Redneck Beer in China?
Last week, I acted as a waiter (complete with black bowtie) in a short commercial spot for a beer line. The name of this beer is exactly the same as an extremely low-rent, hill-billy beer in the United States. Yet given the super upscale and swanky lounge setting that the background crew created in the sound stage, one would think this is perhaps a coincidence of names instead of a redneck beer being hawked as the Crown Royale of beers in China.
I also stayed for half the time and played a background part, but got paid twice the amount I usually get paid. Perhaps the fact that I personally knew the AD had something to do with it. It really does pay to have "guanxi" (or connections) in China. Hollywood is similar, but you can only imagine how important it is to be connected in a country where you have to have "guanxi" to even get a restaurant manager job, (or an A on a college exam?) Combining the entertainment industry with Chinese culture creates an intense equation. We end up multiplying instead of merely adding, and "who you know" becomes exponentially more important.
Kobe Bryant is in Beijing today. I was so close to getting a chance to meet him. My western friend (who hosts shows here) was using his Chinese "guanxi" to get me in the press conference, but at the last second, three Chinese TV station staffers used their better "guanxi" with the station to push their way in. That's was a tricky "guanxi" battle, but there will be more in the future. Neither I nor the other side of the "guanxi" battle, vying for a peek at Kobe, can really add anything to the conference. It's just those perks you get for giving perks in the past. At least now you have a taste of the power of "guanxi".
Tomorrow I have an audition for a TV show that I got through some "guanxi", but it's diluted by one middle man, so wish me luck!
-- Photos by Nathaniel Boyd
-- Nathaniel Boyd