Monday, April 30, 2007

Nothing Beats Family

Its so good to be back.

Sleeping in my own bed. With my wife. And my dog.

Tucked the kids into bed about 12:30 last night. I think they both gained 10 pounds in the last two weeks.

When I left here - there was snow on the ground. Now its 80 degrees today.

Everyone is up and excited and ready for the day.

Remind me again why I always have to leave?

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Support Group

My name is Greg - and yes, I am an ugly American.

Yesterday turned into a bigger problem than was originally envisioned. But that's just getting to be par for the course for me... :)

Let's back up.

I was originally supposed to be delivering a cut of this show on May 1. Cause the first week of May in China is a big holiday and everyone goes home. Including me - thank God.

But this show was supposed to be easy.

Unfortunately - it was not. While the script was approved - everything else has been in a constant state of flux between the US and Shanghai - with yours truely, the big middle finger - caught in the crossfire.

It seemed all was good - until Wednesday.

We were having a very nice phone conference between all three parties where I was explaining that because of the enormous amount of changes - we wouldn't be delivering the show as promised - until the week after the holidays.

This seemed to be going down OK - but suddenly - my phone cut out.

When I started this job back in August last year - the office manager in SF found a phone that would work in China and was tied to my bosses credit card. Only problem was - it would go for $30 dollars of calls - then cut out unexpectedly and without warning. Then it would come back on 4-5 hours later without announcement.

As my calls have heated up this week - the phone goes out once a day - usually at the worst time possible.

Yesterday I arrived at our session to find that Shanghai is livid because of some new changes that they didn't like. What they didn't know is that those changes were requested by the OWNER OF MY COMPANY. While I was on the phone with one underling in Shanghai to explain what was going on - his boss was writing a nasty email about me making unwarrented changes and starting to wonder if I was capable of delivering a cut.


Then I find out that while my editor is there - the graphic artist won't be there till noon. And I only have the edit till 2. And as soon as the graphics girl arrives - she goes to lunch.

And my phone doesn't stop ringing.

Putting out fires in Shanghai. Putting out fires in the States from the fires that started in Shanghai.

Somehow in the middle of all this - I am told I don't have any editing time for Friday. We've been bumped.

I am rushing the graphics girl as hard as I can. At 1:45 - she runs to the bathroom - and we have two more graphics to do. And they are not even rendering... and she doesn't come back for 20 minutes!

Now I am eating into someone elses session. Three ganster looking guys with a huge duffel bag of tapes are sitting in the lobby starring at me like I stole their baby.

We finish the graphics by 2:30 - really making everyone mad - and then realize that the place they want the last graphic is not matching the place where it came from. They want it in a new place. But there is nothing about what goes in the place we stole it from.

It might be interesting to note here that I am completely and utterly Lifetime Movie of the week illiterate in Chinese. I can speak. But I can't read. So I am having the graphic girl read me the script section where this new graphic is supposed to go - cursing in English - watching the tears drip down the cheeks of the gansters waiting for the suite - and calling Shanghai trying to figure things out cause the show HAS. TO. BE. DONE. TODAY.

When my phone cuts out.

And that's it.

I pulled the ugly American card.

Now granted. If you told the company that you wanted the edit suite everyday all week - and they said yes - you would assume you have the edit suite everyday all week.

But, grasshopper - this is China. And you are White. And don't assume.

So I went all Alec Baldwin on his daughter on the scheduler.

Long story short - I have 4 hours today to make it right. And a guy from Shanghai is flying in to help make sure its right.

But I have this really bad ignorant white man taste in my mouth. But I do feel really connected to my ancestors in a way that can only be made possible by thousands of years of imperialism and cultural ignorance.

So I have that going for me.

I am Greg. And I am an Ugly American...

Wednesday, April 25, 2007


I was supposed to be finished by now.

That would be the easy way to say it.

But I'm not. I keep thinking I'm closer - but not really sure if I am or not.

Each day I make changes - and load them to an FTP site.

One group - the Chinese clients - sit in Shanghai and make notes.
One group - the American clients - sit in the States and make notes.

The next day I get the notes and try to decipher them all.

Even when - especially when - they contradict each other.


