Poagao's Journal

Absolutely Not Your Monkey

Aug 07 2005


It was only a few days before we were going to start shooting the rooftop chase scene, which in the script takes place in Beijing. I’d narrowed down my search of the exteriors to the old veteran’s community of Treasure Hill in Gongguan, but I still needed a suitable interior -all the interiors at Treasure Hill were too small, cramped, and had bars on the windows. Even the houses with no roofs still had bars on their windows. And we needed a window we could jump and shoot from.

One night I was in the Gongguan area when I discovered a group of old, decrepit two-story houses, partially torn down and the windows broken. Some didn’t have bars on them. I was dismayed to find the entrance shut, but then I saw the employee from a restaurant bordering the area exit the gate. I waited a bit and tried the gate. It was open. I made my way over the debris from the partial demolition, through invisible spiderwebs, to the door of the first house. I used my pocket flashlight to examine the rooms, but didn’t find any suitable ones.

I exited the house in the rear via the spooky kitchen, dodging cockroaches as I did so, and proceeded to the second building, a real balancing act in the dark stepping through and over unstable bits of concrete wall. The second building had a couple of rooms that could have been usable, though they were unspeakably decrepit. I used the 3200 ISO setting on my camera to take some pictures to get a better idea what the rooms looked like. One half of the place was inaccessable due to the fact that the staircase had been torn down. Mosquitoes swarmed inside, biting me despite the lotion I hastily applied. An awful smell I didn’t try to guess the origin of pervaded the old rooms.

It was a truly despicable place. It would do nicely.

I woke Sandy, aka “Harold Burger” in our story, up this morning at 8 a.m., and we took the MRT to Gongguan to wait for Maurice, Azuma, Paul and Darrell. I oogled workmen on a nearby construction set while Sandy went to get breakfast. From there we proceeded to the decrepit old buildings. Fortunately, the gate was still unlocked, but we found that the first group of buildings was not completely uninhabited. A young homeless man lay in deep contemplation in the living room of the first apartment. We bypassed that room and went through the kitchen, where the man, or possibly a dog, had left a rather stinky “gift” on the floor for us to step across.

The second building was even worse in the light of day. If anything, the smell had increased, and the mosquitoes quickly proved to everyone there that I hadn’t been exaggerating when I’d described the place before. We doused ourselves with Off, set up in a reasonablely suitable room on the second floor and went over some lines and actions. I was loathe to move some of the garbage bags full of broken glass and other things, due to the possibility of discovering the source of the stench, but when I did, there was nothing there.

Azuma, Sandy and Maurice put on their heavy suits, surely not a pleasant thing in the sweltering heat, and we began shooting. As usual, I started with some master shots to get everyone used to the routine. Sandy, pictured above, did a great job, especially considering that it was his first time on the set. Maurice and Azuma worked well with him and each other. I had asked Azuma to get his hair cut short, but it wasn’t as short as I would have liked, so we slicked it down with hair gel from Watson’s.

Azuma had “made” some fake money for us to use in this shot. It didn’t look terribly real to me at first, but on film it looks like the real deal. Dean also came up with this diagnostic device for the chip. It looks straight out of the attic of a 60’s science teacher with a thing for Christmas lights.

At one point, of course, we had to shoot Maurice and Azuma jumping out a window. The reason we could do this was a small, half-demolished ledge just outside the window in question. Sandy stood just out of shot, ready to catch anyone who went too far. Then I shot from the ledge into the window, and found that it quaked and shook with every movement. Definitely not as stable as it looked. I was glad the jumping went well without any major inadvertant reconstruction.

We started hearing thunder in the distance, and the smell was becoming even more evil as the heat of the day progressed, so we hastened over to Treasure Hill to film the actual rooftop part of the chase. Many doubts were expressed about the abilities of the rooftops in question to hold weight, mainly as they were covered in aluminium that covered their true construction. I picked a flat concrete roof for Azuma and Maurice to land on, but we had to do a bit of climbing to get high enough to jump. All three of us ended up crowded on a tiny balcony, but I got a good shot of Azuma and Maurice plummeting onto the rooftop below. On my way down I was holding onto the balcony wall when the entire wall began to topple. I instantly released my grip, jumping the rest of the way, and the heavy wall swayed and settled back into place. Had it fallen, not only would it have destroyed the camera, it could have done serious injury to myself, Azuma and Maurice.

Rain began pelting down. I really wanted to get Azuma’s parts done, so I draped my shirt over the camera to keep it dry while I applied Azuma’s “blood”, and got the shot of him and Maurice while the rain was still (hopefully) invisible to the camera.

The rain continued, strong and steady, and we could see the storm clouds rolling in from the south, obliterating any chance of reprieve before we lost light, so we called it a day. Azuma had a salsa lesson, and Maurice wanted to see a play that night in any case. We’ll get the rest of the chase next weekend.

posted by Poagao at 2:33 pm  


  1. Dude,
    You’re the bomb. You’re a total renaissance kind of guy. You really blow me away. I’m podcsating here in Taichung-play eclectic mix of indie stuff,some poetry and story telling. Your very inspirational-keep up the good work.

    Comment by Brooklyn Bluesman — August 10, 2005 @ 12:53 am

  2. I wish it were so…jack of all trades, master of none, as it were. But thanks for your comments. Our band, the Muddy Basin Ramblers, has a website at http://www.muddybasin.com if you’d like to know more about it (from your call sign I assume you’re into blues).

    Comment by TC — August 10, 2005 @ 3:05 am

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