In Hengdian, China's Hollywood, it takes just an hour to process an actors ID card and just an instant to catch the eye of a director but to really catch a dream of fame might take a lifetime.
“Some people consider us as those who play work-on parts, Some others think we are a bunch of dreamers."
- Hui Lee Extra
''3, 2, 1, action!'' The director calls through a walkie talkie.
On the set of a large costume drama, leading actors practice lines with each other while dozens of staff bustle around preparing for the next scene. Not far away outside of the studio, a group of movie extras in full blow armour sit on slab-stone floor, playing with cellphones and chatting with each other. Zhiyuan Tang is among them, waiting for his moment. It’s past midnight when this group of movie extras finally film a establishing shot.
In a small attic apartment with grass-green wallpaper, Hui Lee kneels on the floor and begs forgiveness, he’s filming himself with his mobile phone and will send the ‘crafty servant’ acting clip to different crews for casting.
Yuanyuan is being filmed in a lush park by two photographers who work for a wedding dress company. She’s 220 pounds and says she has never dreamed of wearing a wedding dress for real.
Yuanyuan, Hui Lee, and Zhiyuan Tang, are movie extras in Hengdian - the world's largest film and TV shooting base. Hengdian attracts famous actors, however the largest group of workers are an army of some 6000 extras.
Most of them are young and they come to Hengdian with various aspirations, some to make money, others to catch a taste of acting while others dream of stardom.
Hengdian's movie extras are often portrayed as the 'bottom of the barrel' of the TV and movie industry and the reality of their position is one of hard work with low pay and no guarantees for the future. But they don't deserve such low status and are indispensable to the industry. It's up to each extra to balance their dream and reality, this project explores a few who are doing just that.
“For me, I think it is incredible to be an actor."
- Zhiyuan Tang Extra
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