And then between me, the editor, the smoke artist - we try to make some sort of decisions that will get us to the next set of notes. We cut and adjust and make nice - and then we burn a dvd, convert it MPEG and then I rush back to the hotel where I upload it - hopefully beating rush hour.

We were supposed to be done by now. We're not.

But I think we're closer....?

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

the joy of pain

This post comes out of a place of guilt.

There are only two things in Beijing that I do - besides work.

One is I usually go out to Bar Blu for quiz night. They have a three hour quiz night every Wednesday for teams and the place packs out with ex pats with nothing but time on their hands who want to get out and have an excuse to drink.

Heck - the prize is a big bottle of booze...

I am on a team with my co-worker Jade and her sister and a bunch of other revolving friends. We tied for first twice - and lost the tie breaker both times. Till last month - when we finally won - by four whole points!

I always leave before the bottle comes.

The other thing I love to do is go out with my Chinese counterpart Director Hu and play basketball on Friday nights.

Let me take a step back.

I was always the shortest kid in my class. And the youngest. I was even shorter than all the girls. The only thing I could do in sports was run. Not faster than people. Just longer. So while everyone was getting into all the different sports - I couldn't do much.

Then I discovered soccer. And I could kick with my left foot - so I was considered pretty good. All through elementary - I did OK and had something to hang my hat on - even if it was a very tiny hat to match my very tiny head.

Then we moved to Taiwan. Where everyone is good at soccer. And half my school was from Europe. And I sucked.

But a funny thing happened between my freshman and sophmore year.

I grew 8 inches.

So I took up basketball.

And I still sucked.

But I loved the game.

I was good enough to make the team my last three years of high school. But I really only got to play if we were really ahead in the last two minutes - or really behind in the last two minutes.

But I still loved the game.

In college I played intermurals. I got knocked around a lot and ended up getting both legs in a cast - at different times.

I've turned my knee.
Twisted my ankle.
Ripped my hamstring.
Taken a knee to the head resulting in 21 stitches above my eye.
Bitten through my tongue.

And in one glorious moment of playing on the pick up courts in grad school - I took a ball on the end of the thumb going for a steal. And my thumb was completely shoved inside my hand.

It was incredibly disturbing.

A couple thousand dollars and 15 stitches later - I'm almost as good as new.

In the last couple years I've slowed down a bit from playing 3 times a week. Mostly because I hurt too much the next day. But I still love the game.

Sad thing is - all the game has really given me back is injuries.

And I really am no better than when I started. Only now I'm getting worse.

But when the opportunity to play here in China presented itself - I jumped back in with both feet.

And they play crazy. Three thirty minute periods - regulation full court - no resting.

So last Friday - when I returned way too late from editing - with only minutes to go before I had to leave for basketball - I was panicing.

Somehow - I forgot to pack shorts.

It is rush hour here and to even go a mile - will take 15 minutes. There are no stores close by.

So I did the ugly American thing and went down to the hotel workout room and had to buy a pair of their crazy ugly shorts.

For $45.

I don't think I own anything past a pair of shoes for $45 - let alone a cheap ass pair of shorts.

But I love the game. And I bought the shorts.

Too bad the game just doesn't love me back...

Sunday, April 22, 2007

where did the day go?


Fun day. Nothing to do day. Play in the sun Day.

Sunday was a sadder day for me.

I hate to complain about being in China with so many things to do and see - but I spent the day locked in my room in a Veronica Mars marathon. I finished up season one in the morning - got through a good chunk of season two in the afternoon.

It was a great day out - but I didn't want to do anything. Unless it involved my family - but they are a couple thousand miles away. Would be better if Bill and John were here... but alas.

Hogan invited me out to meet a friend of his - a canadian guy who is a professor here and was apparently a famous hypnotist back home - but I didn't want to.

I left the room only to go over to a friends shop to buy a few more T-shirts, since my laundry won't be ready till Tuesday.

Two strange things from the weekend.

On my way to work on Saturday - I saw a girl lean her head outside of a bus window and puke all over the road. I quickly rolled my window up as we passed.

There is a park here near the dirt market. It is filled with old people - like in their 70s and 80s. They bring their birds out for a walk there. There are trees full of cages - covered cages, cause you wouldn't want the birds to get cold... or to see what their missing apparently. The seniors just sit around and talk while the birds stare at their coverings and wonder why they are suddenly so hot or so cold...

