"Memoirs of a Geisha" Set Report
by Dean, Friday 01/14
On Thursday I woke up at 6 a.m., and spent the next hours deciding whether to go again. The day before, I didn't see any stars that I could recognize, but then, why not? So I packed up at about noon and drove out to the set once again. The day before I'd taken 37 pictures, there had been lots of activity in the sunny day. It had been warm, pleasant, there had been a huge crane holding up a giant sun shade to make it less intense in the garden where they were filming, they were filming in the back, too far to really tell what was going on.
Thursday it could not be more different. No cranes, the small road leading into the Tea Garden's door was clear. This time there was a green screen setup in an open area, and beyond the set used the other day appeared empty. This time I was able to stand halfway to the tea house, at least for a little while. And it was foggy and COLD! They finally chased me back to near the curb, where the view wasn't as good. However, before they did that I did get to see several kimono clad geisha go into and then come out of the Tea Garden. Were any of them Michelle or Zhang Ziyi? I couldn't tell.
Halfway through my planned stay, I took a break and headed for lunch. When I got back, I asked a security guard who I had befriended if he'd seen Michelle. He said nope. Well, nothing to do about it but wait. To beat the traffic back to the East Bay from San Francisco, I planned to leave at 4. One clear change while I was gone was the appearance of bark that lead from the Tea Garden's entrance to the roadway. I did not know what this was for.
As 4 came up I now had a small cluster of film crew hanging out while some filming was going on. This way they could talk and not disturb everything going on. The guard I was standing with said maybe something would happen soon, and I shouldn't leave so quickly. I reluctantly decided to stay another 15 minutes. 5 minutes later, I got a surprise.
As I was standing near the curb, I was paying attention somewhat to the path that led to the trailers next door. Someone in a white kimono with designs was walking toward the green screen setup (this included a camera that was pointed at the screen, and was out in the open). To get around it, she and her security escort and another companion went around it, around the back, and came walking toward me. Seeing a geisha, I wanted to get a picture, and as the guard finally cleared the way I wondered if this was Michelle. As I held the camera and took a shot, I waved the fingers on the hand holding the camera at the geisha, and she waved back. I waved again after taking a second picture, she waved back. And as she crossed the small bridge to the Tea Garden's door, she paused, looked back, and waved again.
A moment later, I saw yet another geisha, this one wearing an orange/brown combination kimono and looked quite elaborate. As this geisha went around the green screen, one of the crew I had befriended came walking past and said, "Well, there's your idol." I said, "Who is it?" and he replied it was Zhang Ziyi. I snorted and said, "She isn't my idol. Who was the first one?" and he said it was Michelle! So I'd waved to the person I'd come to catch a glimpse of. I was cheering and jabbing my fist in the air, lol.
So now we have a decision to make. Stay and see if Michelle comes out soon or head home? It was 4:15, almost too late to head out anyway, so I decided to stay. As I waited, the crew brought in four classic 1920s and 1930s era cars. The car from the day before, a classic 1920 Mercedes Benz worth $1,000,000 that was damaged by one of the crew (by accident!) was one of the four. They had taken it to the shop and gotten it fixed overnight. After a while, extras began to come out and take their places. It still took about 40 minutes before the director, crew, and Zhang Ziyi came out. They'd set up a track along the side of the road, and they were going to film the car arriving at a Tea House or a home (I've no idea which). Ziyi would get in the car, the chauffer extra would drive them the 30 feet or so to the drop off point, and a valet extra would open the door and walk her to the door of the Tea Garden. They did this five times. After that, they set up the green screen behind the Mercedes and apparently (I couldn't see, they had screens all around it) showed Sayuri and presumably Mameha driving back from the Tea House.