China Diary

Day 177: Queer As Folk


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Sundays in Beijing are the only days I have off, and since last night I had gone to bed early enough, I was feeling terribly energetic as I woke up. For a while I read and answered emails, but then I felt the need to fill my soul getting a hold of me, so I jumped into my Timberlands (I know I’ve used this before, but I like the image) and headed outside.

First stop was a museum. I haven’t seen that much of cultural heritage here in China, save the mandatory Wall and Forbidden City, so I chose – because of the International Women’s Day, which was just few days ago – to go check out an exhibition featuring women painters in China.

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“And now all the vultures are coming down from the tree
So he’s going to be in the gallery”, Dire Straits sings.

Truly a spectacular exhibition! Some of the most terrific paintings I’ve seen in ages, although I had no way of deducting who was the painter, nor the painting name, but one that really struck me was a huge set of paintings about a stretching man. Every muscle and wrinkle described in detail, it felt like watching one of those Michaelangelo’s studies.

I was being lucky with the taxis, so next stop was a nice little coffee house called Bookworm, which is also a bookstore and some kind of a library. There, they had an LGBT discussion I bought a ticket to; I’ve been interested in sexuality-related discourse ever since reading Cacilda Jetha’s and Christopher Ryan’s “Sex At Dawn” some years back (probably, uhh, like ten years ago) so I was hoping to get an insight on how lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transsexuals are having it over here in China.

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Unfortunately, as it is in so many cases like this, the discussion is way too advanced for me to really follow; I’m not familiar with the organisations behind the LGBT movement, the disputes they’re having between each others, nor am I in full understanding of all the niches they speak – there’s pansexuality, non-binary this, asexual that… I realized I was out of my league there, but did gather something important: While China has changed rapidly in the last decade, so has the acceptance and understanding of sexuality, too. One of the speakers told a story where ten years ago, she went back to her home village, her mother asked if she was doing lesbian porn in Beijing, when she told she had participated in LGBT things. Now, a decade later, her mother was criticising her relationship with another woman not because she was a woman, but because she was afraid the age gap would lead to her young girlfriend dumping her for someone younger and leaving her lonely for the rest of her life. Yes, Asian parents are famous for criticising their children’s life choices, but at least now the focus was in actual things, not some misconception on what being “lesbian” means.

Bookworm, being located in the Sanlitun area, is full of foreigners, so it was nice to see few other faces than the Chinese ones, and hear other languages, discussions you could follow (eavesdrop, that is) while reading a book. I sipped a glass of wine there, enjoying the atmosphere, and then decided to go sample the famed Georgian restaurant relatively close by.

Located in yet another embassy area, the place is Georgian to the bone: wooden structures outside and a statue of a Georgian guy with moustache (possibly some famed Georgian, wouldn’t know) welcomed me inside. The service was typical Georgian: no smiles (goes well with Beijing service culture) or unnecessary politeness, just terrific rustic food: a beef stew, khinkali-dumplings and Georgian khachapuri-bread, and a glass of terrific Georgian Saperavi-wine.

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Georgia On My Mind…

When it comes to wine, truly every other country can just step aside, since Georgians, they wipe the floor with everyone else’s tasteless liquids. Their eight thousand years of winemaking history make them the best wine country in the world.

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Smile you fool.

Yes, but. That was that. My day off. Some culture, some politics and some food. Yet, never did I feel as lonely as on that day, walking alone through the galleries and streets watching people having fun together. I’m not much of a socialite myself, and although I do enjoy company, I’m not amazing in crashing into an outside company. I’ll rather sit back and read my book and observe than push myself on others, but that does leave me feeling quite outsider.

Ah, well. Hotel room was inviting and I enjoyed a good rest after the day.

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I leave you with a picture of this beautiful cheese-and-egg bread called “khachapuri”, which is amazing. Also, consists of negative calories – more you eat, the more you lose weight! True fact!
China Diary

Day 176: Visualize This!


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So I woke up at healthy 4:30am, but to my great surprise, Annika was still up, so we hooked up via Whatsapp and shared a nice three hour phonecall, rambling through everything in our lives, futures, pasts, our theories, ideas, jokes… A nice way to spend the morning hours. After she went back to bed, I dragged myself to breakfast, enjoying a hefty plate full of all things unhealthy, then back up and to bed.

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“A bowl of noodles every day gives you a good attitude for life. We use our heart to make good noodles.”

Finding lunch is not easy around where I am. The whole area is centered around a bunch of big hotels, and all the services are crafted to serve the customers of the hotels, so the prices are high and quality low, as it usually is with services for tourists. So it takes quite a challenge to find a spot to enjoy a decent, local, delicious and not-rip-off -priced meal. For me, there’s two options: the good old McD, which is boring but quite secure, and then a small noodle place just around the corner from the office.

