This production has a minimum of 5 producers.  There’s me, Ean Tang from Screen Ops in Hong Kong, Alex from PPI in Shanghai, Chiu Wua who is also with PPI and acts as the agency producer and the local producer from Wulumuqi, Emamu.  When I first met him I thought he was a New York mafia renegade.  To me, his features play more to an Italian than a Mongolian/Russian.  One of the first things I noticed walking around Wulumuqi and/or dealing with the crew is that they yell – a lot.  If I ask for milk for my coffee in the hotel cafe the waiter yells something in Cantonese and about ten minutes later milk arrives – if I’m lucky.  Some woman from across the room will yell then the guy sitting three tables away from her will yell something at the friend he’s sitting with and so on.  Meals are loud, elevator rides are loud and forget about trying to think if you go out on the street combined with the din of traffic and street vendors yelling it’s a wonder anything gets done in this town.

Emamu Location Scouting

Emamu has to be the loudest person I have ever met.  He yells from morning to night.  He yells when he’s happy, yells when he’s mad, yells when he wants water, yells if I ask for water – he just yells but is getting everything done on this project.  Jim wanted a rock quarry, so he got us a rock quarry and shut it down for two days.  Jim wants a big tree to block a road so the tractor can move it and show off it’s wood tongs – Emamu found us a huge tree and he’s treated us with respect and been a gracious host.  He commands his crew and they all seem to respect him and laugh along with him but I get the sense that he’s one of those guys who could be your best friend but don’t ever try to cross him.

Our first night in town he took us to one of his friends dinner clubs and bought the whole production team dinner.  The room was a covered in a combination Armenian/Turkish/Russian decor and we all sat around huge round tables with glass lazy Susan’s in the middle as dish after dish of lamb, lamb and lamb were brought out.  Some of it spicy, some sweet and almost all  of it was actually pretty good.  All the while Emamu was pouring Chinese White wine.  This drink is not like the wine from California but a grain alcohol.  Tradition in this region dictates that if your host toasts you then you drink – not a sip but the contents of your glass.  Emamu poured us all some white wine in small shot glass sized tumblers and yelled in Cantonese – “To a good production.”  We all did our shot.

Emamu - Day 1 of the shoot in the Gobi Desert

Four female dancers in classic Arabic wardrobe with flowing scarves, headdresses and sandals came out from the back and occupied the dance floor.  The music cranked up and as they danced the evening fell into many more shots a lot more yelling and a lot of fun.  After many tastes of Emamu’s wine I said I could do no more, so he promptly filled my glass and kept tapping it until I could not refuse him.  He then jumped up from the table and began to dance in a traditional Russian dance – lots of hand gestures and precise footing.  He smiled with his huge smile and waving all of us American’s onto the floor as the music blared louder and the female dancers left. Jim was prompted by Mouse to join Emamu and he finally relented and the two of them plotted around the dance floor with Emamu leading the very traditional Russian dance.

When the music stopped they came back to the table and Emamu poured more shots.  Fortunately our Shanghai production manager Julie stepped in for myself, Jim and Ekkehart our cinematographer and told Emamu that it was a school night (and it was).  He agreed and said through Julie that we’d pick this up at the wrap party.  My liver is now fearing the wrap party…  He doesn’t speak but about 10 words of English but since that evening Emamu has been very nice to all of the foreigners on his set and we have come to love his open and friendly smile in front of his loud booming voice.

Emamu in the quarry.

tom lowe photo, llc

tacoma, wa 98406



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