It’s been about a week since I got back from Beijing, China where we shot the pilot “Lost and Found in Beijing” and it’s about time I share part of this adventure with you!
Traveling to China, despite taking quite a long time between the flights and layovers, went well and was problem free. Daniel and I made our journey together, while Kevin was already in China getting ready for the shoot. Once we got in, Kevin along with a couple of friends (who’d help us with the shoot and our stay in China) were there to pick us up. We got settled in and took the next day getting a little tour of our neighborhood and discussing the next two weeks. Walking distance from where we stayed were these outdoor body weight workout machines and this indoor ping-pong area! Watching people play, I got invited to a few games and…well let’s just say in China they don’t mess with their ping-pong; best players I’ve ever seen in person. On a few occasions, Daniel and I took advantage of the machines as well.
Shooting was pretty relaxed for the most part. We had more than enough time to get everything in, reschedule a few days due to weather or other factors and do some tourist stuff! Not only was it a great experience shooting in a different country, but on top of that, I had scenes where I spoke broken Chinese (Mandarin to be specific, and yes, my character is a fast learner) to local Chinese people. Acting in a completely different language with someone who barely spoke English was fun! Another interesting thing is that Kevin would hire some actors just before the shoot. It happened at this film academy where actors would just hang out in an area, and wait for someone who needed people as extras or for small roles. The ones that ended up working with us were not only surprised, but pleased that they were acting for a foreign production with foreign actors!
So not only did we have a great time when we worked, shooting scenes all over Beijing thus exploring the city in the process, but Kevin also took us to places (just to visit) like Summer Palace and parts of the Great Wall! I think most of us have a general idea of what the Wall is about, but to be there, to see it, was completely different. Kind of like when I went to Egypt, seeing the temples and the Pyramids in person; looking at pictures and reading about them don’t do these justice. The same can be said about the Great Wall. You realize how difficult it must have been to build this when you’re standing on it, in the mountains. Some sections were so steep you felt like you were climbing, not just going up a flight of stairs. Then you think, people built that over thousands of kilometers, on uneven terrain, in the mountains (at least the parts I visited)… What an incredible feat. Oh and we filmed this one shot “fight scene” between Daniel and I, just for fun…which I hope to share with you once I get the footage.
Going back to the actual show, again, we shot parts of “Lost and Found in Beijing” in many different locations. From a beautiful park walking distance away (well, to Kevin everything under 5 kilometers was walking distance…okay…that might be a slight exaggeration), to an art district, small streets, types of alleyways, the exterior of a train station and a noodle shop; it was a great way to visit Beijing. We didn’t really have any problems with shooting anywhere (except a few hiccups at the park). Sometimes people gathered to watch, some asked questions, this one girl got really excited and wanted our pictures, and some…I asked to be in the shoot! There was a guy at one point who was watching us, curious about what we were doing… He proceeded to asking us few questions. Well, after giving him the answers he wanted, I asked HIM a question…if he wanted to be in the show! He responded very enthusiastically, so we got him riding his bike in the background going down the alley we were shooting in. Another instance a young girl was doing the same thing, being curious about what a bunch of foreigners were filming. So, as I knew we’d have to shoot this other scene eventually (which we didn’t have actors for yet), I asked if she’d be into playing a small speaking role after we finished with what we were shooting. Very happy to be a part of our project, she even helped us get another girl to play her friend, and after discussing what we needed from them, we had ourselves a scene! Kevin was pleased with this as it meant one less scene to worry about and no actors to hire.
Speaking of walking, we did a lot of it. So much so that Kevin took us to a foot massage place…then a few days later to another one where they worked on our backs, legs and feet. However, the second place was done by people who were blind, or were visually impaired to a certain degree. It’s a very interesting choice of profession for them, and I’m under the impression that it’s encouraged in China. This kind of work really allowed them to use their heightened sense of touch which most of them have developed to a higher degree over the average person.
Another highlight of the trip was this restaurant which had a stage and an evening show. After going through most of our meal, the show began and it comprised of a hostess/signer, four dancers, a mask changing magician, a one woman contortionist/Cirque du Soleil style of show and a tea guy! The signer had a great voice, signing famous Chinese songs. The magician just did one thing; change his mask. But the way he did it, the speed of which he did it, was very impressive. It was almost like it changed on it’s own…has to be seen. The “bendy” girl moved in ways most people can’t even begin to attempt, balanced in ways you can see in troupes such as the one I mentioned previously; we were in awe. As for the tea guy, he had this teapot with an extra long spout that he spun around like it was a weapon in a martial arts film. He then went around a few tables and poured people tea. As I tried to figure out if you had to request this, or pay or whatever, he shows up at our table, performs us a short set of moves right in front of us, then pours me a cup! If that didn’t make me feel special enough, the dancing girls came into the crowd and one of them asked me to come dance with them on stage where I tried to keep up with their footwork. All and all a very fun and memorable evening!
Well, I tried to keep it short but there was so much to say and obviously so much was also left out. Overall, other than that getting some great footage, it was an awesome experience and opportunity to work in a foreign country like China. Flight back was long but problem free…and we even shot a scene in the plane (the script called for it, and we were able to pull it off)! Thanks to Kevin for flying us out and taking us on this adventure, his friend in China for accommodating us, and his other friend who came to help out!