I got in the elevator with a guy the other day. Chinese guy. Dressed all cool. Probably in his mid forties... but a sharply dressed modern guy - even had a little soul patch.

But he had a matching mole. With a shocking amount of long grey hairs growing out of it. Like - 2 to 3 inches worth of hair. It really contrasted to his all black ensemble.

What is the deal with the mole hair? This isn't Kung Fu times anymore... I find it to be a bit ... I don't know what the right word is... Icky? I'm sure I'm just being incredibly culturally insensitive... but its kinda gross. Moles only look good on Cindy Crawford. And she has the decency to shave hers....

Back to work today. More editing on the notes from Shanghai. Nothing too serious. Actually pretty good notes. So I don't have much of a problem with them. Just have to see how long we are and if we really will be able to get everything done this week.

We shall see.

Here's another one from Pappa Hemingway:

"Tell me first what are the things, the actual, concrete things that harm a writer?"

"Politics, women, drink, money, ambition. And the lack of politics, women, drink, money and ambition," I said profoundly.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Keep on Smiling

Trust me I'm trying.

There are many reasons why I have the rep I have as a big middle finger.

Most of them are totally deserved.

But I'm starting to understand more and more why I seem to threaten people.

I think it's mostly because I don't just do what someone asks me to do.

I always ask the magic question.


Instead of just being subserviant and doing what I was told - I question the logic of the task. And this makes people mad.

It's no that I think I'm smarter than them - most of the time - its just that I like to think that if there is a GOOD reason for something to be done - I'll do it. If there isn't - I've got plenty of crap on my plate as it is.

Take today for instance.

I'm here in China with about 24 hours of footage for my show. That's a lot of tapes.

My American company wants copies of my tapes.

It's gonna cost a lot - not much for them - but I don't see the point. They aren't going to watch them. I had copies of my shoot from December there - and to this day only two people there had watched it - and neither of them are in positions of power.

And the tapes are all in Chinese.

No one there speaks Chinese. What is to be gained by this.

Its presented to me that if they have the footage - then they'll know how to help me when I edit. Sure. Like they're gonna dig through the footage and look to see if there is a shot I forgot about and find a place in the show to put it in.

So when I bring this up - people get upset. They agree with my logic - but they just want me to be a blind servant.

I tell them again that this is kinda silly. (Actually - I think I said "gay" which is not the PC word to use with a SF company.)

They just want me to do the work to find out the cost and then make a recommendation with the cost and they will decide.


I can tell you that you're stupid for free.

Hence - the middle finger.

I played basketball last night. Actually played really good. Just screwed up my knee and bit more - and had a migrane today from the fact that I didn't eat anything yesterday. So you can tell me I'm stupid for free now.

Gonna be editing straight through the weekend. No end in sight. It's great to be getting notes from a company in America and a company in Shanghai. I feel lucky and blessed.

Back at it....

Till then -- I'm just gonna keep smiling....

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Slaps to the face - kicks to the groin

Been reading a bit at breakfast everyday.

Been reading Ernest Hemmingway - On Writing.

Basically, its a collection of all the little tidbits he dropped on his process - in his stories, in his interviews and in his letters. Great stuff - and it beats the hell out of actually writing.

But for those of you looking for encouragement today - here's a bit from the book:

Ernest has a little conversation with a young writer. Ernest writes as "Your Correspondant" or Y.C. and addresses the you writer as "Mice."

He has just given "Mice" a list of books to read if he ever wants to fancy himself a writer.

A very exhaustive list.

A two page list. Single spaced. And he hasn't stop listing titles when Mice interrupts him-

Mice: I can't write them down that fast. How many more are there?

Y.C.: I'll give you the rest another day. There are three times that many.

Mice: Should a writer have read all of those?

YC: All those and plenty more. Otherwise, he doesn't know what he has to beat.

Mice: What do you mean "has to beat?"

YC: Listen. There is no use writing anything that has been written before unless you can beat it. What a writer in our time has to do is write what hasn't been written before or beat dead men at what they have done. The only way he can tell how he is going is to compete with dead men...

Mice: But reading all the good writers might discourage you...

YC: Then you ought to be discouraged.

How's that for a pat on the back???