This place is amazing. It’s literally five tables and a chef -type of an establishment, which serves nothing but a cup of beef noodles, but it’s a huge bowl and the noodles are delicious. It’s also one of the few places I can get a smile from the service, there’s a pretty Chinese girl sometimes behind the counter and maybe it’s because she’s not jaded enough, or she’s genuinely enjoying her job, but it’s a rare occasion to see a service person here who doesn’t hate the fact you enter their establishment and try to acquire their services.

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Heaven On Plate. 

Back at the office, there wasn’t too much for me to do. We had decided to focus on two bigger sequences, but it turned out they were pretty fast sorted out – the other one was easy, just cut it in half and we’re done, and the other one we can’t do too much about, until we have some rudimentary post-visualizations to see how to go about the scene.

Filmmaking consists of three stages of visualization. Usually, the first is the storyboard. It’s a rough, or sometimes more elaborate, sketch on what shots you need to shoot during the production period of the film, i.e. during the shoot. My approach to storyboards is quite free: you draw them, but then you rarely look at them again. The information you have lodges into your brain and once you start shooting, you’ll follow your memory or intuition to shoot the scene. My DOP for sure follows them a bit more closely, to make sure we have all we need, but for me, it’s more a way to draft out the film in my head, but the real thing happens on the set.

Sometimes, to make sure you’ll shoot a complex scene correctly, you’ll need a previsualization. The previz tells you in much more accurate detail what shots you need, and what kind of plate shots you need to acquire a shot. Say there’s a scene where there’s a car crash on the road with our actors going around the damage. Previz shot tells you to shoot a plate with just the cars and the stunt drivers, a plate with just the accident, and a plate with the actors on a trailer reacting to it. It tells you in exact detail what size of a shot you need, what lenses to use, what angle to choose and how to blend it all together. Very helpful, but needed only for the most complex bits.

Then, there’s the post-visualization. That’s what happens after the film is shot, and edited together. Post-visualization is, by definition, made to help the editor cut the film correctly, so it’s a rough, usually animated sketch of an upcoming VFX shot, which is inserted in the cut to make sure the pacing is there, that the needed shots are in production. Sometimes, post-visualization may serve as the basis of the upcoming final shot, too.

After having watched Iron Sky: The Ark few times over, I did realize we are in dire need of some post-visualization for the ending bit. What we’ve shot is merely a brush of what we need, so there’s that to be done, but we decided to leave it for later, it’s better to do that face-to-face with the VFX supervisor.

But that’s going to be one hell of a scene.

Afterwards, I let mrs. Fang to start going through the film, snipping, tucking, nipping and fiddling with the details, and headed for the wild Saturday night of Beijing. First, I had a super stylish haircut in a nice salon, then, went to H&M to buy some socks and T-shirts of which I’m running out, and then agreed together with Chinese clothing market that they don’t make clothes that would ever, in a thousand years fit me. Their XL is well, not the European XL.

Last thing for the night was to head over to the very heart of the business center of Beijing, where the huge skyscrapers and massive malls, with names like China World and World Trade Center line the streets. After spending time in the Hutongs and different parts of Beijing, the business center is the least interesting and most foreboding part of the city. There’s so much money floating around there it makes me feel sick.

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China World Mall, Beijing.

I met with my amazing assistant David to talk about our post-shoot life for a burger at Blue Frog at China World Mall. Despite being a horrible mall with horrible shops and people all around – and man, the Chinese like to dress up to show off – the burger was good. We had a nice chat with him, and he was talking about his wishes on becoming a director one day (I can’t understand, after what he went through as my assistant during the shoot, but every man has to make their mistakes themselves, right?), so we chatted a bit about that.

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Then, it was time to head back to the hotel. I crashed almost immediately, after a short chat with Annika, and slept like a little baby until wee morning hours.

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Cyberpunk 2020 or Beijing 2018? 
China Diary

Day 175: Sorting Through The Feedback


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Ah, the glamour of filmmaking. Our edit suite is quite a fancy one, right?

After the initial screening and first round of feedback, we crawled back to our edit room and started going through the notes. I had written a good handful of notes myself, that look like this:

  • (SCENE NAME) is too long. Let’s get it out faster.
  • (CHARACTER NAME) introduction is not interesting enough, his personality doesn’t come through.
  • (SCENE NAME) beginning is a little bit of a stumble.
  • (SCENE NAME) is probably in the right place; rather long, though. Wonder if we can shorten it somehow?

In addition to this, Max had made his notes, in Chinese, which were then translated and sent out to me. Pretty much we agreed on most of the things, save maybe few things on which I believe to be important he thought not so much, and vice versa. But still, pretty good and consistent feedback which will help to make the film better for sure. The important stuff was that we both were willing to give up some scenes we might’ve thought having been very central to the story, but in the edit didn’t really bring anything we would’ve missed.

Well, at least we have some cool stuff to throw to the extended cut we’ll put out on a DVD later on.

Other than that, that was mostly it for the day. I had caught something that felt like a slight brush of flu, although I mostly blame the pollution out there, so I headed home and basically crashed at 7pm, waking up not before 4:30 am.

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Mrs. Fang editing.

Video of the day!

Back in October, I tortured my driver by blasting Type O Negative loud and clear as we drove across the city between shooting locations and hotel.

