It’s said that Rome was not built in a day, nor did Rome collapse in a day.
It was past midnight, and Su Pei was still catching up on script writing at the hotel near the studio. He was trying to patch up the collapsing ‘Rome’ that was the T.V drama he was currently working on. This room was just for him, and being as small as it was, he was fortunate he didn’t have to share. Luggage occupied the space on one bed, while various books and writing materials were scattered across the second bed. In this room he only slept for three to four hours at a time, be it day or night.
The old air-conditioner filled the room with ambient humming, while the thermos and the electric kettle sat empty. Su Pei was too lazy to get up to boil water. He was more eager for a glass of wine than a drink of water or cup of tea. But right now all he can do is fight the urge to drink.
Su Pei has been a screenwriter for several years, and the crew he is currently with is making a spy/war drama with a background in the Republic of China.
The male and female protagonists are both being played by new actors with low qualifications, but the group can’t afford an actor with an extensive background. It’s the type of production where the ideas of the crew are better than the lead writer, meaning script changes happen at the drop of a hat.
The first script change happened when the actress playing the heroine felt her role was lacking, so she wanted more dramatic scenes involving her character written in. Following that, the actor playing the hero felt the characters’ image didn’t fit his aesthetic so he wanted it modified. After that it became a patchwork script. They threw in a little of this, and a little of that, and soon the script was unrecognizable. The story completely changed,the original storyline was lost in the changes.
So, now Su Pei is now stuck making up a few new scenes for the hero. He’s trying to write as many long lines of dialogue as possible to give the hero a more impressive presence.
While he stared at the computer screen, Su Pei muttered the lines out loud while he checked them. He rubbed his wrist while doing so. He then takes a cigarette out of its carton and lights it. He’s been trying to quit smoking for a few years, but writing this script was ruining his efforts. He slowly enjoyed breathing in the tar and nicotine, and took advantage of this break to check the unread messages on his phone.
Several notices of loan repayment deadlines.
Su Pei quickly moved past those, not daring to take a closer look.
Little Cookie sent a message at half past nine.
‘Dad, come on, come back early. I’m going to bed, good night.’
Su Pei replied with a quick good night. Looking at the time, it’s past twelve o’clock, and Little Cookie should have fallen asleep a while ago. Little Cookie, his daughter, followed him after the divorce. When he was on business trips, his mother would help him take care of Little Cookie. He opened a shopping website and bought a gift for his daughter, another set of Lego.
While browsing toys for his little girl, a chat message jumped out:
‘Are you in L city? I heard that He Yiming is going to be in L City for a couple of days. Do you want to meet up with him for a meal?’
Su Pei held the cigarette in one hand and pursed his lips. The news was sent to him by his old college classmate and friend Yao Zhicheng.
He Yiming is coming to L city.
Su Pei stared at the message. Seeing He Yiming’s name now, he begins to feel detached. It’s almost surreal. He often hears about He Yiming through the grapevine, often catching his name popping up in gossip. He Yimings company was doing well, it was financed and went public, causing He Yimings value as a person to soar. He’s doing well enough now to buy himself a mansion, and get caught up in gossip around famous people.
Are the He Yiming presented to the public and the He Yiming he met twelve years ago really the same person?
A few seconds later, Su Pei realized that he was lost in thought and that his cigarette had burned down. After dusting off the ash, he returns his attention to the message to Yao Zhicheng. ‘I am working on a script right now, I’mafraid I don’t have time.’
Yao Zhicheng immediately replied. ‘I think you’re trying to avoid the unpleasantness you two had. It will be good to meet and have a meal.’
Su Pei smiled bitterly, and could only reply to him, ‘I see. I’ll talk to you later, I have to catch up on the script all night.’
In Yao Zhicheng’s view, Su Pei and He Yiming had a fight. But there is no deep relationship between the two. He wants to solve any misunderstandings, bury any grudges, and have them let it go.
But Su Pei knew that for many years after graduation, He Yiming and himself had faced more changes than the outside world would see. He couldn’t even remember when their relationship first started to crack. It turns out that friendship is the same as marriage. Small friction that accumulates over time will eventually wear down into deep rifts.
He remembered their big fight during a party last year. He Yiming was not optimistic about his screenwriting work, making sure that Su Pei knew. Su Pei drank too much, and as a result, said too much to He Yiming. Because no one knows the internal struggle between He Yiming and himself, outsiders could only blame their relationship falling apart on the small issues they presented to the outside world.
Su Pei breathed out smoke, stroking the keys of his laptop with his slender fingers. A night like this almost demanded that he be sitting on the balcony of his old, but cozy apartment while sipping wine. That way, thinking about old friends and loss would fill him with nostalgia.
Not like this moment. At this moment, all he can do is work hard for the rest of his life while memories fill his heart with pain. This sorrow was not a fiction, it had become a real physical torture, and he expended too much energy on it until he was exhausted.
Su Pei restrained himself from falling into this remorseful emotion, and he stared at his computer screen instead. He told himself, ‘think about the crew, think about the script to be handed in tomorrow, think about the handsome and stupid face of the hero.’