Good writing friends... :)

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Changing face of technology

Time flies when you're working.

It seems like a thousand years ago we used to edit everything on film.

When I first started at Discovery - the other producer I worked with remembered actually taking one inch video tape and cutting it with scissors.

I joined the business at the height of the video revolution.

We were shooting beta and cutting everything in online suites.

Then non-linear arrived and changed everything.

It really is a whole new world.

The only thing that stays the same is that people still can't replace the story. Doesn't matter how you dress it up - if your story sucks - no amount of CG apes are gonna help you.

We're banging away at our show here.

Put in about 12 hours yesterday and expect to do the same today. Lots to do and lots to get done and never enough time for anything. But if it were the old days - I'd still be freaking out. Cutting and splicing and rolling trims... no thank you...

Its warm in Beijing. Like in the 70's... so it feels deliscious. Too bad I'm stuck in a tiny dirty room all day - working in the dark.

But thank God for the life of the mind... cause while it may be dark and dank in here - in my mind I'm on the beach with my kids... :)

Now all I need is a holodeck.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Continuing Education

It's morning.

I actually slept last night.

Maybe my new strategy of just never sleeping is starting to pay off. I can fit into any timezone as long as I just don't sleep more than 4 hours a day.

It's fun and easy! Try it at home.

Here's what I've been thinking about on this lovely Beijing morning:

(over 60 degrees here - and I left with 3 inches of snow on the ground in Indy.)

The more I work in China - the more qualified I am to consult others on how to work in China - and I feel as if - while each time I know more and do better - I still know very little.

I'm getting more and more people coming to me and asking for help and people want me to consult on their projects - and yet I don't know if I know what to tell them.

I know more than a lot of people. I've pulled off impossible feats. But I still don't really know if my knowledge is helpful.

And it's not like its anarchy over here.

It's still production. A grip is a grip.

But it's not like any production I've ever done in the states. And each place you work - there are slight variances. But not like here.

Today we begin our edit.

Should be fun. Exciting. And definately a learning experience. Lots to do and get done.

And lots more learning to take place.

At least its never boring...

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Go East, Young Man...

So said the banana. And who am I to argue?

Once again, I sit at the airport - readying to make the jump.

It's only 14 hours.

I stayed up all night - trying to stay on schedule. Now I'm very very tired.

I watched another three episodes of Battlestar Galatica. Made it through Malestorm - and there are three more episodes to go. Got them all on the ipod for the trip. While I still love the show - not feeling it like I did back in Season one and two.

Caught up on Lost while I was home. And was sad to learn there has been only one episode of Heroes since I left.

Can't believe I'm going back to China. I was just in China. Now I'm back again. And again. I am going to pass 100,000 qualifying miles on United on this trip. That puts me in their 1k Club. I've got over 300,000 miles on United in the last year - but this is 100,000 miles since January.

How sad is that?

Every mile is a testament to a lost moment with my family.

Wow. Depressing.

Shouldn't seem sad all the time. Must just be the lack of sleep. I actually love China and love the people there. Just still not sure about the whole coporate world and my place in it. Been freelancing way too long and not sure if my fragile middle finger temperment is made for the corporate ladder.

But production by any other name...

Wife and kids and dog drove me over. Then followed me through the terminal from the van on the outside. My son told me he didn't want me to go. I didn't want to go either.

Company actually brought up this week that maybe it was a good idea to consider moving over there. Instead of SF. Who knows. I just know this constant back and forth and not knowing what's next is getting old.

But there is good news.

I had a big conference call with all the powers that be. 8 people on the line and I led the charge. Everything went well and I got a lot of props. Like Pavlov's dog - I salivate at any encouragement. It did buy me some space and I immediately used to to tell people at work to back off.

Seems to have worked.

So here I go again on my own.
Going down the only road I've ever known.
Like a drifter I was born to walk alone.

But I've made up my mind...
I ain't wasting no more time...

Back to China.

Little did he know....

Did you say "little did he know?" I've written papers on "little did he know." I taught an entire class on "little did he know."

I think was my longest ever holiday break from blogging in two years.
It wasn't so much a break as a crisis?
It wasn't so much a crisis as a breakdown?

Nah. Maybe it was a vacation.

