Saturday, August 27, 2011

More or Less Fortunate : After 2 Days

Zi Wei acting for the first time.

Yesterday we completed day 2 on set for my short film tentatively titled More or Less Fortunate. The story follows a 11 year old girl in her struggle to provide for herself and her alcoholic father. I won't say any more than that at the moment.

The way things work for making a short film in China are surprisingly similar to the way things work in Hawaii at the film school. Once you get the script sorted out you need to roam around trying to find someone to act in it and a place for them to act at. I did a lot of scouting for this one, trying to find locations where there wouldn't be 100 curious Chinese people getting in the way. The 3 main locations are a field by a river, a building complex, and inside a friend's modest apartment. After 2 days, we have completed the river side part. The other areas will be a bit more tricky.

As far as the first two days, things went really great. We had 2 actors working, myself directing, my friend Brian as Assistant Director, our local friend helping with the actors, and her husband as an actor and a production assistant as well. Different hats worn by a variety of people.

As we went out to shoot I couldn't help but wonder how the neighborhood would handle us being there. As I've said before, some people around here react and communicate in very strange and unexpected ways. And although this neighborhood is sparse in population, I knew that we would run into a few people here and there.

In the above photo, the lady in the background is getting in the way. It was no big deal for me though. They were all very interested in what we were doing. When we arrived I asked if we could "take some pictures" and they smiled and said of course. They all gathered around the tiny LCD monitor as we filmed Zi Wei (the little girl) walking up the road. They all thought that it was very interesting. I am very thankful that they were all so hospitable in opening their tiny little road to us.

We had another old man without teeth talk to us in English. I've always heard that you should expect the unexpected when you go out to shoot a film. If a location is quiet every day you go to scout it out, it will more than likely be busy and difficult to work with when you arrive with camera in hand. The fact that in 6 years I've never met a man this old who could speak English proved the point with an exclamation point!

As far as directing goes, things went well. None of the actors could speak English. It was hard to give them "results driven" directing; the kind where you get a reaction or emotion out of them that looks and feels natural. I think that the cultural differences and lack of acting experience left me a little empty in this area. In the end I was basically saying stuff like "now smile", Now, raise your eyebrows. You are surprised.". This, we were taught, it a bad way to work with the actor because there is no context to it and it ends up looking fake. I'll need to figure out how to get this communication going a little better for next time. Directing is not really natural for me. Directing in Chinese goes without saying.

The other big thing that I have had to work around is schedules. As of tomorrow, all of the actors will be really busy as summer vacation is over and it's back to work and school. I need to try to squeeze in at least 2 more shooting days on a Saturday and perhaps one of the holiday days that takes place around the 10th of September. Of course, this is a threat to the continuity of the whole thing. That is why we finished up the river side stuff. If the weather gets colder then it's not so bad because we will be in a different location which will not need to match up as much.

My hopes going into this project were very low. I was not expecting to makes a killer movie right off of the bat here. I am mostly just happy and excited that we have actually shot something already and I have a few people interested in the hobby and donating a substantial time commitment.

After the first 2 days I am pleasantly surprised. I can say that, if all goes well and we actually get to shoot the rest, it will be a lot better than the first movie I made in Hawaii, which actually isn't saying that much. Saying it will be much better is saying something and I will not hesitate to say that.

"It will be much better."

The other thing I keep affirming is that my favorite things about film making are the writing, the location scouting, and the camera work. Directing will grow on me as my confidence increases. I don't really like producing at all.

The indoor scenes will prove a challenge. Without lights I need to get creative. I don't think that there is anything available in this city and if there is it is way out of my tiny little budget's range. I will load up the apartment with lamps with high wattage bulbs and go from there. I am looking forward to the challenge.

Come September, I will get some of the guys on Campus who have expressed interest in learning stuff and I will teach them. We'll see how that goes, but having more people would be great.

All in all, I'm very happy to be working on a project and to be learning quite a bit even after 2 days.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Continously on the hunt for their own self esteem

A reference:

A few of us have translated Douche Bag into Chinese as 堵车 袋子 "Du Che Dai Zi", which really only means traffic jam bag. Though it is not accurate, it has stuck. Up until recently, I thought that the only person in this neighborhood worthy of the term was my American friend Dustin. But yesterday, that all changed...

I saw them yesterday, with my own eyes... Chinese Douche Bags!

They were 'comin' right at me, Bro!', or '过来就到我,哥哥!’.

