CHINA Podcast: Story in the Story (10/9/2019 Wed.)


Podcast: Story in the Story (10/9/2019 Wed.)

People's Daily app

03:15, October 09, 2019



From the People's Daily App.

This is Story in the Story.

After spending years "drifting" in Hengdian World Studio, the world's largest film and TV shooting base, thousands of wannabe actors have gone from being extras in Hengdian to leading men and women in their own online short videos.

Since 2018, many extras have been trying to share videos on short video platforms like Douyin and Kuaishou, often featuring themselves in lead roles in self-made films.

In Hengdian, around 78,000 extras are waiting for opportunities to play bigger roles, and on Kuaishou, over 10,000 people have been tagged as "Hengdian extras."

"When I was an extra in Hengdian, I earned around 100 yuan ($15) a day. Sometimes, I even had to put blood on my face and act like a corpse in the rain, and I didn't even have that chance every day," said Qiu Lei, who has turned to Douyin (Tik Tok), a popular entertainment short video platform.

Today’s Story in the Story looks at the options for wannabe actors whose dreams of becoming superstars are slipping away.


Dandan uses a livestream platform to show audiences the costume room. (Photo: VCG)

Anyone who wants to become an extra in Hengdian only has to get a local bank card and a temporary residential permit and register with the actors' guild.

In his four years as an extra in Hengdian, in addition to various bit roles, Qiu has had several supporting roles in online TV series and had some lines in a hit drama.

After that, Qiu entered a higher level and became a contributing extra at the film base. Despite this progress, he often found himself between jobs.

In July 2018, out of curiosity, Qiu started sharing videos on Douyin and Kuaishou. When the third video he uploaded in Douyin received more than 100 likes, he started to share more. Today, Qiu has hundreds of thousands of followers on Douyin, and some of his videos have been watched even more than some TV series.

"Many people around me are shooting videos," Qiu said, adding that more and more extras are paying greater attention to Kuaishou and Douyin.

Yanzi (pseudonym) is also an extra in Hengdian who shares short videos on Kuaishou, in which she often appears in costumes.

In 2018, Yanzi shaved her hair to play a nun, a role that earned her 7,800 yuan. When she was unable to find work playing other characters because of her bald head, she started to use Kuaishou and found a totally different world there.

Yanzi said she now makes more money sharing videos on Kuaishou than she did on Douyin.

"Many stars want to become internet celebrities now, so extras like us without resources should work harder," said Yanzi.

In Hengdian, an extra is paid 50 yuan a day and 5 yuan an hour after working eight hours. If an extra has water poured on him or has to kneel for more than 30 minutes, they get paid another 10 yuan.


Dandan performs for her short video. (Photo: VCG)

Dandan (stage name) also decided to try her hand shooting short video dramas on Kuaishou. At 59 seconds an episode, each series has more than 60 episodes. She also has a team in charge of writing and shooting, making her series more professional than those with lower investments.

She usually invests 50,000 to 60,000 yuan for a short video series, and works as a producer, writer and lead actress. Other jobs such as props, costumes, lighting and directing are done by her friends from Hengdian. Dandan said that she can shoot in any style and theme that she likes, something she was unable to do as an extra in other crews.

Jiang Han, a research fellow at Suning Financial Research Institute, believes that the change has been brought on by a change in audience tastes in content and entertainment forms.

"Audience tastes seem to be changing, which, in effect, reflects the changes in entertainment forms," Jiang said. 

"People used to follow long content forms such as movies and TV series, but now, more people are into short, frequently updated and interactive video clips on platforms like Douyin/TikTok and Kuaishou," Jiang said.

Ding Daoshi, a veteran internet analyst, has some concerns over the short video careers of these extras who have turned to short video platforms.

According to Ding, the two short video platforms have provided incomes for millions of performers, entrepreneurs, anchors and brokers since short videos became commercially accepted. But for individuals and small groups, it is still far from certain that they will be able to profit from the platforms in the long term.

(Produced by Nancy Yan Xu, Brian Lowe, Lance Crayon and Elaine Yue Lin. Music by: Text from Global Times.)

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