Very strange week. Lots of pressure. Lots of Conference calls. Lots of fights with work. Lots of different arguments.

I don't think I won any. Didn't really lose either - except in the long term - where instead of letting people escape with their dignity - I self sabotage to the point that people want revenge on me.

The big middle finger.

I've watched Stranger than Fiction three times in the last week. It's a great movie. Clever, fresh, fun. And ultimately uplifting. Go see it.

Gym Class Heroes
Bloc Party
Bright Eyes new CD
Stranger than Fiction soundtrack - by Britt Daniel from Spoon - one of the best bands ever.

I've basically spend most nights up - doing nothing other than worrying. Sleep about 4 hours in the day - and try to be with my family the rest of the time.

Like a Zombie.

And now - my week is done and I gotta get back on the plane and head back to China - for two weeks of editing. Gotta deliver one show - and start the next.

And there doesn't really seem to be any end in sight.

I gotta keep going over and back through most likely the beginning of July.

And then - who knows?

I sat with Ryan this week. Went to lunch with Shawn. Reminded me what life was. Played with my kids at Tokens and Tickets. Beat my daughter at air hockey. Pod Raced with my son. Went to coffee with my wife. Human contact. Very nice.

It would be great if I could use my time over there to write.

Maybe? I'll try to.

Back to the plane.

How are you?

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Must... Stop....

Deja Vu.

This is a great week. Full of conference calls. Full of things I don't need to be doing. Full of people second guessing what we did.

It's all in the name of what can we do so that next time things won't be the same.

But really its all about covering ass.

When we returned from China in 99 - we had just finished the first co-production ever for a dramatic Chinese TV series. It took everything out of us and we came back looking like we were POW's - all long hair and nail and 20 pounds lighter than when we left.

Shawn and I went into a meeting and it started right in.

Not - hey, great job. Not - wow, you guys really killed yourselves. You must be tired.

Just this.


How come....?

Why didn't you....?

And now here - 8 years later - the same noise.

They say its so things can get better in the future - but that's not usually it. It's more about why did you make bad decisions.

I'm still beat up. I'm tired. And really - I shouldn't be on a call with anyone. When I don't say anything - they say I need to speak up. When I speak up - they say I sound a little too sensitive.


But I am so looking forward to the seven person conference call tomorrow night. Can't wait for that round robin of abuse.

So there's that to look forward to...

Nevertheless - we press on. Whining and kicking and getting emo....

But we press on.

I need more sleep....

Monday, April 09, 2007

Back to it...

Hope you had a good Easter. I know he did.

So much happens in life.

Everyday is made up of so many little stories. And you feel as if you really need to find a way to get them all down or they disappear. I like to work them into things I'm writing - or tell them again and again - cause they help connect the dots.

I'm not sleeping.

I want to - but I don't want to. I know I'm just here for a week and then I'm back to China for two. If I commit to getting back on schedule here - I'll be off there. And one week is hard to commit to when I have so much I need to do there. So I live in two worlds and can't really be a part of either.


Yesterday - at my parent's house for Easter Dinner - we had a gathering. We usually have everyone who doesn't have someplace to go over. I think there was about 35 people there.

Someone brought orange jello. Which reminds me of a story.

In the early 90's - I got a job doing a big sales piece for a new wire service. They were going to try to be the new AP or something like that. They even secured a spot as one of 5 radio services that could handle the presidents weekly radio address.

I flew to DC and spent a week with the various reporters at the different buildings they covered. The White House. Congress. Whatever. I went and did a big press event with Clinton and lined up with the reporters on the front lawn - covering a big event. Shook hands with Jesse Jackson.

Kinda fun.

And then we went to New York.

The service had bought a huge lit up billboard in Times Square and ran their news feed on the bottom of it.

There was a guy who worked for the company and he had a small single engine plane.

You know the type.
The kind that so many people have died in.

Three people fit in it. The pilot, the cameraman and me.

We flew up to NY in the morning - shot the board in the day - and then had to wait till night to shoot it again. We didn't have anything to do while we waited.

The company that owned the sign were japanese. The guy that managed the sign was Estonian. He asked if we wanted to go to the Estonian lodge with him while we waited.

Sure. Not often one gets invited to the Estonian lodge.

It was a tiny tiny place somewhere in the city I have never found again.

