No Refrigeration Required
By Jared Andrukanis, Segment Producer
It gets chilly here in New York during the winter months. That cold can be exacerbated by the winds that sweep over and through the corridors cut by the streets and buildings, and sometimes turning a corner into the wind can take your breath away for an instant. The morning process in the city always warrants a quick glance at the weather report to see what to expect when you head out for the day. Cold weather? An easy fix for me…I break out the big jacket, the scarf/hat/glove trifecta, and walk a bit faster to the office. Easy enough, right?
So then there is this shoot in Harbin…
First off, I had no idea where Harbin was when I heard we were heading there with the show. Turns out it is in the Heilongjiang province in the extreme Northeast corner of China. Interestingly enough, Harbin used to be a key stopping point on the Trans-Siberian railroad, and the link to that notoriously frigid area doesn’t stop with a few rails and switchbacks.
They got the weather as well as the trains.
I grew up in the Mid-Atlantic region of the US, so I have had my share of winters, and figured that heading to Siberia would relatively similar. Yeah, it would be colder than usual, but nothing an extra sweater and some hot coffee wouldn’t take care of. It’s not like I grew up in San Diego or anything…
…I was so wrong.
The first day of shooting we were in the Old Quarter of town known as Dawai. We finished up our meal scene (meatballs with pork fat…and it was spectacular) for the day, and decided to shoot some exterior b roll until sunset. About 30 minutes into filming outside of the restaurant, I could not feel my toes whatsoever. Zero feeling. Nothing. I started wondering how long it took for frostbite to set in. Wondering how it would be to walk around without any toes. I seriously worried I had underestimated this region of the world, and would pay for it for the rest of my days.
We all rallied at the production van after the sun went down, and I sat down near the back and massaged my feet back to life. After slapping on some foot warmers (we went through about 200 during the whole week as a crew) I was ready for another go on the streets, but we all decided at that moment to keep our outdoor shooting to less than one hour at a stretch regardless…it was literally too risky for any more than that. I also decided that it was a minimum two wool sock a day shoot for me from that point forward.
Wool socks and foot warmers aside, the rest of the week, no matter what the crew was talking about off-camera, all of it eventually ended back on the topic of the cold. For once the weather wasn’t just a conversation starter…it was the conversation. Shit…I even decided to write this blog about the cold. That is how cold it was. When we were there we ate some ice cream on the street and it warmed us up. The average temperature while we were in town was 5 degrees or so. And it was supposed to be colder next month.
Oh, did I mention that the city of Harbin has a population of almost 10 million people? Unreal.
The locals sure had an effective way of dealing with the cold: drink large amounts of room temperature beer while eating dumplings…indoors.