Monday, September 26, 2005

Horses, and Ang Lee's little brother

Update: Paul's done a little photo-essay of the day's shoot here.

I was going to entitle this entry "Battered", because that's how I felt in many ways afterwards. But I thought better of it, and you're probably more interested in the horses anyway.

I met Dean and Paul at Darrell's house on Sunday morning, after only having gotten a few hours' sleep the night before due to a band gig. We've been having nightly rainshowers lately, but the weather is always fine by morning. Dean had driven the rather odiferous van we rented over so that Darrell could get all his stuff in without having to lug it all to the MRT. Our plan was to film the horses quickly and then do another scene that involved some complicated setups. As usual, we bit off a bit more than we could chew.

Anyway, we drove over to Dean's house, where we met the actors and Shirzi, and after some annoying parking complications, we headed out to Guandu, where the horse farm was located. We found it with little trouble, although I'm pretty sure we managed to cross a pedestrian footbridge in the van at one point.

The place was basically a few shacks, a stables and a corral. A couple of Shetland ponies were tied up nearby, and a beautiful white horse with a broken leg walked around a grassy wetland bordered by the bird santuary. It smelled, but after the van it smelled pretty good.

We went down to get the lay of the land. It turned out that the horses only went certain places, and the area I wanted, of the three main actors riding off into the distance, was in an area the horses had never been too. There was a lot of consternation about the two inches of water, which didn't make sense to me as I'm pretty sure I've seen horses ford rivers before.

Darrell and I set up our cameras while the actors rode around the corral getting used to their mounts. I kept looking at my watch and asking Dean if he'd asked them about our time, but they said not to worry about it. Obviously they were planning to charge us for every minute and probably more, but there was nothing I could do at that point. I found a piece of corrugated plastic to cover my camera from the sun and waited.

We got the riding-into-the-distance shot in two takes without much of a problem. Well, April's horse decided to start lunch first and refused to move for a bit, but otherwise, it went ok. We then moved into the more familiar grassy area to do the other shots. Mounting went smoothly, but the shot where Maurice is leading the other two horses ended up in his own mount galloping away with him a couple of times. He did eventually gain masterful control of his horse, towards the end. Although I had to keep my camera away from that particular horse's green saliva, which it could fling surprising distances.

Once we were done with the horses, we filmed the actors in shots with no horses needed. Dean informed me that the place was charging us NT$8000, many times the original amount, for the horses, which was of course no surprise.

It was about 4pm by the time we got back to Dean's neighborhood for the other scenes with the van, and the light was failing fast. At one point, while Dean and Shirzi had gone to get some bagels, a policeman came up and asked, "Are you part of an international film crew assigned here from a studio?"

"Uh, no," I answered. "We're just a bunch of friends, uh, filming stuff. You know, for fun."

"Oh," he said. "Well, ok, then. See you."

Ok, then.

We didn't get too much done before it was too dark to film, but we got a couple of things before I had to call it a day. It was an insane schedule in any case; it wasn't likely that we would have gotten everything we planned done. It just means we'll have to rent the van again next weekend. More money.

We were packing up, and I handed the camera over to Darrell before hopping over the hedge. As I did so, I completely missed the curb on the other side and fell flat on my face. Well, I fell flat on my knee, shin, and wrist, actually. Ouch. Only a little blood, though, and a sore wrist and knee.

I was really tired, but I had to eat, so i went with Paul and Darrell to Bongos for dinner. As we ate, the sky opened up and gave us our nightly deluge. It didn't show any signs of stopping, so we walked quickly towards the nearest MRT. As we crossed in front of the temple on Xinsheng S. Road, I slipped on the wet tiles and fell on my ass. Thankfully, the camera didn't break, but by the time I got home I'd just about had it. After that day's shoot, the schedule, my wallet and I had all taken a real beating. That was when I thought up "Battered" as a title for this post. But after some snacks, a hot shower and some Firefly, I felt a lot better, thanks.

Now, about Ang Lee's little brother (you thought I'd forgotten, didn't you?): A friend of mine, a French fellow named Jean-louis, was introducing a friend of his who works at the French Institute here to Ang Lee's little brother, Khan, so he invited me along to the dinner. I showed up at the Round Table Teppanyaki Restaurant on Dunhua South Road, across from the Far Eastern Hotel, at 6:30, and sat while being fussed over by waitstaff who had no clue to which party I belonged to. Jean-louis showed up rather later, and we dined on outrageous dishes like goose liver, truffles, squid that actually tasted good (a first for me), and extremely good steak. There was also champagne and red wine.

Khan Lee looks a lot like his brother. We chatted about a lot of things, including moviemaking, fight scenes, the army, why Chinese people have round heads, and golf. He seems very quiet and unpreposessing. I said I might have some questions for him when it came time to seek distribution for our film, and he gave me his card. He seemed genuinely shocked when I told him about how much we'd spent on the film.

"You mean NT$5,000,000, right? Or NT$500,000. maybe?"

"No, about NT$50,000, so far. That's a very rough guess, of course."

"But what about renting lights?" he asked in the car as he gave me a ride home. "Other equipment? Any name stars? Any name anything?"

"Nope."

"Amazing!"

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