China Diary

Day 174: Reaping What We’ve Sown


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For quite some time we have been working with mrs. Fang to put together a version of the movie to screen it to our producers, and yesterday was the day. We gathered into a small screening room at Jiabo and blasted away. In addition to Max, our line producer mr. Zhu was there, Tanja our post production coordinator, as well as writer, mr. Yu and of course me and mrs. Fang.

My feeling of the film is that it’s definitely getting together nicely. The pacing of the first third and last third work pretty well, there’s still some solving to do in the second act, but it’s not so much about how to make the story work but what to leave out of it. It’s a shame to cut good stuff out, but if it stops the flow, it has got to go.

After the screening I was hoping for a round of feedback, but since we don’t have a good translator anymore with us, Max decided to ask mrs. Fang to his room and gave it directly to her. When she came back, she – still recovering from the flu – was quite beat, but deciphered some of the thoughts the producer had, and now our task is to start tackling them. I also had a good heap of notes, some smaller some bigger, to make things better but most important factor is: the general direction is correct, now we “only” have to cut, paste and cut again to make the whole thing together so that when you watch it in the theatres, you’ll feel that it’s all one full piece.

Just as I was about to head back home, Tanja stopped me and told we’re actually to have a dinner with our VFX department! I had totally forgotten it, and before the dinner I would need to visit a mall to get myself a new portable speaker since the one I had – Bose SoundLink II – got lost on the last shooting day in Qingdao.

So we hopped on a taxi and then, well, got introduced to Beijing traffic. It’s quite an infamous thing indeed, but literally, we sat in an unmoving car for 40 minutes until we decided it’s better we just pay the driver, get out and wiggle our way through the traffic on foot to the mall.

I found my new speaker at a Bose store, Bose Revolve Plus, and managed to get it some 60€ cheaper than from Finland, so it was a bargain. But to get back to the traffic, that was out of question, so we decided instead take the subway. Now, there’s another thing that’s quite crowded in Beijing, but surprisingly – I was expecting Moscow or New York -style old rattling subway – the underground is really sleek and modern. And very, very crowded. But definitely much handier way to travel through the trafficy streets than trying with the car.

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Our restaurant was a brilliant hot pot place which served a feast to remember! Our VFX company brought in the boss of the company and bunch of people from the production pipeline, and we ended up having amazing conversations on human origins, sexuality (!) and visual effects. One topic was the Oscars – I asked how they felt about VFX Oscar going to Blade Runner, and some thought it was deserved, but some agreed that the apes of Planet of the Apes were technically quite staggering as well.

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To present the lamb is truly fresh, it’s served on a standing plate. 

After the brilliant dinner me and Chris took a taxi and headed for quick drink at the small alleys close to where he lives, to a small comfortable bar which had some live music. We unloaded quite a lot about the production and the shootings with him, and while we agreed our shoot was quite heavy, Chris mentioned the two ones he was supervising before, and they sounded even crazier.

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Beijing alleys

For example, I didn’t know that a production can have toilets separate for men, women and Hong Kong crew.

At home, I called my dear wife and spoke a good hour with her about this and that, until dozed off for the first time in a semi-decent time.

 

China Diary

Day 173: Chilling with CFG


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China Film Group is China’s biggest and most influential film enterprise, which distributes, produces and finances films for China market. With Max’s connections, we’ve created a good relationship with them and they have supported Iron Sky: The Ark from the beginning, which is imperative for the film to succeed. On Wednesday, we paid a visit to them, talking about films and also their recent trip to Finland, which hopefully comes fruitful as there’s a planned co-production agreement being drafted between China and Finland, making official co-productions easier.

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His Master’s Voice?

After the meeting, me and May, our Canadian-Chinese co-producer had a nice chat, and her sons joined us for the dinner at a great teppanyaki restaurant at their hotel. Mrs. Fang the editor was sick for the day so there was really nothing much to do. I spent lengthy afternoon watching a terrible hotel band playing with broken equipment very badly some classics until it was time to head back to the hotel and chill. A glass of wine soothed me for the first time into a decent night’s sleep, hinting that slowly the jetlag might be over.

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Private chef

Video of the day!

Back in the Containeryard, we did some serious container Tetris.

China Diary

Day 172: Second Act Troubles


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Sound people love their sound equipments and get slightly nervous when you don’t respond to their enthusiasm, and sales people get slightly nervous when you don’t respond to their sales pitches. That’s the reason I usually try to be excited about some tech I have no idea about when being presented with, or nod along and ask questions when sales pitch is being presented to me, but yesterday I just couldn’t get there. I had slept two hours in the night, in one hour blocks, so I had this constant pressure around my skull which made me more quiet than grumpy than usual.

