Thursday, August 24, 2006

Change in Plans

I quit my job.

This is all I have been talking about lately so I will just sum it up briefly. On Saturday I went to my boss' place to put in some extra hours and mark up the script for VFX and SFX. This was to be the beginning of my long-awaited training. But the producers were coming in the next night and there was a lot of preparation that had to be done, so I actually spent the entire day fussing with my boss' little notebook computer to get the new schedule and translate and send it out, along with a whole bunch of little emails. I did this all sitting across from her in a coffee shop with an unstable internet connection, while she sat there making phone calls and lecturing me off and on for how poor suited I was for the film business. She insisted I work in front of her that day, because she said I would waste time making mistakes and asking questions if she wasn't there. It was so tedious to work on her computer with no mouse, no Chinese input, and unstable internet that it took me the entire day until 9 pm to get this stuff done, when it would probably have taken me two hours at most in front of an office computer. Out of the whole day, we spent five minutes going over the script. She had me buy a yellow and green marker, and as I read through the script out loud, she would tell me when to mark a section yellow (for VFX) or green (for SFX). It was obvious how to do it after the first minute, because it doesn't take a rocket scientist to tell that when the script reads, "What the young master does next defies the laws of physics," you're going to need a goddamn effect.

She also told me at one point that day, during a lull in her phone calls, that I am not suited for the film business, and that I should do a more slow, relaxed job. She emphasised the point my tapping out a short message on her phone to show how quick she was.

The following night we went to meet the American producers at the airport and bring them back to their apartment. They struck me as a nice couple of guys, and I thought I came off well enough myself. But the next day Mou told me that they told her that they found me unacceptible, and I was not to be allowed to do any more work on production, or have any more interaction with the producers. She said that I wasn't forceful enough about carrying their suitcases from them and didn't jump high enough when I was supposed to run down and get keys to switch their rooms. She told me that from now on, I would continue to send emails and do phone calls with other parties, but not with stuff related to production. I told her that I was going to leave if that was the case, and she said that was fine, and it would be best if I left at the end of the month.

Yesterday when I got into the office the first thing I was assaulted with was a phone call from Mou telling me that there was another big mess that was my fault, and she didn't have time to talk about it at the moment, but that she just wanted to let me know that it was my fault because I didn't notify her of a change in the new schedule. I just sat there dumbfounded for a minute, until it clicked in my brain that my sole purpose in the company as of this week was to be her scapegoat for everything that was going wrong. And things were going wrong. All sorts of things were supposed to happen and either didn't, happened late, or were less than perfect, and as the "production coordinator," I was to take the blame. If something production-related didn't go smoothly, it was because of Joel, who is a "baby in diapers, who is still in training." There were a few things I was responsible for that went wrong because of communication failures between me, coworkers, and Mou, and other things that went wrong which had a way of becoming my responsibility after the fact. And I realized that what it boiled down to was that Mou has a mess of a company which doesn't function right, and she could just keep telling the producers that it was all Joel's fault. She had even told me and my coworkers that that's what she would do, because we are her little soldiers, and if we die, that's fine, but if she dies then the whole company is gone.

What's more, she even brought in a guy who I had interviewed a few days ago to replace me last minute. It wasn't as if he could just pick up everything and replace me instantly, because he didn't know who was involved or what needed to be done. She brought him in just to show the producers that I am expendable, and she can bring in capable people at the flick of a wrist.

Anyway I decided it would be best if I stopped taking bullets for Mou, and I left Wednesday after lunch. What was particularly funny was when she told me that I couldn't just leave, because "That's illegal!" "Illegal?" I said, "I don't even have a contract! None of this is legal!" On the other hand I am just praying that she doesn't take my words to heart when the end of the month comes around and I try and get my salary from the accountant, because I'm not sure what I can do if she refuses to pay.

I know I didn't do well at the company, but I don't think it's because I'm an incapable person, but because I can't do well when I don't know what the hell I'm supposed to do. It was just an ugly situation and I am glad to be clear of it.

Also, I sent an email to this British guy, Hugh, who I had helped out with when he came here to work on the shopping channel, and told him that I would be more than happy to provide any China-related help he needs. He promptly responded about a deal he might get, in which he needed help training Chinese sales guys for an American company, and which would involve a "reasonable amount of money." I am all ears.

I guess if nothing else comes up soon, I can always tutor English for quick cash. My visa is extended to February 2007, which, as I told the residency registration office today, is for purposes of "market research." We'll see what happens!

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Language of the Winds

... is a translation for a colorful Chinese phrase for "rumor."

Below is an interesting article which states that after the ongoing battle between Jackie Chan and Jet Li for the coveted role of "Monkey King" in this movie, with Jet Li coming out as victor, it turns out that actually Jet Li will be playing an entirely different role of a bad guy. What's more, according to a "leak" from "inside sources," Peter Jackson will direct the movie:

Considering I just read the latest version of the script which came out on Tuesday and I'm currently dealing with hotel arrangements so that the producers and director can meet with people in Beijing next week, I'm either completely out of the loop, or this news is a bit off the mark. And I don't even know where they get the numbers about the movie's investment and Jet Li's profit share...

Anyway my job can be pretty interesting sometimes, and horribly tedious at others. I'm supposed to go through the script with my boss some time soon and mark it for any visual effects we're going to need. I think that will be a good combination of interesting and tedious. Either way, it looks like I will just try and stick things out for the forseeable future. I gave my passport, residence registration slip and graduation certificate along with 1,000 RMB to some guy the other day, who promises to give me a 6 month multiple-entry business visa with no questions asked. I'll owe him another 1,430 RMB on delivery. This is all quite a bit of money to pay for the luxury of living in China with questionable legality, but I think it was either that or fly to Hong Kong and find a "travel agent" who could provide a similar service.

The hiring part of my job is turning out to be an interesting learning experience for me. I've found that the people who have turned up through classifieds ads are generally not worth my time, and that all of the good people come through word of mouth, recommended by a friend of a friend. There turns out to be a whole network of bilingual production coordinators who go from project to project, and once I met one (and told her I'd have her meet the producers) she's just been giving me name after name of very qualified people. Most of the good people I've talked to all worked on The Painted Veil and MI3, and a lot of people are unavailable right now because they're working on The Kite Runner. I don't know what it's like in America, but all of the business we do here is really just based on connections. And I'm happy to be knitting myself into this web.

Well, now it's 2:35, and I've been waiting around for our office meeting which was scheduled for 2. I think I will prepare, in the rare case that this meeting actually happens.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

If FOX News says it, it must be true,4670,JackieChan,00.html

Also, I just got a fat wad of cash today. So I guess I'm keeping afloat. It kind of distresses me when I think of my income in terms of the number of things I could buy in a month. Like, I can get 200 blocks of sharp cheddar, or 300 iced coffees, but I can't have both. Really my two big worries right now are buying a visa (once I figure out what semi-legal channels I can go through) and buying insurance at the end of the month, which will probably eat another large chunk of my precious American money.

To cope with these problems, this Saturday I plan to go with Geoff to bar which has all you can drink for 50 RMB before 5pm or something like that, after which I'm going to go to some random guy's housewarming party where I will charm every stranger there with my drunken antics.