My Adventure in Görlitz: Part A
19 February, Day 0.
I started doodling a letter to Wes Anderson from noon until the Gerstaecker closed so that I couldn't buy better paper for printing. A4 format is boring so I cut the letter a bit narrower;. still looked horrible. The colour of my work was not printing right. And even more frustrating, what I wrote sounded absolutely silly.
At night, I was told that Bob Balaban posted on Twitter two days ago that he was going to berlin next week and Saoirse Ronan was spotted at Tegel airport, leaving from Germany this afternoon. Did they already finish the shooting?
Never mind. I'm going.
I went bed at three in the morning with 15 copies of the letter in the luggage.
20 February, Day 1.
Departured at six, arrived at three. The weather was changing furiously, switching among sun and pour and blizzard in every twenty minutes, which made me feel a bit surreal.
The mitfahr driver dropped me in the centre, near the Kaufthaus where the production office was located. In front of the back door which now was the main entrance of the office, a guard stood there, seemed a bit bored.
Note on the back door of the Kaufthaus.
"Entschuldigung, sprechen Sie Englisch? "
"Errrr, Wissen Sie… heute, hmmm, wo, die Film… hmmmm…." Mein Deutsch ist sehr schlecht.
It is a small place. Walking for around fifteen minutes, along the river I found the Stadthalle that was hard to miss for the set of the hotel main entrance was staged outside as exactly as I already saw on the internet.
I don't know why I didn't go through the first entrance I saw but circled around the building to the other side. At the end of the path parked several vans. Two of them had "STARS DINNER EXPRESS" written on the side. Some staff were going in and out, grabbing a coffee or a sandwich there. Apparently they didn't need extra food supplies as my screenwriter friend had instructed, "Bring some food to the shooting location. Sometimes the team has to work till midnight without anything in the belly."
I didn't bring any food with me anyway. I went inside behind them.
The corridor was quite dark. A pile of yellow chairs and tables nestled in one of the corners. It was probably the initial furniture that was emptied from the room they've been using now. Some people were going upstairs while I was a bit hesitant to follow. I must look suspicious.
"Do you have a pass?" Finally intruded the guard.
"No pass? I can't let you in."
"How did you get inside?"
"Oh, I, I just walked in…"
"You must leave."
The team is shooting upstairs. Now. I have to say something quickly. May I use the toilet? No, that sounds stupid.
Some staff stopped at the staircase, wondering what was going on.
"Are you lost?" I was petrified for a while until a young woman started to talk to me.
"I'm here... to meet Mr.Wes Anderson."
"What is it about?"
"Hmmm, I have something for him."
"What is it?"
"I am his producer Molly. You can give it to me. I'll give it to him."
"Are you sure?"
"Yeah I've been working for him for 10 years. You can trust me."
"…Ok." I had a vague impression that Wes Anderson did mention a producer called Molly in one of his interviews so I handed out one of the letters to her.
"Do you have any contact information?" She was smiling all the time and I think she looks like Brady Cunningham.
"It's all in the letter."
"Ok. Stands still. I'm gonna take a picture so that he'll know. "She said and spent almost a minute to take a photo of me with her iPhone.
I felt like a chameleon being spotted on the bough, totally stiff from the top down. I must look horrible in the photo. Before retrieving my mobility, I was threw out, politely.
"Wait at the hotel lobby." Another instruction from my screenwriter friend. Hence I stood in front of Hotel Börse.
The courtyard was quiet and empty. It was snowing.
Observing for a couple of minutes, I figured out that to go inside I need a key-card. Great. But there was still something interesting to see. A mini-golf car. Who would ride such a posh car in such a lovely weather?
Opposite to the hotel in the cafeterias, the waiters confused me with different time schedules. One said the film team goes out at 12 and back at 22, while the other said 6 and 18. I decided to go back to the Stahthalle.
The mini Golf car in front of Hotel Börse.
On the way back, an odd building caught my attention. I took a photo from a distance though I had no idea how important this place was going to be.
The odd building.
"Try to cotton up to the team members." Another instruction from my screenwriter friend. That is the last thing I am good at on the earth.
"Entschuldigung, sprechen Sie Englisch? " There is a reason for picking up those people who look a bit scary as guards, so you're not going to talk to them.
"Talk to him. He speaks English." The guard pointed to a black tall man who just went out for a cigarette.
"You want to speak to the director? Ha, that's tough. I've been working for him for … five weeks. How many words he said to me? Less than 10. "
"Why I am not surprised." I said in a monotone, laughing so hard inside. "What do you do?"
