"Memoirs of a Geisha" Set Report
by Bluenose Kitty

Three days of filming at the Thousand Oaks set occurred on 10/29, 11/1, and 11/2. I was only present on the 11/1-11/2 days.

The set itself is stunning -- on a farm in Thousand Oaks (about an hour outside of Los Angeles), on a secluded patch of dirt, they have constructed downtown Kyoto from the 1920s-1930s period. The set is sort of crescent-shaped and a river runs through the main road. Two bridges cross the river. Authentic storefronts, temples, lanterns, and vintage advertisements line the streets. Real cobblestones streets were constructed which are hosed down with water for every scene to give them a glistening "rainy" look. Small alleyways lead out from the main courtyard and a number of buildings have working interiors where scenes have been shot (although most interiors will be filmed at Sony Studios in Culver City). Some buildings are facades or are used to hide lights behind rice paper screens. Every bit of detail was painstakingly recreated down to the dirt between the cobblestones to the moss on the river to the straw on the rooftops. Lots of smoke is used to give the set a hazy, slightly 'film noir' look for the night scenes.

Monday 11/1: a scene was shot in the morning with the two little girls playing the young Sayuri and Pumpkin running across a bridge. The latter part of the scene involved many extras on the street running around, doing their marketing, at food stalls, etc. One of the little girls finds a piece of squid on the street and picks it up. The little girl playing Sayuri (I don't know her name) is a dead ringer for a young Zhang Ziyi!

A night scene was shot with Zhang Ziyi and Michelle Yeoh riding in a carriage. It began at the edge of a bridge and continued down the street past a number of extras who were assorted Kyoto residents enjoying a night out with many businessmen and women dressed like geisha milling around. A steadicam followed the rear of the carriage as Zhang and Yeoh performed the scene. Both actresses looked stunning in their kimonos and geisha makeup.

Tuesday 11/2: a big crown scene was shot in the afternoon with around eighty extras walking across the main plaza. Michelle Yeoh and Zhang Ziyi crossed the bridge as a number of rickshaws passed and an antique car backed up in the background. A scene was shot late in the afternoon with Gong Li in an alleyway. Much dry ice was used to give the scene a mysterious, foggy look.

That's all for now...

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