We went in - and it was almost pitch black. Full of drunk old men in their 70's. And I had one of the best times of my life.

It was afternoon - but these guys came here everyday.

There was a young blond waitress in her 20's in a short skirt - and all the old guys teased her.

They proceeded to break out a bottle of vodka and sing. And tell stories. And sing some more.

My cameraman could barely walk when we left.

I don't drink. Or didn't when this happened. So I had a Coke and listened.

Our host told me how he had his first drink in this place as a boy - stealing from an abandoned glass.

How he saw a man actually drink till he passed out and fell off his barstool here - and he pointed to the very stool.

How he remembers his dad sitting him down on Christmas Eve - at this very table - and giving him an orange for Christmas - cause it was all he could afford.

And how whenever he smells oranges - he thinks of Christmas.

We all sang songs in languages I could never understand - and even danced a little in the most non-gay all male dance I have been involved in in my life.

And we learned how the Russians are all heartless bastards.

Then we shot the sign and went home.

Not before the cameraman decided - in his drunken stupor - that we should get a shot of the city as we left from the tiny plane. And proceeded to pop the canopy on the plane while we were in the air - sending my script flying out all over the city of Manhatten.

When he asked if he could fly - I decided to take a nap - cause I heard if you're relaxed when you crash - you have a better chance of surviving.

Needless to say - I made it back.

And now everytime I smell oranges - I think of the Estonian lodge.... and a guy falling off his barstool....and singing and dancing - and almost dying in a small plane above NYC.

So I'm gonna lay off the jello for a while...

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Happy Easter

In keeping with tradition - here's my Easter Post.

If you read here with any regularity - you see I'm a typical self absorbed selfish dork who happens to love film and the community that surrounds it. I love my friends and my family.

But I usually complain about everything else.

Can't stand most of the executives that I've worked with - excluding those who love my work - you guys are great.

Most of the time - this blog addresses all the things that tick me off and this gives me a place to vent and whine...

But Easter is a great day. A day of hope for humanity. Hope for a sinner like me.

While I would never presume to be something I am not - I certainly have no problem humbly addressing who I am.

A habitual sinner in need of grace and saving.

Every day I fall short of the standard set by God and some days I not only fall short myself - but I bring others down as well. I don't consider my situation enough. I don't reflect enough. I don't do what I should. Some days I don't even try.

But I know that 2000 years ago - someone died for me - and took my sin on himself.

And I am not worthy of it. And I don't appreciate it near enough. And sometimes I don't even say thanks.

The great thing is that God loved me while I was still an idiot.
While I was still a dork.
While I'm still a dork.
An unworthy ungrateful dork.
And no matter what nonsense I still perpetrate - I can't change his love.

Doesn't matter what we have - its not enough and will never be.

Doesn't matter where we are - its not where we want to be and never will be.

We always want more.

God forgive my foolish and unthankful heart.
On this day help me be mindful.
Help me grateful.
Help me show grace and love to others.

Thank you for your love, grace, and sacrifice.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

The meaning of Victory!

There are many types of Victory.

As I am still learning.

When you are freelance - you mark your victories by how well your show is received. Yes you survived production. Yes - it looks really good. Yes - people like it. And then you know you did OK when the client calls again.

Its pretty cut and dry.

When you work somewhere... well... not so much.

I remember coming back from China the first time.

We had a company foot the bill for part of our production. We were over there an ungodly amount of time and survived. We pulled off the first co-production of its kind - an unlikely feat in China. And when we got back - we were put to the fire.

Not for what we did - but how we did it.

I about lost it.

Shawn held me back.

I calmed myself down as I realized that this company really didn't care about whether or not we completed a show or whether or not the show itself was any good.

All they cared about was maintaining status quo.

And that's what I see now.

Its never about the work - but about how the work is done.

Production is a beast. Even at its best - it is a raging machine of moving parts with multiple heads threatening to go in all different directions at once - and all it takes is a banana peel to take it down. To survive you become part juggler, part engineer, part showman, and part con artist.

And I am all about process. It is easy to forget. Most people just care about the end result and don't care who they step on to get it. I believe the opposite. The process is important. But so are the end results.

Now that I'm at a company - while the results are important - what really matters most - is control.