It didn’t help that I had again encountered a masterful example of shitty Chinese customer service. I had decided to, instead of my usual McD lunch across the street to head over to a place which called itself something like Old Style Beijing Lamb Hot Pot. Unfortunately, around the hotel the restaurants and services are pretty often crafted for the hotel guests, so the prices are ridiculous. I was watching the prices and decided to want something that they didn’t feel like doing to me, and after a bit of “meiyou-meiyou” I realized they wanted to sell me something more expensive than what I was picking, and looking at the 200RMB bill that would’ve got me to, I decided to cancel the whole order and walk out.

Luckily, there’s also a a delicious little noodle place just around the corner from the office, so I went there and grabbed a 22RMB bowl full of delicious noodles added with a service which – unlike usually anywhere – included a smile to the paying customer.

At the office, I had a clear plan of trying to figure out the midpoint of the movie, but somehow we got stuck trying to solve a scene which actually was already in a pretty good shape. We fiddled around the shots and tried to come up with a way to make them all fit differently, while avoiding the actual problem of the 2nd act we had been battling it, and by the time we had to leave for another sound company meeting we were all quite lost on what it was we were even trying to do.

The visit to the sound company was, as I told, a tech demo and sales pitch, to which I didn’t really respond very much because my mind was working on the edit, and I saw mrs. Fang going through the same process in her head. We were both miles away while Max and the sound company people discussed options, and while there’s nothing I can really say whether this or that is better in sound as long as it’s Dobly Atmos and all that stuff, color grading suite would’ve been of great interest to me. Yet, we couldn’t visit the grading suite, which indeed was disappointing, so we left home not much wiser than when we came in, but it was good to meet the people and see the admittedly professional facilities (although, having worked with Rotor in Babelsberg, Germany, everything looks tiny compared to their massive mixing/grading suite…).

As we were leaving, our original plan had been to head back home or hotel, but since we both’s minds were working on the cut, we decided to give it a few more hours. We went back to the office and opened the cut and started to really work on the actual problem of the second act.

What I did was I gave each scene a name and placed them in front of me. Soon, just by looking at the scenes, I realized what was the issue: by naming the scenes I noticed a certain description following up with each, and that I was able to identify as the problem. It wasn’t really so much what happened in the scene, but the rhythm of the events inside the scene. It all become rather predictable, and we realized that in order to keep the audience entertained, we need to keep them constantly on the edge of their seats, surprised and wondering what would happen next: never let them get lulled by a familiar rhythm of events. Find the surprises; like the editor of the first Iron Sky once taught me: get in the scene as late as possible, and get out as quickly as possible. It’s a general golden rule in editing, keeps the viewers on their toes and the filmmakers just one step ahead of them.

So we started to kick around an interesting idea which came to my mind when we were trying to solve the pacing. The idea would change the actual script a bit, but it sounded like a fun aspect to look at, so we decided to give it a try. I gave mrs. Fang the instructions to try this crazy idea out, and decided to let her work on it by herself and headed back home. Well, New Otani hotel, that is, but anyway. As close as I can call it home..

I had big plans to just quickly change and head over to enjoy the Tacos at Taco Tuesday, but my tiredness got a hold of myself and I crashed on the bed, only to wake up six hours later, at 1.30 am. No more sleep for me for tonight, but at least I feel slightly more rested than yesterday.

 

Opinions, Oscars

How To Make The Oscars Better


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I’m an avid Oscar-watcher. Every year since 2008 I’ve always tried to watch every contender in every category (save Best Song, which I think is a dumb category), and I do it because it’s a good incentive for me to go out to the theatres and see some of the most remarkable movies of the year. Also, I enjoy watching the show. I think the people look amazing over there, the production values are top notch and the political twist the Oscars have every year is fun, sometimes even remarkable. Also, it’s a great look into American culture: this is what American TV-entertainment is, every day, throughout the year. Once a year is enough for me. It’s really, really exhausting.

Having said that, the unfortunate fact is that this year, the Oscar ratings dipped to all-time low, marking fourth year of steady decline since 2014. Apparently, something is wrong. And there are many reasons: the awards season is packed with all kind of shows competing on importance, and many have managed to gain foothold in the recent years. Also, the competition is more fierce: how to get people dragged away from their games, sports, other shows, Netflix, Amazon, Hulu – for four consecutive hours? And last, but not least, it’s a 90-year-old TV format, which hasn’t practically changed at all during those ninety years, how can you expect to keep the attention of people of nowadays?

So, for the Academy, I have compiled here a list of changes you need to do in order to get the show back on track for next year. Let the new era of Oscars begin.

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1. Algorithm it! What the hell are you doing with this ages-old secret Illuminati-type organization called “Academy”, when you can go full-on Orwell, create a secret yet always changing algorithm which creates an infallible system on which you choose the films for each category.

2. Gamify it! I mean, a real competition, that’s what’s popular nowadays. Let the academy choose each category contenders, but the audience to choose the actual winners. And don’t make it boring: make them reprise their whatever role it is: actors performing their roles, directors directing, sound designers creating their sounds… Live. That’s sexy nowadays. Like American Idol. That shit sells. And cooking shows.