Actually, they were walking down the road at the same time as me. Let me explain how I was able to spot them:

1. There were 3 of them. As far as I know, Douche Bags don't travel in groups smaller than 3. Correct me if I'm wrong, but from what I can gather, if they would travel in a group with less than 3 peers in it then they would all fall over.

2. They had their collars 'popped'. One of the shirts was pink. It was at this tell tale sign that I could definitely confirm that they were genuine. Pink is very 2005, which is, if I'm correct, the year of Jubilee for the Douche.

3. Even though there was plenty of space on the sidewalk, they walked on the road.

4. One thing that I noticed with the Chinese Douche is that they spit a lot, even more so than regular Chinese men. At least one of these guys was spitting every 10 seconds.

I can only hope that I am lucky enough to come across more of these guys. I'm curious as to the qualities unique to Chinese douche bags that I might have missed the first time around. My hypothesis is that they have evolved in a uniquely Chinese way and it would be very interesting and enlightening to see just how that has worked out for them.

Man, I wish I had a camera yesterday. These guys were straight out of an episode of "Shang Hai Shore". Fascinating specimens, they certainly are.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Woody's Round-up

This week we've been up to a lot of things. I will try to give you the spin that you are looking, dreaming and hoping for.

Firstly, I followed the sunset the other day and came up with some nice little nuggets of gold. The above is my favorite. I call it Leaves ordained by their creator.



I signed up to Google+. So far I am friends with Bill and Joel. Joel seems to like it and I have enjoyed looking at the pictures that Bill has posted.

It kind of feels like the frame of a large building in there. I see that the foundation is poured and that there are beams holding each other together, but other than that I think that I will probably need to wait a while before we see more builders in there.

Meanwhile, Facebook has slowed down quite a bit over the last few months. Either that or people just don't like talking to me anymore. As I've mentioned here, I had a feeling that it was coming to this. I just cannot stomach the updates anymore. People telling me what they are doing every second of the day is boring for me. I can't imagine how the Twitter people do it. In fact, I can't quite figure out why I signed up to Google+. I'm not sure why, but I have a feeling that a sort of 'fear of the future' was involved there. I'm not sure what that means, but it tends to prompt and direct me into numerous things.

I have just found out that Google+ is a word on Blogger and Facebook is not. This is of course because Blogger is owned by Google. It's getting pretty scary, isn't it, when Google tells me what qualifies as a word. What's next... anal probes?!


In other news, we spent the weekend in the mountains. We stayed at a sort of hotel thing with a bunch of other foreigners. It was a pretty good time. We even had a cookout with hotdogs. Someone cooked giant beef ribs on the fire. It was quite a scene.

Through all of the fun and good times I couldn't help but notice what a dump the place was.

Wait, first of all let me say that the national park that we were in is beautiful. This whole country is beautiful, and it was nice to go into the mountains and sort of pretend that we were back in Alberta listening to the river roar and the Moose getting it on.

There are no Moose in this national park, but they do have roaming pigs. This place is a pig paradise. There is trash everywhere. It would be so much better if they cleaned the place up a bit. Throw a little money at the problem. There are thousands of unemployed people that could come in and get paid to clean the place up. They could teach children to care about this national treasure and that throwing plastic trash out of your car window is bad for your grand children's health. The future is important for all of us, and especially for the Chinese. If there are going to be 2 billion people living here, then keeping it kind of neat should be a priority. They definitely have the man power to do it.


Speaking of dirty, Jonas is basically potty trained now. He doesn't like speaking much, so we kind of have to guess on when it's time to do his thing. But compared to Miles, Jonas sure knows how to hold in the urine. He can go hours at a time. The problem is that if we are too late after those hours of holding it, then there will be hours worth of urine on the carpet and a bashful looking Jonas with wet tighty whiteys and legs.

Nevertheless, nevertheless is my favorite word. It's like a run on word.

Nevertheless, it's nice to rid ourselves of the diapers for a while. We might have another kid or two down the road, but for now it's nice to save a little money in that area. Also, being in China we can limit the amount of eternal garbage (a wrapped up diaper) we contribute to this place.

Finally, my other blog will be added to more and more as the days go by. It will have some stories, poems and other things. Originally, I was not sure why I started another one but now I see that I can differentiate between the two based on the topical differences and the like. Sorry to make it complicated but it feels good to make it kind of organized on here.

So keep your eyes open for that kind of jazz over here.