Checking in every day with all the details of your day are way more important than what you did or what details you are reporting.

Victory is achieved by not upsetting the delicate balance. Don't rock the boat. Do as you're told and what you're told and little to nothing more. We're not so much interested in what you're doing as we are that you are telling us something.

And it's pretty sad.

Far better to raise a sword to this Monday being the same as the one before it that to make it a better one - because in making it better - we also suffer the chance that it might be a worse one.

Or something like that.

My personal Victory is measure by the fact that I returned home. That no one died on the shoot. And besides the footage being incredibly dirty - the shots looked great. My part was done to the best of my abilities - pretty much.

And while no one gives a rats ass that we did our jobs - that we did it in another culture, in another language, with entirely different ways of working and understanding and at less than a 10th of the budget - I know that my wife at least thinks I'm cool.

Or ... she used to think that. Now she just has to love me cause she's stuck with me.

I think. I hope.

So let's toast to a meaningless victory from a meaningless battle that's still being fought over meaningless terms.


Friday, April 06, 2007

Former Glory

Who says White Men Can't Jump?

I finally made it home. Just two delays... but only two flights... so I'm two for two!

It's incredible to see the family again. All crazy and kooky.

Add to that my wife's family is showing up today after driving in from Virginia for the last 15 hours. They're coming with their three kids... and my mother in law.

So I'm in the basement sleeping on the couch.

Welcome home!

And it's snowed here the last two days. The entire time I'm gone - 70 degrees. I come home - 30 degrees. What's up with that?

I have one week here before I get banished back to China.

Life and death. My best friend Shawn and his wife had a baby - Sutton. Rhymes with Button and Mutton. Better than Lydia which rhymes with Clamydia. Or Delores - which rhymes with....

And Director Hu's Dad died.

I feel like I'm in the Lion King. Just can't tell if I'm Simba or Scar. More like Poomba.

So this will be my "work from home" week. Will be filled with conference calls and script writing. Or that's the idea.

But for today... it's just hanging with the family.

Cause my kids actually believe I can dunk.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

It's true...

Or so I'm told...

We went out for Korean BarBQ the other night.

And we had Dog.

I am the hugest dog lover in the world. If I had to kill and skin a dog - there is no way on earth I could.

But put it on a plate in front of me - with the dirty work already done....

Let him who is without sin...

We have a girl who works for us. Her name is Star and she is a fashion major. Dresses really crazy - but she is super cool. She told me the other day one of her favorite things to eat is dog meat.

Now everytime we see a puppy I ask her if she is hungry.

She just smiles.

She is making a skirt for my wife. When I told her that Star loves dog - she didn't want her dirty fingers covered in the blood of innocent puppies anywhere near anything she would put on her body.

But - like the poster says - puppies die. And if they are already dead - why not eat them?

This is my last full day in China. Lots of meetings. This morning our DP hit the road and tonight - out Art Director is gone. I am here alone.

Utterly Alone.

I have more meetings and then that's it.

As much as I love China - I surely do love my wife and kids more and don't recommend anyone being on the road for a month straight. I can't wait to be back home.

Even if it means I turn around and head right back.

But what is one to do?


Off to meetings.

And if you want the Chinese to stop eating dogs - stop sticking things in your....

Monday, April 02, 2007

Good Kitty Bad Kitty.....

There are always two sides to every story -

And the end result to every disagreement ends the same way....

In China - the foreign devil pays.

Lao Wai is the term that we are known as. Even now. Foreign Devil. Kinda funny - kinda amusing - kinda racist in a sweet way.

Yesterday we went to the telecine. When you shoot commercials on film - you go to an expert colorist who sits with your negative and works the colors and contrast as you lay back to video.

The telecine process is one of my favorite parts of the job. You get to see the footage you shot come to life in a new way - usually before anyone else.

For the last 11 years - I always go to the same guy out in LA - Claudius. I've followed Cladius everywhere - through 7-8 different post houses. He knows my style and what I like. Everytime we shoot film - we go to Claudius.

But Claudius isn't in China.

And we are editing in China - so we telecine here.

The guy here is nice. He's been doing TC for 15 years - so he knows what he's doing.

Sort of.

As we started going though the rolls - I have never seen negative so dirty. Each roll seemed to get worse.

