I was informed by Fabian that a friend of his had found out a Chinese movie production needed some foreigners as extras. We both jumped on the opportunity. I left with him on the morning of, we arrived at the rendezvous point to be picked up to the set. A few of Fabian's other foreign friends met us there as well. We were taken to the outskirts of Shanghai where we arrived at the premises. We drove past different sets such as modern buildings, Chinese gardens, bamboo forests, obviously many varied movies were shot here.
Our set modelled an American town sometime during the 19th century, some buildings looked authentic whilst others looked like crap. American flags were hanging from many of them. Some of the signs hanging from them were laughable as well. There were both old-fashioned cars and horse chariots on set, don't know if the producers were getting the time periods mixed up or not. I doubt the average Chinese viewer would notice any inconsistencies though. We first changed into our set attire; suit and dressy black shoes to depict the era. I hadn't been this dressed up since my buddy's wedding eight months prior, it felt
The director seemed stressed and ordered everyone to and fro as the camera men continuously repositioned their cameras around the set for the various shots required. All the lauwai's (term used for foreigner in Chinese), myself included, were positioned in various stances along the street and/or told to walk to and fro as the camera's captured an overview. There were Chinese extras as well, and the production even got some to wear wigs and would film from behind them to make it seem like there were way more foreigners than they had. I found out that they were significantly underpayed compared to us but I guess it comes down to supply and demand.
From what I gathered, the movie was about some Chinese national who visits America during that period, and...yeah that's all I really got. Couldn't even tell you the name of the movie. I was in a scene where the main actor gets hit by a car and me and some others had to rush over to him. After MANY takes the director was finally pleased and exclaimed "Ah yes very good!" with a heavy accent. In most of my other scenes I was just
walking down the street or standing about, but they either gave us lots of freedom to improvise or didn't realize what was going on, but either way we'd all interact with each other during the scenes and walk along and pretend to bump into old friends, every scene I tried thinking up something new. The funniest moment during the day was when a lauwai inadvertently knocked over a tall fake pillar, prompting a stage hand to yell out in broken English, as though this type of thing happened all too often, "This building...it's not true!" We all laughed boisterously!
I doubt this movie will turn out to be much good, will probably only be viewed by a small part of the Chinese population, so say somewhere around 100 million people! Overall being an extra is actually quite a boring job, as the majority of it comes down to waiting and then waiting some more for the next scene, definitely something I couldn't do long term. Nevertheless it pays decently for the amount of actual work done and I'll be actively seeking out more extra roles and hopefully some advertising jobs, that pay even better, in order to supplement my
travel budget, which is always in freefall.
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