3. Optimize it! I mean, it’s totally possible have different set of films, awards and presenters for each group out there, all you have to do is just to optimize it based on the person’s political views. Current Oscars are missing the apparently massive amount of Americans who support Trump, NRA, school shootings, racism, sexism and all that stuff -so why even bother showing the current format to them. Better yet, just create your own presenters for every different segment, and it’s all much better and nobody needs to get upset.

4. Make it a journey! Customers need to be brought to the new media in a completely new way. You have to start making the Oscars a journey for the audience. You have to add an Augmented Reality layer on movies, where one can start awarding their Oscars right when they watch movies. They form Teams and then you can all be #TeamShapeOfWater or #TeamThreeBillboardsOutsideEbbingMissouri on the social media and make it a fight that lasts not just one night but the whole year.

5. Geofence it! There’s something Americans will never believe: we still love you. We want to see your award ceremonies in Europe, so start selling those advertisements locally so that we have a chance to watch the show everywhere. And no, even if you sell it to say China broadcasting, it doesn’t mean China broadcasts the show live, which is kinda the idea, really.

6. Micro-Momentisize it! Would you like to know more? Do I need to say more? People want to spend time with your show, but four hours is quite a long time. Make it possible for them to do so at their own pace, base don their own interests. Just remember to add a nice price tag to every click and split the revenue between presenters and award-winners so everyone can make this into a nice dog and pony show for their paycheck.

7. Build Some Smart Content! We want to feel special, right. Wouldn’t it be nice if the winners would say: “…and I want to give special thanks to Timo, who made it all possible for me.” I’m sure there’s an easy tech fix for that, just scan the nominees and make them come wearing a green hood over their heads when they pick the award and everyone can be mentioned.

These are just some of the brilliant ideas I think would really spark up the Oscars. So, see you next year, and feel free to call me in for more terrific consulting. Oh, and the buzzwords are stolen from this website. Thank you Isabella Andersen!

China Diary

Day 171: Watching Oscars


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I tried sleep again, but it turned out to be impossible. I managed to nap one hour before 9am, when it was time for the Oscars, which I streamed using a really snappy, crashy stream. I managed to watch only half of the show until the whole stream finally froze and nothing was to be done anymore. From what I was able to gather, it was quite an uneventful show awards-wise, but much was said on stage which will stay in history. I guessed 12 of 24 Oscars correctly – Actor, Actress, Animated, Cinematography, Directing, Short Doc, Edit, Makeup, Music, Best Film, Production Design and Adapted Screenplay.

After the show I went back to the office and we watched the whole film from start to finish. It’s shaping up. There’s still too much talk in the second act, which I will have to get to flow better, but the beginning is good and ending will be good once the VFX start to shape up. We discussed this with mrs. Fang and agreed pretty much on everything, and then went for a meeting at one of the possible sound post production facilities rather close by, in the Russian quarters.

I suddenly got this terrible craving for good Russian dinner; maybe some borsch-soup and some unapologetic meat dish accompanied with a total balalaika show. I’m going to have to find out what’s the best Russian restaurant in Beijing, and head over there. Report will follow.

Then, back to the office. We started to work a bit more with mrs. Fang on the edit, and had a chat with Max about the cut as well. We agreed to work tomorrow and then show the film to him and discuss what needs to be done.

 

China Diary, Opinions

Day 170: Art Of Compromise


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I’d like to reiterate my theory on editing. I said it’s the art of compromising between story and flow of the movie, but that’s actually not the truth. It is in fact a compromise between the effort and the flow. Every screenwriter puts a lot of effort into explaining everything in the script. The actors and director work hard on scenes, taking hundreds of takes over the period of the production. The cinematographer films thousands of hours of material, and the set designer creates huge sets that are filmable on every angle. It all takes a tremendous amount of effort to make it happen, but ultimately, it’s the flow of the movie that counts. For the sake of flow, everything is discardable: that one amazing take we worked so hard to get; that incredible dialogue the actors had on the set; the huge backstory which was explained over a series of scenes we shot for days… But if they kill the flow of the movie, they have got to go. But it is a compromise: sometimes that one shot really is worth brining it into the story, even if it doesn’t really serve the flow – this is, in the end, a movie and people come to theatres to see also beautiful imagery. Or this piece of backstory needs to be inserted in the story, even though bringing it up might really exhaust the viewer. And the art comes in balancing between the compromises and making it feel for the viewer that nothing could’ve been added into the movie, or taken away, to tell the story in the format it eventually lands in the theatres.

As I said, we started out the first cut of the movie at 160 minutes. Our aim is to try to squeeze it into 110 minutes, which means we have now – as the film is about 118 minutes long – cut 50 minutes of shot material. I’m actually known by my producers as being quite a ruthless director when it comes to editing. I might find myself taking out even too much, but that’s also because I think films are nowadays easily too long, and usually the shorter is better. Also, when you take something out of the cut you’ve been watching so many times, you may feel it’s suddenly fresher – but it’s fresher only to you. You have to try to place yourself in the position of the viewer who comes in having not seen anything. That can be sometimes really tricky.

