Thursday, November 17, 2011

Hangzou

Bridget on the shores of West Lake, Hangzhou
"There's heaven, there's earth, and in between there is Hangzhou."  Or so the saying goes.  Bridget and I got to experience the most beautiful of what Hangzhou has to offer.  We stumbled upon an add looking for a family, or a single businessman to give up and couple of days and be filmed running around the various touristy spots of Hangzhou for a tourism video.  Bridget submitted our family but they ended up already having a family and wanted to use me as the business man.
Morning Fog on West Lake, Hangzhou
   What the heck?  The adventure began with Bridget and I catching a cab downtown Shanghai to the Fly Films studio where manager Xining (pronounced shee-nee) and fashion consultant DD took us to H & M to get fitted for costumes.  I brought a few shirts and pants with me, but they didn't like my stuff!  We spent that evening trying on clothes, sending pics of me in them to the director, who then gave his thumbs up or thumbs down.  We left with a few outfits picked out and a tour of their makeshift office in the French Concession, and two train tickets to Hangzou leaving on Friday 10/30 and returning Tuesday 11/2.
   We decided to leave our girls with the care of Mirjam (neighbors) with their own costumes and very specific trick or treating and what not intstructions (which Quinn interpreted with her own judgement...another story!)  Thus, a driver picks us up Sunday afternoon, takes us to the Hongqiao train station, and we board the bullet train for Hangzou!  This baby travels 311 KM/hour, making this 150 kilometer trip in much less than an hour - not bad.
Inside the "Bullet Train"

Notice the camera!  Hey My Sis Worked for Them!!
   We arrive in Hangzou to much smog and some confusion about where to find our connection. Although a touristy, small resort town on a lake, the city of Hangzou still has over 7 million people, and NO traffic control.  Once we got picked up it was the longest 1.5 hour 3 mile car ride I'd ever had.  We got checked into our hotel, met with Norman, the director, who gave us cash and a suggestion for dinner.   The place he recommended was hosting a wedding this evening.  It was a large buffett with tons of traditional Chinese food.  This ended up being a great opportunity for us to try some new food. Crab, clams, mussels, various fish, meat and veggies, and a bottle of beer.  Not bad.  We got back to the hotel and were to meet in the lobby the next morning for a 5:30 AM call.  Wow, that's early!
    We meet Norman, along with Adrian - the producer, Mark - the cameraman, and about a dozen crew members and support staff.  We pile into busses and head to the first location for a shoot, an old buddhist temple.  We have a small plastic bag filled with a modest breakfast.
     Norman, Adrian, and Mark, explain to us their over all concept for the shoot.  It will be a promotional tourism video for the city of Hangzou to be aired on CNN, Adrian's employer.  The idea is that Hangzou is so beautiful and relaxing that a businessman (me) could find time during his visit to wander around the many attractions of the area.
     We arrive at the temple, make up is applied, the crew sets up there stuff and I'm floored to see they're suing a RED camera!  Wow, I tell everyone I know that my sister used to work for RED and that I think it's the coolest thing in the world that I'm actually seeing a real RED camera.  Everyone is mildly impressed.
  It is cold and smokey due to the masses burning incense, but beautiful and a very impressive temple with a massive buddha.  Bridget and I get to hang out, enjoy the sights, and every now and then I have to "walkie walkie lookey lookey" as Adrian puts it.  After a few shots at the temple (Probably a total of 20 seconds for the film but 3 hours of work for these guys) we walk around the back side to the buddhist caves.  Again walkie lookey walkie lookey, but this time there are plenty of crowds.
    Next we move on to a national park or something.  We eat lunch here (taditional Chinese) and take more footage. We meet a local man, Alex, who is a liason for us with the hangzou government.  He has to play middle man for a few policeman who are curious in what's going on.  We soon pack up and head to the last location, a tea plantation.
Street Writer Patiently working the streets
THE Master non-asher!

Filming at the temple
   This place was incredible.  Beautiful rolling hills and rows and rows of tea.  When we first get there, bridget asks a woman if she can get a couple of cups of tea to go for us.  This takes much translation, she isn't quite understanding until finally she walks up with two cups and a large thermous.  Great!  We take it with us and head up the hill to where the shoot is.  However, the tea woman is soon running after us..."Wait Wait, you have my tea cups!" in chinese.  Norman helps us explain everything and off we go. The producers have staged this and are paying 100 yuan ($15) each to a number of the local tea pickers (Women old enough to be grandmothers) who climb the hills and begin picking tea.  The filming begins and as I've realized, these three guys (Norman, Adrian, and Mark) have varying levels of perfectionism, Mark leading the pack, so MUCH care and time goes into each of these shots.  We work until close to dark when Mark is leading the crew - camera, rig, gaffs, and tons of equipment I don't know the name of, way way up up up this mountain looking for the ideal shot.  The crew is tired, smoking, and losing the good attitude when finally Norman shouts out "NO MORE" fortunately, before anyone lost it, we wrapped it up with good footage and headed back to the bus and to a GREAT place for dinner called Green Tea - really out in the middle of the hills outside of Hangzou.  Plenty of Chinese people on the crew to order good food for us.  One of the best meals Bridget and I have had since being here in China. Back to the hotel and to bed for another pre dawn call.
       The next morning we head to West Lake, the pride and joy of hangzou.  It really is something else.  As we are warming up and waiting for the crew to get set up (Mark and Norman were up at 4:30 climbing some mountain to get a good sunrise time lapse shot) Bridget and I see this older gentleman writing on the street.  He has a bucket of water which he dipped into the lake and what looks like a paint brush that is about 4 feet long.  He dips the brush in the bucket of water and writes incredibly meticulously constructed chinese characters about 1 foot in length each in straight lines and columns on the street.  People drive the motorcycles and walk all over them, but he just keeps on writing until he runs out of water in the bucket.  Then he packs up his stuff and leaves!
Reviewing a take up in the hills of tea country
  The first shoot of the day was to be of me walking by a tai-chi class and admiring it.  The crew had hired the local tai-chi master and about 5 others to perform for this.  The master was awesome.  he warmed up by lighting a cigarette and beginning his routine.  He went through the whole routine puffing on the butt, but never grabbing it and ashing.  As a result he had this HUGE ash on his cigarette, but it never fell due to his mastery smooth tai chi moves!
   After shots at the lake we ended the day at a tea house in the city.  After a late night, we were driven to the train station and back home to Shanghai via the bullet train in time to see Quinn to bed.  It should air on CNN in the next month or so.

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