Chinese Beer Ad
So here I am in this Irish Pub in the middle of Beijing, all the TV sets taped with green screen, a Chinese film crew surrounding me, and I'm being ushered into the back room (full of kegs) to change into my sports fan gear to shoot a commercial tie-in for the World Cup and a Chinese beer brand.
Here's how it went down: I got there at 6am, and met a few of the Chinese actors, as well as most of the crew. Then the other "foreign" talent showed up a bit later. First a Swede and then a young man from the Ivory Coast. We got into our jerseys and towels, and got ready for the first take.
A bit later, another westerner showed up. He was intensely skinny with a long beard and--although he was still rather young--I thought he was an odd casting choice. After the West African and I were finished with make up, we were chatting in the hallways when the bearded latecomer sauntered in. He asked what everyone was doing. I said that the crew is still setting up. He said, "No, like what is going on here?"
I told him we are shooting a TV commercial. "Aren't you?" I added.
"No, I'm just here for a beer", he admitted in a surly daze.
"Isn't it a little early for beer?" I wondered out loud, checking my watch. Yep, it was 7am.
"Early? You mean late? All my buddies went to bed already."
The man from the Ivory Coast and I--cultures vastly different and worlds away from home--exchanged knowing glances. This guy hadn't went to bed yet from last night's drinking escapades, and wandered onto the set unknowingly, looking for that last bottle of suds to round out the night.
He started out rather cocky, asking me why I was blasphemously wearing an FC Bayern Munich Jersey with a Real Milan towel draped over my shoulder... (Because I am American, okay?... footballs look like olives over here). Yet after I admitted we were getting paid, he got excited over the peanuts we were making and awkwardly begged us to pretend like he was part of the shoot. This was of course impossible, for as soon as the Chinese crew figured out that he was not one of the acting foreigners, they hauled him out the back door. He screamed something to the likes of "Hey, man, don't leave me hangin' here!" at me as they hustled him off the set.
The Swedish guy later divulged that the stranger was from Norway and had a common cultural dialogue with him, but was drunk off his rocker, and barely made any sense.
I then sporadically dawned a trilby hat I found on the floor, and proceeded to wear it for every shot in the commercial. No one seemed to notice, even though I was in the foreground in most of the shots.
The basic premise is that we are a group of soccer (futbol) fans watching the World Cup and get excited when goals are scored. That's it. We jumped up in the air and cheered several times each shot. We also took swigs of beer in between cheering, so I was a little light-headed by 10am, I must admit.
The director let us watch the takes in slo-mo right after each was finished, so it is now hereby the first instant-satisfaction shoot I've ever been on. Usually, I have to wait months, or even (in a couple cases) years before I can even see if my hair looked good that day.
All together it went pretty smoothly, but then I had an audition for a TV show right afterward, which was difficult after all that booze. Still, I had studied the script for days, so I felt like it went smoothly and I didn't flub a single line. Maybe I was just too tipsy to notice, because I haven't been called back yet...
Why did I really drink the beer? Well, let's just say my tolerance has been lowered more than I thought since I stopped drinking regularly this year. Why did these two gigs have to be on the same day? Oh well, that's the way the cookie crumbles. Gotta go with the flow. Even if it's the flow of cool beer on a Sunday morning.
Photos courtesy of Shi Hongling
-- Nathaniel Boyd