. There’s one old guy and his tiny dog watching over the construction site, meaning anyone could easily sneak in and do whatever they wanted there. But guess that’s one of the cultural differences we have with Chinese.

Big, abandoned construction site.

The frustrating thing, though, turned out to be that for some reason, all of the communications that we’ve been having with the local location scouts haven’t been as accurate as we had hoped, and pretty soon we learned that most likely we’re going to have to lose one of the key locations for the film. This was a depressing setback and truly kicked the mood down. The location, a silent, closed business district area where we wanted to stage a motorcycle racing sequence, turned out to be great in every other way, only that we couldn’t do any of the stunts planned there, because the location manager feared we would end wrecking the location. I understand this completely, but standing in after having spent hours of planning those sequences, the question remained: why didn’t we learn about this a bit earlier… Well, life is all about learning to deal with setbacks, and here’s one for you.

After a long day of sitting in car or standing in a street corner in the rain somewhere we had a dinner and headed back home. I had a lengthy Skype session with Annika and went eventually to bed, listening to the crashing waves and rattling AC unit in my otherwise super high-end hotel room…

China Diary

Day 36: Back in the Beersville

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The bullet train slid to halt on Qingdao station. The doors hissed open, ever so lightly, and we found ourselves back in the Beer Capital of China. We had five days of scouting ahead of us, but not today. Today, we were promised a Qingdao welcome – which means beer, white wine and seafood.

Qingdao is a weird mix between Los Angeles and Las Vegas, a city for hedonists. Everything happens here half the speed of Beijing, and the distances are huge, so much of the time goes sitting in cars while going from one location to another. Another interesting thing I’ve found out about China is that there is basically no kind of bar culture. People drink what they drink over dinner, but afterwards, there’s not the “let’s go have a drink at a bar” -phase anymore. Basically, everyone goes to bed and is awake at the next day, bright and early.

IMG_9655Our Qingdao welcome was again in this rather seedy little restaurant. Waiting for us were three huge kegs full of Qingdao beer and a round table to be filled with seafood of all imaginable sorts: shellfish, crabs, shells… you name it. Arranged by mr. Zhu, the production manager, a man who loves to eat and have a drink, we were treated royally. As the evening progressed, me and Mika downed endless glasses for each crewmember’s honor, and continued to the adjacent room where the rest of the crew was dining. We got to know the Mongolian propmaster, a man of formidable stature and drinking habits; we got to talk more with our production designer – both of them, Gordon the actual production designer and mr. Wang, the art director, both of whom are great people, just as long as we forget the fact that we don’t really share a common language.

Qingdao welcome

After the dinner we were driven to the hotel. This time, the production has treated us with rooms at this massive resort just by the sea. It took me forever to find my room from the 22nd floor, and as I entered, the room blew me away. A massive suite with a balcony overlooking directly at the sea. Having said that, the immense size of the establishment is just mindblowing. Whoever built this, wanted to create this area into a weirdly European-style resort. In front of the place, there’s a huge, interestingly designed “church” – or a wedding place, since although it resembles a church, it definitely isn’t one (this is, remember, not a Christian country). Right behind the church is a huge German-style square, surrounded by European buildings, cafes and that sort of stuff, but it all looks more like a film set than a real square, since there’s hardly any businesses, everything is in prim shape and there’s no grime anywhere.

The weird church and the square.

Coming back home, I listened to some Riki Sorsa (my new favorite, don’t ask me why, must be the longing for home) and tried to talk with Annika, but she was having a night out with her friend so instead I headed to bed, falling asleep listening to the waves crashing to the shore twenty-two floors below me.

This was all I got out of her last night, so… 🙂
China Diary

Day 35: …some questions.

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I had a lousy night of sleep last night, waking up after only four hours of tossing around. It took me a long time to get out of the bed, and finally when I did, I crashed instantly back in and decided to play a bit of Skyrim first before actually facing the day and going out to the office.

I was grumpy for most of the morning, bracing for the afternoon of meeting with an actor who had “few questions” about the script. It’s never a good sign, but knowing this actor, I was also half expecting for some really awesome conversations. And boy, did I get some. We started at 2:30, and finished at 6:30 for one hour of dinner, followed by another two hours of dialogue. Although it was hard and unforgiving, this gentleman’s approach is commendable: he wants to understand in depth the role, the world he is in, the characters, each of their motivations and the backstory, and he’s willing to drag into the light questions and issues that we hadn’t even thought. In short, after today’s meeting, we will go back and work a bit on some scenes of the film to make the script’s inner logic stronger. It’s good to do it now, because once you’re on the edit, it’s too late.

After the dinner, I felt my strength waning. Much of the discussion was in Chinese, so following that through Lei’s translation can become very daunting, and given last night’s lack of sleep, I found myself mostly shutting up for the last two hours. We decided to call it a day and continue later, and I skated back home.

Of course, at home I had another meeting waiting for me – this time, a Pixomondo meeting regarding Iron Sky The Coming Race post production. Budgets, excels, three-letter shot abbreviations and crappy Skype connection really blew the wind out of me.