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I was an extra in a Chinese soap opera -- travel related!

I was an extra in a Chinese soap opera -- travel related!

Old Jan 24, 10, 6:18 pm
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I was an extra in a Chinese soap opera -- travel related!

I flew home from PVG last Thursday. I got to the airport a little too early to check in, so I amused myself by just walking around. As I was walking down the central space (between the entrance doors and the check in counters), I noticed some large film lights close to the center entrance. I walked up to see what was going on and noticed a couple of people in front of me who, in turn, were standing in front of a camera (it was a RED for anyone interested -- a state-of-the-art, ultra-high-definition video camera that can shoot 4K and is used in feature films). As a former professional actor, I stuck around and watched for a while.

It turned out to be what I'm fairly sure was a soap opera on location (I don't speak Mandarin, so I couldn't follow the dialogue, but I've done enough soaps to recognize one anywhere). What I found interesting was the difference in production methodology between Hollywood and China. First and foremost, there was no attempt to made to control the location. Though there were about a dozen "passenger" extras who appeared in the shots (the same extras over and over!), everyone else in the terminal just kept walking by, in and through the shots and most inadvertently (as did I). There was a small crowd of bystanders behind the crew watching and, at least in my opinion, getting uncomfortably close to the crew to the point of interfering. There was not, however, any security present whatsoever, nor was there even any effort to tape out the area.

The production crew was about 1/5th the size of what a U.S. soap on location would use. There was a cameraman, a focus-puller, a boom man, a sound man, continuity (which used to be called, "script girl"), a couple of gaffers, a craft services person, a first AD, a couple of PAs, and, of course, the director. As far as I could tell, there were no makeup people (the two actors, a man and a very pretty woman, appeared to do their own), no costumer, no electrician (the gaffers seemed to take care of this) and no prop person (props consisted only of a couple of suitcases on a luggage cart pushed by the actress -- the PAs brought in the suitcases and rounded up luggage carts). There was one gweilo who, I suspect, was a consultant from RED, which is an American company based in Los Angeles.

There was no generator truck outside -- instead, lights, camera and sound were simply plugged into available electrical outlets. The video village (the place were the monitors were set up and the director actually watches the shots) was set up on a couple of luggage carts and wheeled from place to place. The sound man was using what appeared to be a Nagra (standard for professional production) and it, too, was sitting on a luggage cart. When they'd change set-ups, they'd simply wheel the luggage carts from one place to another. There were also no trailers outside for cast, or trucks for crew. Instead, there was a big bus that, apparently, had brought everyone to the terminal. Catering was provided by one woman outside the terminal with a series of coolers who ladled out rice and some kind of chicken dish.

Note, too, that there was no question that this was a professional production. I was a professional actor in Hollywood during the 80s and have been on more than enough sets to recognize professionalism when I see it, even without understanding the language. Also, between shots, the two actors were repeatedly approached by bystanders for autographs -- they were clearly well known.

It was fascinating to see these people turn out a quality production (I was watching the monitors at the video village -- well-composed, well-lit and well-acted) in conditions that would charitably be considered "primitive" by Hollywood standards. Also fascinating was how they "filled out" the background by combining their own extras with all the real people going about their business in the terminal (and, yes, as a former actor, I can say with authority that extras are not real people. ).

And that was how I found myself as an unknowing extra in a Chinese soap opera.
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Old Jan 24, 10, 6:29 pm
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I believe that this Thread is more suitable for Trip Reports. Please follow there.
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Old Jan 24, 10, 7:08 pm
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I wonder if they are hiring over there?

Most of the crew people I know here in LA haven't had any work in over
a year.
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Old Jan 25, 10, 7:34 am
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It should be easy to spot you as you flash your Flyertalk luggage tags in the background!
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Old Jan 25, 10, 10:16 am
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Originally Posted by anacapamalibu View Post
I wonder if they are hiring over there?

Most of the crew people I know here in LA haven't had any work in over
a year.
Maybe. But no union benefits (or the production crew would have been the same size there as here).
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