Tea and Silver, the Old Chinese In and Out...
In Chinese film circles, they have an oft-asked question: are you in it for the money or the fame? For us western actors in China, its almost always the former, since it's even harder for us to gain national recognition here than for Americans to recognize a second Bruce Lee. Along that line of thought, I've been making out pretty well recently. My screen time has been sparse, as of recent, but the pay keeps on rising-- so I can't complain.
From the date of my last entry, I've had three gigs... well, kind of. The first was the last day of filming for that prison break show. I know for sure now it’s finally finally over, since I have been paid. The last day consisted of simply gluing on a mustache and looking out a window, but the crew bought me round trip tickets and paid me overtime just for that. Someone must've forgot that shot before. Oops.
The second gig never happened. It started when I was given a last-minute phone call on my way to the train station. Originally, I was planning to take an hour train ride to Shanghai and then fly to Xi'an to see my Chinese relatives, but the movie agent that called me changed my mind. I bought the last high-speed rail ticket available to Beijing and arrived at midnight. The next day I zipped over to nearby Tianjin by commuter train and suited up to act, (I had to borrow another actors business suit, since the agent never told me I had to provide my own clothes, and then tried to blame me). Only after I arrived there did I know what the movie was about. When I arrived at the set, I waited for 3 hours only to find out that the star was sick and they had to change the scene to another day. I went back to Beijing, but I wasn't too frustrated since per diem was still given.
The new shooting dates for this second show were shoved back so far that they conflicted with a larger show peaking over the horizon. I was forced to let the Tianjin job go, and the agent had to find another actor at the last minute. Good luck to him; probably found a Lithuanian study abroad student or something, whom ended up pissing the director off with his lack of acting ability and Chinese social faux pas.
Now I am in a city called Pu'er, (where the tea comes from), shooting over thirty scenes in a TV show called Ode to Tea. I play a viciously ambitious British East India company businessman. He'll stop at nothing to get his Indian tea made mainstream in the Qing dynasty. So far I've been here almost four days and have only shot for one. Two days of shooting were also moved back, but I'm used to---expect this by now. Still... after three years of proving myself, I'm finally getting paid something resembling a decent income. It may be woefully far from my Hollywood counterparts, but hey, it's a living.
Photos by Nathaniel Boyd
-- Nathaniel Boyd