"I work as a sound mixer. "
"Hmmm, is Bill Murray still here?"
"No he left."
"I knew that Jason Schwartzman had finished his work. What about Owen Wilson?"
"He's finished too. But Edward Norton is here."
"I'm not interested in him. I just want to meet the director."
"Well, the best chance would be the time he comes out when the shooting is finished. You know how a mini Golf car looks like? That's his car."
"Oh, is that the car parking in front of the hotel, white and cute?"
Ha! The bell rings.
"When will you finish shooting today?"
"Where are you going to shoot tomorrow?" I checked the time, it was only half past five. I can't wait outside for three and half hours in this weather.
"Don't know. We get the daily schedule every morning. I have to go. Good luck."
It took me more than an hour to reach Steffen and Franka's place for I always lost my way. A map would do no help. In the end luckily Franka saw me on the street roving around when she drove home. She picked me up and we talked as old friends though we just met for the first time. Steffen told me that they didn't get enough extras. Maybe I had a chance even I am an asian.
I drank lots of hot tea to warm up and hesitated to go out again. It was dark and the temperature had decreased during the night. Around half to nine, I made my mind and decided to go to Hotel Börse again.
Of course I was lost. Around a quarter past nine I arrived there, just to see the mini golf car leaving. Wes Anderson must go inside for less than five minutes. I waited outside, hoping that in case he might come out for dinner. People were coming in and out but not him. A young woman in a red wool cap going out looked amiable so I stopped her.
"Mr. Anderson? Everybody is looking for Mr. Anderson. "
"Do you know where I can find him?"
"He is in London now."
"Will he come back tomorrow?"
"No, we all go to Dresden."
Jeff Goldblum in his pajamas stuck his head out from behind the door, looking around suspiciously. He had a beard so that I was not sure if it is him. We both stared at each other in silence until Edward Norton in a worn, white t-shirt suddenly appeared on the hallway.
"Mr. Edward Norton." I called his name and wanted to ask him if he could pass the letter for me.
"Hey darling." He said and dived into the elevator swiftly, like a ghost.
Too fast. I looked at Jeff Goldblum again and he looked at me. Then he closed door.
Thank you my dear, could you make up a better lie? If Edward Norton and Jeff Goldblum are here, why Wes Anderson is in London?
I stopped an elderly lady.
"Mr. Anderson? Sorry darling, I don't know where he is."
"Well, I have something for him. "
"What is it?"
"Why don't you give it to the reception?"
"It's not allowed." The chambermaid said and closed door.
Thanks for your help. It's not a bomb.
I waited for a bit longer, then the door opened again. A young man went out. I started to talk to him and followed him into the bar opposite to the hotel.
"Excuse me. I'm looking for Mr. Wes Anderson."
"What is it about?"
"...I have something for him."
"Is it the letter that says you want to show your work to him?"
"…Yes." Did I mention anything when I met Molly? I can't remember.
"Molly already gave it to me and I will give it to Wes tomorrow when he has a good mood. He is too busy now. "
"Hmmm, how can I work for him?"
"Well, usually you have to send your cv."
"What if I don't have any experience with the film production before?"
"You can start as an intern."
"Ok. Where can I apply?"
"you can send your cv to this email address." He wrote it down on my notebook and ordered a beer with the shooting mates that already settled there.
email@example.com. Cool. As if anyone would reply.
I should have sat down and got drunk with them. Sometimes it makes things easier. But I am quieter when I get drunk. So I went out without asking his name. He is probably one of the producers.
I waited for ten more minutes, thinking of folding a paper plane that flies my letter into his room. Which one could be his room? Someone in a worn, white t-shirt walked through the whole second floor and turned off the lights. That must be Edward Norton.
No one came out anymore.
* * *
Later on, I told some friends what had happened on Facebook, asking for a smarter strategy.
"Molly is nice." I said. "May be I could talk to her again?"
"Is she nice or is she American nice?" Asked Marijana.
American nice? I don't know. I've never been there.
21th February, Day 2.
I slept for 12 hours and ate an apple for breakfast. No smart strategy appeared in my dream. I had to try the dummy one: go to the Kaufthaus and ask whether they still need an extra, an asian, though I highly doubted.
I found Ingred the british girl who was in charge of recruiting extras as Franka told me. She was doubtful too but she wrote down my phone number still and took a photo of me. I never liked being photographed. Then I asked other staff if they need someone help with the set design, a volunteer.
"Yes, but training people takes time."
They were shooting in the Stadthalle again but I hadn't got any plan yet and felt a bit hungry. The lady in the tourist information centre told me that most restaurants open only at night in the winter time. But there are some open along the river at Zgorzelec.