He finally tapped the keyboard with stiff fingers.
When it was almost three o’clock, he finally finished the script. Su Pei fell on the bed still dressed in his clothes, unable to find the energy to change.
In the early morning, a sleeping Su Pei, was suddenly awoken by the vibration of his mobile phone.
The phone is still vibrating after a minute. He grabbed the phone.
”Mr. Su.” It was the voice of the assistant screenwriter, Xiaoyan.
”What?” His mind was still in a sleep induced fog, as if the intensive work of the day and night had drained his brain, and now his head is only an empty shell that lacked a brain.
”The script, is it finished?” The young woman spoke directly and rudely, but her tone was lively and not annoying. Su Pei sometimes feels that this is exactly what he lacks now, a kind of vitality that can be wasted without care.
He stretched out and sighed. “What time is it?”
Xiaoyan replied, “It’s 6:30, Mr. Su. You told me to call you at 6:30 last night. We will be on set before 9:00. Can I come to get you now?”
He remembered, he did ask Xiaoyan to give him a wake up call. The script had been revised, although it was a rush job in the end. Being on the set before nine o’clock to read the script to the director… Su Pei still felt that he had forgotten something important, something very important.
But he didn’t have the time to think carefully about what was going on. He hurriedly took a shower and went downstairs to meet Xiaoyan in the buffet area.
This morning, Su Pei had a very simple meal. All he needed was a cup of coffee and two slices of bread. Then he sent the script to Xiaoyan’s mailbox and asked her to print it out later.
Xiaoyan looked at the script that Su Pei sent out on her mobile phone, and admired it.
“As expected, it is Teacher Su, who wrote several scenes in one night. It’s so wonderful… Why can’t I write a line like this?”
Su Pei just immersed himself in a cup of coffee and didn’t say a word. He had to drink coffee early in the morning to be able to wake himself up. But the coffee in this hotel was very weak, he could only remedy it by adding more sugar to it. He had to rely on sugar to make his brain more active, so he didn’t listen to Xiaoyan’s compliments.
”Mr. Su!” Xiaoyan seemed to think of something interesting, and suddenly lowered her voice, “You know what! I heard that Bo Wenchen will be on the set today!”
Su Pei smiled, “Is that so exciting??”
Xiaoyan didn’t mind being teased, she said “It’s Bo Wenchen! Aah it’s fair to say that even though his company invested in us, and this drama; big actors like him would be too busy to show up in our studio.”
She lowered her voice, and went on to say “…Now there’s a rumor that Fang Ziling is Bo Wenchens new love.”
Fang Ziling is the heroine of their drama. Bo Wenchen has a wife and son, and is not divorced, but this does not prevent this scandal from spreading. The more it spreads, the more true it becomes.
”If Bo Wenchen really came today, wouldn’t it be proof that they do have a secret relationship?” Xiaoyan said, drawing a conclusion from the gossip she’s heard.
“Then we can only wait and see.” Su Pei replied.
Although he said this, his tone was very flat, and his attitude towards such big gossip was unimpressed.
“Mr. Su, are you not interested in this at all? Or have you been in the crew for such a long time, that gossip like this doesn’t interest you?” Xiaoyan couldn’t help but ask curiously
Su Pei raised his eyes and glanced at Xiao Yan “You have curled your hair today. You woke up this early in the morning to put effort into your appearance. Is it because Bo Wenchen is coming?”
Xiaoyans face burned red when the truth was revealed.
“I also pay attention to my appearance occasionally…Don’t change the subject! Are you not interested in gossip, or do you hear more gossip than you’d like?” Xiaoyan asked, trying to change the subject back to what she was talking about before.
”I envy you very much, and I have curiosity and imagination for everything.” Su Pei answered.
Xiaoyan couldn’t figure it out.
“What does this mean?” She wondered if Su Pei was criticizing her, but she didn’t hear it. Su Pei’s expression was always gentle, even a little sloppy, and he didn’t seem to have fully woken up yet.
Su Pei didn’t answer her question at all, and they didn’t have much time to chat leisurely. After the script was printed, the crew driver came to pick them up. On the way to the studio, Su Pei seized the time to polish the script one last time.
In the past, he didn’t like to modify the script according to other people’s requirements. If it wasn’t the director’s request, it was not important. The truth is that in addition to the director and the producer, there are too many people to take changes to the script from. He had to adapt for a long time before giving up the confrontation. After all, he came to work as a screenwriter, not to write a patchwork script. But to support his family, completing the script efficiently was a good thing for him and for the crew.
The crew prepared to shoot in a remote place, with scenic spots perfect for their drama. The weather was getting colder and there were fewer tourists to work around in the off-season. When Su Pei arrived, only the crew was busy preparing for the official shoot.
The crew came one after another, and the extras were already waiting. Su Pei sat on the side, holding his laptop, wrapped in a windbreaker. He stood on the sidelines. While he revised the script to be filmed in the past two days, he still had to wait for the actors to read it over. He waited for each person to report back to him with any changes that mightbe needed for filming today.
