Film Diary 7
Eleven New Recruits for the Terracotta Army
10 February 2008
Green Screen Studio
Eleven choristers and Kapellmeister Zannos have come to a studio on the outskirts of Vienna. The studio is a flat building on an old factory site, complete with industrial chimneys. As you enter, there is a well appointed kitchen area, a lounge to lounge about in, a long table with several laptops on it. At the far end, a door leads into the actual studio. Today, we are all getting made up. We take turns, and we prowl around the studio, exploring in particular the well appointed kitchen area. There is any kind of food and drink you might want, plus a huge supply of miniature mars bars on which we make a good start. One has to do these things in a thorough manner.
Curt Faudon shows us a large archaeological book with pictures of the Chinese terracotta army, and explains what today's shoot is about. We have heard about the army, which was excavated in 1974, but to have it properly explained is a different matter altogether. Mr Faudon explains that the 8000 soldiers, horses, acrobats and musicians were made for Emperor Qín Shi Huangdi's mausoleum, so that he could rule in the afterlife with a proper court. The entire mausoleum is meant to be his palace, and it must have taken 700,000 craftsmen decades to finish it. They started building in 246 BC, so it is ancient.
When we enter the studio, we are faced with an army of 8000 cameras or so, and there is an army of assistants milling about, carrying equipment, putting up lights. The back of the studio is completely green, walls and floor; it is like stepping into a green dimension. There is a little red mat to wipe our feet on so we won't leave any footprints. It looks like one of those anti-foot-and-mouth-disease mats they have in airports.
Mr Faudon arranges us in different ways along the markers they have placed on the green. They film with different cameras from many different angles, the crane is spinning over our heads and doing what looks like somersaults. There is a sequence when it whizzes directly past our noses. You have to turn into a terracotta soldier for that. No blinking. Well, terracotta soldiers cannot blink. So we certainly don't. (This performance definitely screams Oscar for best supporting terracotta soldier!)
Around midday, there is a break, and we march out of the studio in soldierly fashion into the lounge where we turn back into lizards, lounging (as you do). We feast on lasagna, steak, vegetables and salads, and for desert, there is fruit salad, tiramisu and a selection of interesting cakes.There are also some mars bars left. We must investigate this phenomenon in a scientific manner. The generally approved method is eating.
The technicians reposition the lights and cameras, and we get our make up renewed. There is also time to read some of the classic adventures of Donald Duck and Asterix, and time to check again on the mars bars. There are still some. In fact, they would appear to be breeding. This calls for a more serious investigation.
When we are called back to the studio, we find ourselves face to face with two terracotta soldiers and a general. Assistants wheel them about on carts. The soldiers and general wear woollen plaid blankets around their torsos, for protection. They look like an undiscovered Scottish tribe, and they look so real, you feel you want to shake their hands. We shake our heads in amazement instead. We do not have to feign that; the prop department must be excellent. We settle into another session of filming, with all cameras in action. Mr Zannos conducts our singing. We walk between our terracotta soldiers and secretly wish we could take one of them home. Perhaps the general; he would look good. We discover that their heads come off; that is a little unsettling, but all in all pretty cool. Mr Faudon seems pleased.
At the end of the day, we are exhausted, but elated, and we leave the studio perhaps several millimetres taller. Quite a day. And there are still a few mars bars for the road.