I crossed the AltstadtBrücke and realised that I don't have any zloty with me, neither did I know the exchange rate. So I walked and walked and walked until I found the next bridge that close to the Stahthalle to go back to Görlitz.
It was around two in the afternoon. I could eat a cow.
* * *
On the bridge I spotted a black Benz from the 30s in the yard with an unfolded umbrella standing on the bonnet.
A prop man was working on a separate interior set of a balcony next to it.
A truck parked in front of the back entrance. Workers went in and out, taking frames and lamps and chairs and wardrobes inside. Next to it was the mini golf car. His car. Did he just go inside or would he go out soon?
Several extras walked out. Nice Costumes. Then Edward Norton and a young man. They went into a bus that was parking across the road.
I ran down from the bridge and asked the driver if they're going to shoot somewhere else. He said, "yes, but I can't tell you where."
More people came out. And finally Wes Anderson appeared with a trapper hat that would never be part of his dress code if it was not that cold.
The Stadthalle was enclosed by a fence on a slope covered with snow. I walked on the slope to see him a bit closer.
The guard said something in German - probably means it's not allowed - and started walking towards me from the right.
"Mr. Wes Anderson." I called his name.
He turned around and saw me behind the fence.
I pulled out the letter and waved a bit. So he came but the guard was already next to me.
All of sudden it turned to be almost dramatised and ridiculous.
"It's ok." He said to the guard.
I gave him the letter and he took it and put it into his pocket.
"Mr. Anderson, do you have 5 minutes? I'd like to show you my movie." I said and started to pull out my laptop from the tote bag.
"No, I really don't have time." He said.
"Well, 3 minutes?"
"I'm so sorry. It's really not the right time." He said slowly and firmly.
I don't know what to say. My mind went blank. How stupid that I never thought about what I could say if I had the chance to meet him. It's probably because in subconscious I don't think it's going to happen. Even in the letter I didn't write much.
"I'm from China. Many friends of mine there like your movies. " It was the worst trying.
"Thank you." He said. "What is your name?"
He stretched out his right hand through the fence so we could shake hands. His hand was quite warm while mine was as cold as ice. He looked very tired; there're dark circles under his eyes. He must have been sitting up late all the time these days.
What else I could do? In my tote bag I had a Moonrise Kingdom poster I got from the cinema last year. I could have asked for an autograph. But a genius improved the poster with doodled talk bubbles in which slogans and the big names of Bill Murray and Edward Norton and Tilda Swinton and Bruce Willis was written in Tahoma. There's even a R.I.P. sign next to the dog.
And the scene where an elderly man thrusts a photograph and a pen into Zissou's hands popped into my mind. No, he won't like it.
So that's it. He went back to work.
I'm starving. That's the only thing in my mind when I was walking down from the slope but it was a bit slippery so that I slipped and then sat on the ground. The guard was still next to me so he helped me to get up. We walked down together back to the main road.
The staff looked at me with smile on their faces. Cool they must thought I was too excited. Whatever.
With cold and hunger, I was still standing there, curious about what would happen next. In the yard, Wes Anderson seemed not satisfied and a crew was fumbling the umbrella for around 10 minutes. Then they all went into the vehicles. They were going to leave.
I took out my camera and wanted to film the little golf car.
"It's not allowed." The guard said.
"But I'm not shooting the sets."
"It's not allowed."
The vans and the bus and the mini golf car drove out in an opposite direction. Wes Anderson waved to me until we couldn't see each other. I was about to walk to the direction where they were heading to but the guard blocked my way as stiff as a brick wall.
How nice, Spritz, terribly sweet.
The trace of my steps and guard's on the snow later in the afternoon.
So hungry. I walked along the road towards the old town, trying to find a small cafe. After 10 minutes walking, on the narrow alley to the left, I saw the mini golf car again. I turned to the left. Of course.
* * *
It was that odd building I thought quite funny yesterday. On the facade a scene of snow mountains was painted. In front of it in the courtyard, a bunch of probably manmade bushes and shrubs scattered on the ground that was covered with snow. A man was putting snows onto the branches. On the side, extras were waiting in a queue, each having a spade in the hand. The whole crew was busy fixing the equipment here and there. In the middle several meters away there stood Wes Anderson, concentrating on a monitor.
"Move this one a bit to the left." He pointed to a small bush.
I always wanted to know how he works.