After ten o’clock, the male and female protagonists finally put on their makeup and came to the studio surrounded by assistants.
The assistant director was speaking to the main character while Xiaoyan was listening to their feedback. Su Pei sat not far away and just watched them. With the look on the male leads face, Su Pei knew today wasn’t going to go smoothly.
Their male lead is very handsome, and to add to it, he just had a nose job. The “cut” in the silhouette of his nose and forehead was really something. He was famous, young, handsome, and highly praised by the company, but he seems to lack everything outside of looks and acting. His personality was horrible.
Sure enough, at the climax of the shoot, the male protagonist couldn’t make it through his lines.
He should have asked the hostess whether she had stolen information, and quickly throw out a series of questions. While doubting the hostess, he should also show how he struggled to suppress his affection toward the hostess.
”Cut!” The director called out again and again.
The male protagonist once again said the wrong line, he was flustered. He just recites the lines nervously without expressing the repressed love and pain that the character should have felt.
Su Pei rubbed his forehead. On the sixth pass, Fang Ziling, who was playing with the male lead, finally couldn’t help it. She tore off the shawl over her shoulders and said, “I’m going to touch up my makeup and take a break!”
She was obviously frustrated. The assistant hurriedly brought her vegetable juice to drink. She smiled and said, “Who wrote this line? It’s too embarrassing, right? Teacher Su, your screenwriting team seems to be getting more and more convoluted. I don’t know. Can the audience understand the situations at hand? They should have clear connections between plot points, so that the screenwriter doesn’t have to do a Q and A to explain how the series works.”
Su Pei heard too many complaints and didn’t argue with her, He ignored her and just talked with the director.
“Teacher Su, your lines are too complicated, you have to consider the actual situation when you write.” The director was half joking when he said this.
“Do you want to change them?” Su Pei helplessly volunteered. He was already numb.
Director thought for a moment, and like a general announced, “Well, that line flows so well, I’m not willing to find a way to get rid of it.”
Crew hurried to remedy the situation by writing up cue cards for the male lead to read from. That way they can stand off camera and silently feed the male lead his lines. This way, the male protagonist only had to remember to read the lines affectionately. For this scene one camera is aimed at the male protagonist’s face, and then several shots of both men and women entering the country in large groups. The director can cut out this section through post-editing.
When filming this episode, the male lead’s agent and assistant deliberately cleared out irrelevant personnel, and no one was allowed to use a mobile phone, for fear that someone would take it and take pictures to put on the Internet.
Everyone was doing this seriously, and no one showed contempt. Fang Ziling sat aside and sneered. “Didn’t you say production was going to be speeding up today? It feels like it’s slowing down, not speeding up? I still have a play I’m opening tonight.”
As soon as she said this, half of the crew jumped to attention. She was comforted by the crew attending to her.
“It’s really a good show. Fang Ziling is too harsh when she’s talking to others.. Is it true that Boss Bo is really supporting her?” Xiaoyan whispered to Su Pei.
Su Pei just smiled. He still felt that he had forgotten something and this mess made him unable to concentrate on what he had forgotten.
After all the methods were used, today’s reshoot was finally about to end, the legendary Bo Wenchen finally came.
When the boss came, the atmosphere of the entire crew changed. Xiaoyan patched up her makeup and borrowed a pair of high heels from the costume group. Su Pei also closed the computer, stopped the deputy director, and said that he also wanted to see Bo Wenchen.
Xiaoyan looked at him with a smile, as if saying ‘I knew you were curious.”
Su Pei didn’t explain, he wanted to say that getting to know a famous guy would be an opportunity. In addition, if there was a chance to talk to people like Bo Wenchen, it was also a good place to gather materials for him.
Bo Wenchen was talking to the director, and both leading actors were accompanying him. They discussed the dinner for the evening. As soon as Su Pei passed, the director immediately introduced him.
”This is our screenwriter Mr. Su Pei…”
But Su Pei did not hear what the director was saying, nor did he see Bo Wenchen in his eyes. He only saw the other person next to Bo Wenchen. His spine went ram rod straight. Looking at that person, he finally remembered something important that he had forgotten.
Su Pei finally remembered what Yao Zhicheng told him last night- “You should contact He Yiming.”
He Yiming raised his head and looked at him. Su Pei smiled at him, but He Yiming just looked at him deeply.
He Yiming’s eyes are deep, with a sharpness to them that made him appear aggressive. But Su Pei couldn’t understand the look in He Yiming’s eyes at this moment, he looked a little unhappy, even a littlelike he was in pain. Su Pei immediately remembered the last time that he and He Yiming broke up.
”You know him?” Bo Wenchen noticed his friend’s silence.
He Yiming said, “Mr. Su is my senior, and I didn’t expect to meet
him here.” His tone was very calm, without the slightest “unexpected”.
Su Pei thought, only in poorly written scripts would such a coincidence happen. With He Yiming’s character, this is by no means a coincidence.