Film studios provide movie extras income and escape from reality

China 24

China’s film industry is one of the largest in the world. Last year, film companies produced 350 domestic movies — in Beijing alone.

But studios aren’t just in the big cities – and the actors aren’t all well known.

CGTN’s Frances Kuo explains.

It’s a chance to be on the big screen – without being the big star.

“Here they’re just escaping from reality, escaping from the competition outside, because there’s not much competition here,” said Lu Xi, a movie extra.

Lu Xi is on the set of one of China’s largest film studios located in the eastern city of Dongyang, about 250 kilometers south of Shanghai.

It’s where film “extras” like Lu Xi have dreams to make it in films. To get here, he quit his job and traveled a thousand kilometers.

He’s one of as many as eight-thousand extras on hand, every day.

“Most people who come here don’t have any education, skills, connections and can’t do business,” said Lu Xi.

Lu makes between $15 AND $30 daily, enough to cover rent and meals. Those with more acting experience can make more.

Male extras can get extra income if they shave their heads to a hairstyle common in the imperial era. It’s a favorable time for these movie hopefuls.

China has been kicking its film industry into high gear in hopes of showcasing more domestic films abroad.

That drive has turned this town, once mired in poverty, into a success story.

Investment in the 1990s has led to a mammoth studio complex. 

It’s reported that more than 70 percent of China’s films and TV shows have been partly shot there, earning it the nicknames “Hollywood of the East” and “Chinawood.”

The work is not all glamorous- extras said that because they’re not the main stars, they don’t get the same treatment.

“Not many people respect us. It doesn’t matter how well you perform, in their eyes you will always be unqualified,” said Wang Xiaopin, a movie extra.

But it still helps feed their dreams and escape their lives, just as they hope audiences do when they see their films.

“Because I want to have fun, to experience what it’s like here,” said another movie extra.

Imani Cheers discusses the film industry in China

CGTN’s Mike Walter talks with Imani Cheers, assistant professor of Media and Public Affairs at George Washington University, about China’s film industry.