Kodak had just put a new lab in here... Its actually on the same grounds as our editing place. The TC guy said that a lot of the footage from Kodak came back this dirty. I couldn't believe it.

So we called the lab.

And they looked at the footage.

And they couldn't believe it either.

So they came back and said that it was the telecine. And that it must have happened there.

And the telecine guy says its the labs fault.

So we take another roll and go back to the lab. And look at it again.

And we don't see any problems.

So the answer is:

Maybe its no ones fault. Maybe its everyone's fault.

Either way - I have to pay. No one admits its their fault - and now we have to go frame by frame and clean up the dirt.

In five minutes, the TC op, my producers and the Kodak rep were arguing over how long the battery life on their computers are. We so quickly forget - and in the end - I pay.

There are lots of little conflicts like this here.

Its never really about taking responsibility - cause its all usually written off to a cultural misunderstanding. I have been in Asia for a large part of my life - and I'm not sure that I understand - even now. And I don't know how to solve it.

I love the guys I work with here. They are good guys. But there is never any fault.

Just two ways of doing things.

Good kitty. Bad Kitty.

And somewhere in the middle is the truth.

All others pay cash.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Daddy's gonna pay

...For your crashed car....

We're done shooting.

The last three days were long. Not long in the sense that the hours were long - but long in the sense that they never seemed to end or go quick enough.

Normally - I love production. I live for production.

But the last three days.... not so much.

On Saturday - Director Hu didn't show up in the morning.

When I asked where he was - they told me he had to rush to the hospital. His father has been there since Chinese New Year - but he suddenly took a turn for the worst and didn't look like he would make it. Director Hu is 52. I'm not sure how old his dad is - but I can imagine what he's going through.

I took time to pray for him and his family.

His dad is still alive - and doing a bit better - but they don't have much hope.

On the crazy side - Director Hu has a guy that his job is to look after his dad full time. While in the hospital - Director Hu's dad - who is very lucid - pulled him aside and told his son that he really hates that guy who is watching him and wants him to go.

Director Hu sent the guy out to buy something.

As soon as the guy left - His dad started crashing. He got worse and worse - until the guy got back. And then he suddenly recovered. And the pattern continued all weekend.

God has a strange sense of humor.

We all feel helpless in the sight of death and suffering - and culturally - I wasn't sure what we were supposed to do - flowers? What? But we were told to do nothing - cause it didn't seem like he would make it. So I prayed. Mostly for the family.

Another thing that got me through the shoot was two massive dog beasts.

They don't treat their animals very well over here. Usually - if you see dogs - they are dirty, unfed, and chained up.

The studio has two giant dogs chained up outside in the back to keep people from stealing stuff. And when I say giant - I'm guessing the smaller of the two dogs is about 130.

They told me not to go near them cause they bite.

So of course - I go near them.

Everytime there was a break in filming - I would go out and talk to the little one. Again - little being about 130.

He would snarl and bark and froth - but I just kept talking to him in a high pitched voice - trying to calm him down.

Eventually - he would hear me coming and get all excited. But each time I got close - he would start snapping - so I stayed just out of reach of his chain.

I found a tennis ball that had been cut to be on top of a C stand - and brought it to him. I would throw it in the air - and he would catch it.

Then proceed to rip it to shreds like it was my flesh.

Eventually I could coax him to drop it and push it towards me. Day two we played this game a few times - with him dropping it closer and closer in - and me being a bit nervous to try to take it.

Yesterday - i brought him a waterbottle - since he ate the tennis ball.

We played with that a bit - until I finally got close enough to pet him. Then he loved me. He would shove his whole dirty body against me and cry as I pet him. My hands would be black from dirt when I was done - but it was worth it.

The funniest part was later - the owner came out. Saw that I loved his dogs. And he let them loose to run around a bit in the back.

The little dog - 130 - brought me a brick. I kid you not. He brough over a brick and we played fetch with a brick.

How silly is that? A freaking brick.

Welcome to China.

Today we go to the transfer. Should be a good day. Will be nice to see our footage.

I can't wait to go home - but still have 4 days. Will have been here a month - and they want me to come back for another month. Don't think I will. Or want.

But for now - I'm still cleaning up the pieces of this accident.

Tomorrow's will have to wait.