And of course, there’s always the question of economics. If you’re going to cut 50 minutes of the film, why shoot those 50 minutes in the first place? The trick is really knowing which 50 minutes you will cut and which you will keep. Shooting a film is just agreeing on a script and then covering it as lavishly as possible, keeping in mind your resources, and grabbing as much material as possible, so that you can then bring it to the editor and make a film out of it. With the screenwriter, you have to try to find out what are the absolutely necessary scenes to be shot, but even that is usually just a guess – only on edit you actually see if these scenes are necessary or not.

It’s interesting to see how it all comes together. Also, it’s interesting to see how certain characters become more important than you thought when shooting, and some characters become more like side characters, ones you thought will have a big role in the film. The whole editing is in fact the most interesting part of the filmmaking, because that’s when the movie reveals its’ true self.

Oscars

Oscars 2018 – My predictions / ruminations


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It’s that time of the year again – the Oscars are indeed coming. As it has become my tradition, I will submit my predictions and this time also a short explanation on why I think a certain film will win the category.

All in all, it’s going to be a very interesting Oscars ceremony this year. The #metoo and other hashtag-movements – and I call them hashtag-movements with respect, because I’m still in awe on what these movements have achieved – have dethroned many powerful figures from the American film industry, and the ripples of those splashes have reached all around the world. Finland went through its’ own #metoo outing a bunch of film industry assholes, and now it seems the movement is slowly moving towards music industry – and there I am sure will be a lot of dirt to be unearthed, too.

The awarded films this year were quite a colorful bunch of movies – horror and fantastic realism stir the Best Movie category, which has its’ typical share of political films, coming-of-age stories and smaller, hard-hitting indies. There is more diversity amongst the nominees, which is great, and the topics are braver.

This year’s big nominee is of course Del Toro’s The Shape Of Water, which will most likely steal many categories, but there’s also a lot of things to be said on behalf of other movies. Nevertheless, here are the nominees, my predictions and explanations.

ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE

NOMINEES

TIMOTHÉE CHALAMET

Call Me by Your Name

DANIEL DAY-LEWIS

Phantom Thread

DANIEL KALUUYA

Get Out

*** GARY OLDMAN ***

Darkest Hour
Not the most original pick, but I think mr. Oldman nailed the complicated role well and made an immemorable, well fleshed out character out of a very complex personality.

DENZEL WASHINGTON

Roman J. Israel, Esq.

 

ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

NOMINEES

WILLEM DAFOE

The Florida Project

WOODY HARRELSON

Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri

RICHARD JENKINS

The Shape of Water

*** CHRISTOPHER PLUMMER ***

All the Money in the World
Christopher Plummer jumped into the shoes of Kevin Spacey and filled them many times over. While the film itself is not that amazing, Plummer’s role is inseparable, and I can’t understand how Spacey would’ve played any better.

SAM ROCKWELL

Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri

ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE

NOMINEES

SALLY HAWKINS

The Shape of Water

*** FRANCES MCDORMAND ***

Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri
It’s quite clear Frances McDormand will gather her second Oscar, playing definitely the strongest of all nominees – and they all were very good – in a otherwise pretty mediocre movie, which became great just because of her. 

MARGOT ROBBIE

I, Tonya

SAOIRSE RONAN

Lady Bird

MERYL STREEP

The Post

ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

NOMINEES

MARY J. BLIGE

Mudbound

ALLISON JANNEY

I, Tonya

*** LESLEY MANVILLE ***

Phantom Thread
This one is pretty hard to guess, since there’s a lot of options but I think the scary, creepy sister in Phantom Thread was probably the most memorable of all roles. 

LAURIE METCALF

Lady Bird

OCTAVIA SPENCER

The Shape of Water

ANIMATED FEATURE FILM

NOMINEES

THE BOSS BABY

Tom McGrath and Ramsey Naito

THE BREADWINNER

Nora Twomey and Anthony Leo

*** COCO ***

Lee Unkrich and Darla K. Anderson
Only Pixar has the balls to do a children animation talking about death in a colorful, vivid way. The film is impeccable execution of wonderful storytelling, tricky topic and whole family accessability.

FERDINAND

Carlos Saldanha and Lori Forte

LOVING VINCENT

Dorota Kobiela, Hugh Welchman and Ivan Mactaggart

CINEMATOGRAPHY

NOMINEES

*** BLADE RUNNER 2049 ***

Roger A. Deakins
Deakins has been nominated fourteen times for an Oscar, but never won one. Speaking of film-defining craftmanship, Blade Runner’s cinematography is beyond anything I’ve seen in ages. Simply beautiful, wondefully lit and while the film itself is a bit of a meh to me, the visual display Deakins has brought forward is just amazing.

DARKEST HOUR

Bruno Delbonnel

DUNKIRK

Hoyte van Hoytema

MUDBOUND

Rachel Morrison

THE SHAPE OF WATER

Dan Laustsen

COSTUME DESIGN

NOMINEES

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST

Jacqueline Durran

DARKEST HOUR

Jacqueline Durran

PHANTOM THREAD

Mark Bridges

*** THE SHAPE OF WATER ***

Luis Sequeira
The world of The Shape of Water is the thing that makes the film so brilliant, and definitely the costumes are a key factor in it. Although I don’t think the film really lives up to the hype, the artistic values of the production design and costumes is the best there is this year.