I stood on the road, watching. People passed by all had a smile on their faces when they saw me, as if saying "Here she goes again." The sound mixer I met yesterday even greeted me cheerily, "Hi, Youyou." So I smiled back to all of them though it was a bit embarrassing. Did I speak that loud that they all knew my name?
In the courtyard, a middle aged man casted a glance at me and started to make some sort of a sarcastic joke about Japan. "Yummy!" At the end he said. Some of them were laughing but Wes Anderson didn't seem to be amused. Instead he came to me. It was so unexpected that startled me a bit.
"Youyou," he said, "This is my producer Molly. She's been working for me for 10 years. I really don't have time at this moment but you can show your movie to her."
Then came Molly with a huge friendly smile as always.We went behind a van.
"It is very short, literarily 3 minutes. Please ignore the errors. I haven't finished it yet." I felt a bit awkward but I have to show it.
It was a bit noisy that we can hardly hear the audio. There were subtitles running but I wondered whether she was really following.
"The horse head looks nice." She said.
"I made it with the laser cuter."
"Why wearing a mask?"
"Because…both are me. I don't want to show my face. You know, I'm not professional." There are more reasons in regard to identity ambivalence and symbolic intimation, but it would sound silly with plain words.
One and a half minutes after she got a call so that I had to pause the video for a while. Then she asked me what I am doing in Germany. I told her I am studying digital media and will get my master degree soon.
"I really want to work for Mr. Anderson. I don't mind going to America." Though I've never been attracted to that country except for Yellowstone national park.
"Oh, but getting a working visa is a bit complicate. Usually we recruit from the local."
"But my work is interesting, isn't it?"
"Yeah, did you write all your information down in the letter you gave to Wes? Email? Phone number? "
"You know Wes is not used to being watched while he is working."
"I know. That's why I don't even taking photos."
"We really appreciate that. "
"I didn't mean to follow you here. It's purely a coincidence."
"Yes we know that. But…"
"Oh, I understand." I couldn't stay any longer anyway.
"You have all your contact information in the letter, right?" It was the third time she asked me. Her eyes are crystal blue and still smily.
I nodded and left.
Warme Schokolade and Käsekuchen and Enten-Eller, it took me more than an hour to get warm again in the cafe. The vans and the bus and the golf car were still parked there while I was passing by later in the afternoon. I stopped at the cross of the alley for five seconds and took the road next to it instead.
Near the Stadthalle I met the sound mixer again. I thanked him for mentioning the mini golf car and asked his name. He thought I am a bit crazy but the whoIe thing was quite amusing.
"Will we see you around again? tomorrow?"
"I don't know."
I should have invited him for a coffee.
* * *
When Steffen heard what happened this afternoon he seemed so excited.
"That's great! You showed your work to the producer!"
"I don't think Molly would say anything to Wes. He is too busy and focused at this moment." I said.
"At least he remembers your name. He always called me Martin but my name is Steffen. "
What to do next? It was only the second day. Maybe it is the best. He is extremely focused and I don't want to show him the unfinished work, so there is no point keeping buzzing him. I wrote to my friends on Facebook, asking opinions.
"What were you wearing?" Asked Lucas.
"What were you wearing when you met him?"
22th February, Day 3.
I said goodbye to Steffen and Franka and met Danielle at her place. She gave me some suggestions to pass time so I went to the cemetery. I had my video camera in the luggage in case there would be anything interesting to see but I hadn't used it yet.Why not record something today since I don't need to bring my laptop? I put it in the tote bag.
* * *
Time hardly ticks away in the cemetery. Stepping on the gravestone, my footprints went deep in the snow. Not far away the spires of the Kriche was glittering with the swinging weathercock. A woman was murmuring to a tomb where probably lies her beloved. The town was all white and tranquil and beautiful. But it was too cold. probably minus ten. I gave up recording in five minutes.
Danielle told me some restaurants accept euro at Zgorzelec so I crossed the AltstadtBrücke again and had lunch near the Lausitzmuseum till four. When I passed Hotel Börse, the mini golf car was not there. In the courtyard, a train compartment was waiting to be assembled.
Back to the Kaufthaus, the sky was getting dark. I waited outside for a while and went inside the shopping mall next to it. It was a three floor building with french windows facing the Kaufthaus. On the top I looked at the Kaufthaus for five minutes and wished I could see through the wall.
For the sake of curiosity.
It didn't happen of course and I became empathetic with frogs and snakes and lizards. It was so boring to gaze at something that doesn't change at all. After five minutes, I walked down slowly to the first floor, trying to kill some time between the staircases. At least it's warm inside.