VICTORIA & ABDUL

Consolata Boyle

DIRECTING

NOMINEES

DUNKIRK

Christopher Nolan

GET OUT

Jordan Peele

LADY BIRD

Greta Gerwig

PHANTOM THREAD

Paul Thomas Anderson

*** THE SHAPE OF WATER ***

Guillermo del Toro
I’m not much of a fan of The Shape of Water, but Del Toro does terrific job in directing the lead actress and taking the story, which is pretty simple, almost a bit dumb, and elevating it into a wonderful cinematic experience, exactly the craftmanship of a director.

DOCUMENTARY (FEATURE)

NOMINEES

ABACUS: SMALL ENOUGH TO JAIL

Steve James, Mark Mitten and Julie Goldman

FACES PLACES

Agnès Varda, JR and Rosalie Varda

ICARUS

Bryan Fogel and Dan Cogan

*** LAST MEN IN ALEPPO ***

Feras Fayyad, Kareem Abeed and Søren Steen Jespersen
Tricky one again, but I believe Last Men in Aleppo deserve the win. Just the fact that someone has stuck their neck out to document the worst humanitarian crisis of our time, and brought up the real heroes of the conflict, the White Helmets, is commendable as itself. As a documentary the slightly staged feel some discussions and elements takes a bit away from its’ novelty value, but when the going gets rough, it’s as real as it can be, in all its’ horror.

STRONG ISLAND

Yance Ford and Joslyn Barnes

DOCUMENTARY (SHORT SUBJECT)

NOMINEES

EDITH+EDDIE

Laura Checkoway and Thomas Lee Wright

*** HEAVEN IS A TRAFFIC JAM ON THE 405 ***

Frank Stiefel

HEROIN(E)

Elaine McMillion Sheldon and Kerrin Sheldon

KNIFE SKILLS

Thomas Lennon

TRAFFIC STOP

Kate Davis and David Heilbroner

FILM EDITING

NOMINEES

BABY DRIVER

Paul Machliss and Jonathan Amos

*** DUNKIRK ***

Lee Smith
War movies are extremely hard to put together and maintain the balance, but Lee Smith is able to run the big scale story and make it feel just huge and real. 

I, TONYA

Tatiana S. Riegel

THE SHAPE OF WATER

Sidney Wolinsky

THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI

Jon Gregory

FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

NOMINEES

A FANTASTIC WOMAN

Chile

THE INSULT

Lebanon

LOVELESS

Russia

ON BODY AND SOUL

Hungary

*** THE SQUARE ***

Sweden
Since Cannes, Ruben Östlund’s The Square has been going around the award ceremonies, grabbing price after price – and for a good reason. The film feels alienated and cold in its’ nasty satirical tone, which is exactly where it aims. 

MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING

NOMINEES

*** DARKEST HOUR ***

Kazuhiro Tsuji, David Malinowski and Lucy Sibbick
However they managed to make Gary Oldman into an overweight old man is beyond me to understand, but as fat suits go, the work was brilliant. 

VICTORIA & ABDUL

Daniel Phillips and Lou Sheppard

WONDER

Arjen Tuiten

MUSIC (ORIGINAL SCORE)

NOMINEES

DUNKIRK

Hans Zimmer

PHANTOM THREAD

Jonny Greenwood

*** THE SHAPE OF WATER ***

Alexandre Desplat
Beautiful, jazzy soundtrack that fits the film’s magical world like a nail in the head. Together with the beautiful production design and costumes, the music takes the viewer into the strange world of Del Toro and leaves no questions open whether or not it could happen.

STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI

John Williams

THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI

Carter Burwell

MUSIC (ORIGINAL SONG)

NOMINEES

*** MIGHTY RIVER ***

from Mudbound; Music and Lyric by Mary J. Blige, Raphael Saadiq and Taura Stinson

MYSTERY OF LOVE

from Call Me by Your Name; Music and Lyric by Sufjan Stevens

REMEMBER ME

from Coco; Music and Lyric by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez

STAND UP FOR SOMETHING

from Marshall; Music by Diane Warren; Lyric by Lonnie R. Lynn and Diane Warren

THIS IS ME

from The Greatest Showman; Music and Lyric by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul

BEST PICTURE

NOMINEES

CALL ME BY YOUR NAME

Peter Spears, Luca Guadagnino, Emilie Georges and Marco Morabito, Producers

DARKEST HOUR

Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Lisa Bruce, Anthony McCarten and Douglas Urbanski, Producers

DUNKIRK

Emma Thomas and Christopher Nolan, Producers

GET OUT

Sean McKittrick, Jason Blum, Edward H. Hamm Jr. and Jordan Peele, Producers

LADY BIRD

Scott Rudin, Eli Bush and Evelyn O’Neill, Producers

PHANTOM THREAD

JoAnne Sellar, Paul Thomas Anderson, Megan Ellison and Daniel Lupi, Producers

THE POST

Amy Pascal, Steven Spielberg and Kristie Macosko Krieger, Producers

*** THE SHAPE OF WATER ***

Guillermo del Toro and J. Miles Dale, Producers
I think Del Toro’s magic reaches from screen to the Academy; the film speaks to both older and younger generation, to both filmmakers and film lovers and is the most special, defined movie of the year. Also, given its’ award run so far, I’d be surprised if it didn’t take home this one as well.

THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI

Graham Broadbent, Pete Czernin and Martin McDonagh, Producers

PRODUCTION DESIGN

NOMINEES

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST

Production Design: Sarah Greenwood; Set Decoration: Katie Spencer

BLADE RUNNER 2049

Production Design: Dennis Gassner; Set Decoration: Alessandra Querzola

DARKEST HOUR

Production Design: Sarah Greenwood; Set Decoration: Katie Spencer

DUNKIRK

Production Design: Nathan Crowley; Set Decoration: Gary Fettis

*** THE SHAPE OF WATER ***

Production Design: Paul Denham Austerberry; Set Decoration: Shane Vieau and Jeffrey A. Melvin
This is a tricky fight between Blade Runner and Shape of Water, but this year is definitely Del Toro’s year, so it’s very probable Production Design goes here as well.

SHORT FILM (ANIMATED)

NOMINEES

DEAR BASKETBALL

Glen Keane and Kobe Bryant

GARDEN PARTY

Victor Caire and Gabriel Grapperon

*** LOU ***

Dave Mullins and Dana Murray

NEGATIVE SPACE

Max Porter and Ru Kuwahata

REVOLTING RHYMES

Jakob Schuh and Jan Lachauer

SHORT FILM (LIVE ACTION)

NOMINEES

DEKALB ELEMENTARY

Reed Van Dyk

*** THE ELEVEN O’CLOCK ***

Derin Seale and Josh Lawson

MY NEPHEW EMMETT

Kevin Wilson, Jr.

THE SILENT CHILD

Chris Overton and Rachel Shenton

WATU WOTE/ALL OF US

Katja Benrath and Tobias Rosen

SOUND EDITING

NOMINEES

BABY DRIVER

Julian Slater

BLADE RUNNER 2049

Mark Mangini and Theo Green

DUNKIRK

Richard King and Alex Gibson

*** THE SHAPE OF WATER ***

Nathan Robitaille and Nelson Ferreira
The technical Oscars will definitely go to The Shape of Water.

STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI

Matthew Wood and Ren Klyce

SOUND MIXING

NOMINEES

BABY DRIVER

Julian Slater, Tim Cavagin and Mary H. Ellis

BLADE RUNNER 2049

Ron Bartlett, Doug Hemphill and Mac Ruth

DUNKIRK

Gregg Landaker, Gary A. Rizzo and Mark Weingarten

*** THE SHAPE OF WATER ***

Christian Cooke, Brad Zoern and Glen Gauthier

STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI

David Parker, Michael Semanick, Ren Klyce and Stuart Wilson

VISUAL EFFECTS

NOMINEES

BLADE RUNNER 2049

John Nelson, Gerd Nefzer, Paul Lambert and Richard R. Hoover

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2

Christopher Townsend, Guy Williams, Jonathan Fawkner and Dan Sudick

KONG: SKULL ISLAND

Stephen Rosenbaum, Jeff White, Scott Benza and Mike Meinardus

STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI

Ben Morris, Mike Mulholland, Neal Scanlan and Chris Corbould

*** WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES ***

Joe Letteri, Daniel Barrett, Dan Lemmon and Joel Whist
For the first time in my life I’ve seen visual effects so good that they would fool me. At least that I know of. The apes of War for the Planet of the Apes are just next level amazing…

WRITING (ADAPTED SCREENPLAY)

NOMINEES

*** CALL ME BY YOUR NAME ***

Screenplay by James Ivory
My personal favorite of the year, and although it won’t be winning big in any category, the script could easily fall here. Great characters, very believable setting and a surprising story that manages to tell a love story in a way that’s just relatable and beautiful without feeling tacky or fake.

THE DISASTER ARTIST

Screenplay by Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber

LOGAN

Screenplay by Scott Frank & James Mangold and Michael Green; Story by James Mangold

MOLLY’S GAME

Written for the screen by Aaron Sorkin

MUDBOUND

Screenplay by Virgil Williams and Dee Rees

WRITING (ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY)

NOMINEES

THE BIG SICK

Written by Emily V. Gordon & Kumail Nanjiani

GET OUT

Written by Jordan Peele

LADY BIRD

Written by Greta Gerwig

THE SHAPE OF WATER

Screenplay by Guillermo del Toro & Vanessa Taylor; Story by Guillermo del Toro

THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI

Written by Martin McDonagh

DENZEL WASHINGTON

Roman J. Israel, Esq.