At this moment I saw a man coming out from the Kaufthaus that opens the rolling door to let the workers shipping props from a van inside. So I went towards him and look at him from a distance for seconds. Too lazy to start a conversation.
"May I help you?" He noticed at the end.
"Hmmm, I'm looking for Seit, tall, black man, the sound mixer. Do you know him?"
"Yes but he's not here. He is with the team shooting in Dresden now."
"Yes I know. When will he come back?"
"I don't know, around eight or nine."
"The administration office should know. It's on the fourth floor. Come with me." He led me inside and walked together to the hidden elevator.
"Remember, first press these three buttons: <Tür> and <2> and <4>. "He repeated twice, "The elevator will stop at the second floor. Then press <Tür> again. Then the elevator will go to the fourth floor. Otherwise you'll not get to the fourth floor. Get it? "
I nodded, so he left me in the elevator, alone.
This is so not real. I am inside the main set as if in the Boggis, Bunce and Bean's farms with the security system that doesn't really work. I am inside of the place that I wished I could see through from the wall ten minutes ago.
The elevator stopped and opened the door at the second floor. I stood still for a second then went out. It's so hard to resist the temptation as if putting a jar full of honey in front of a bear. You have to taste it.
The elevator door closed behind me immediately. I froze in the dark for about five seconds and pressed the up button slowly. The elevator door opened again but took me back to the first floor. There was a woman waiting there and went inside with an expression of surprise on her face as if asking why I didn't walk out. I tried to act as normal as I can and pressed the three buttons again and went to the fourth floor with her. She disappeared in a blink into one of the offices so that I had to ask an asian looking girl where the administration office is.
There were small rooms with low ceilings squeezed along the corridor that paved with lurid blue carpet. Each door had a sign such as decoration department or costume department on it that made of A4 paper. Everything looked temporary.
In the administration office, a lady in her 50s' that sat behind a huge office table seems in charge so I told her I was looking for Seit, the sound mixer and if she knew when the team would come back from Dresden.
She asked my name and the cellphone number and told me he was going to berlin for the weekend and will come back on monday.
"Then never mind. I'm leaving on Sunday." I said.
"Well maybe I could pass on a message."
"Don't bother. It's not very important. "
"How did you get here?" She started to feel a bit suspicious maybe because I had my camera hanging around my neck.
"A guy I met downstairs let me inside. He said the administration office should know when the team will come back." I replied in calm. "Thank you anyway."
I took the elevator back to the first floor, to the artificial dream that haven't been filtered and assembled by the camera. It was a mess though elegant and luxurious, the eden being flooded in a rush and then dried and dusted. Treasures scattered around all over the places: leather suitcases on the floor,brocade banners behind the staircase, woollen carpets half rolled half flatted against the wall, paints and ladders and Japanese bananas and bracket lights with exposed wires, etc. With my video camera, I walked around a hugh marble fountain-like article and went to the second floor then the third then back to the first floor.
I've seen everything.
But there won't be any photos and videos uploaded on the internet. Not from me.
I wished I could stay longer, but to be wiser was to leave now. The rolling door from which I entered was closed so I was running around like a chicken with its head cut off. Never able to find people when you need them.
Suddenly a woman with a red dress strode across the hallway runing into the elevator that goes to the fourth floor.
"Excuse me, how could I get out?" I shouted to her.
She didn't answer and vaporised in the elevator like a phantom.
I was trapped. Very droll.
Note inside of the Kaufthaus.
I went to the third floor again, tracing the clash of the hammers resounding remotely in this almost empty house. There were two men working on a set of the interior of a pinkish room.
"Excuse me, could you tell me how can I go out?"
"Go out? Once inside, you'll never go out." one of them started to laugh.
Right, the greatest joke ever.
"Have you seen that wall over there?"He laughed for quite a long time and continued," It's fake. Go through it and you'll find a real door. Open it and You'll find the stairwell. Go down. It's the only exit."
So I went out with reluctance.
* * *
Later at night when I passed the Hotel Börse, all lights were out except the one in the upper right corner. I thought I knew who lives there. But it didn't matter anymore.
23th February, Day 4.
The shooting team was having a break, so was I.
At night Danielle took me to her friend's place where I met Fabian who was about to work as an extra next monday. Danie, another friend of her invited me to a party which I knew later was a party organised by the costume department of the Grand Budapest Hotel. But I was too tired to go.
The whole town was about it.
24th February, Day 5.
Before I left, I wrote a letter to Seit, telling him that I was in the Kaufthaus on friday. Fabian was going to give it to him on Monday. Just for fun.
On the way back, I got a plan.