China Expat & Travel Blogger. ATTRACTIONS & THINGS TO DO IN CHINA. See My Fun TRAVEL Adventures in China!
ESL Teacher, traveler, and ... TV star? That's right! Well, sort of. Back in the summer of 2012 I worked as an extra in a popular Chinese television series about Bruce Lee’s martial arts master Yip, better known as Ip Man. How awesome is that!?
It was a normal day in my new home of Kunshan, China. A friend called and expressed that an associate of his was looking to cast 3 foreigners in a local TV flick. They’d pick us up in vans, we’d shoot a few scenes for a while, and that’s literally all we knew. Literally. But who could turn down an offer like that, especially when you’re an adventurous newcomer to the country?
The shooting day arrived and we gathered at a meeting point along Qianjin Road. By 'we' I’m referring to two of my friend’s friends--from Ghana and the U.K.--and about 20-30 locals.
So there we were, on the van and heading towards a mysterious shooting location. Since we were all relatively fresh into China, we joked at the possibly of serving as villains in the taping and using western martial arts to defeat a number of opponents before the heroes whopped our a** with Kung-fu. Again, none of us knew what we were in for.
We pulled into a film school located about 10 minutes west of Forest Park. There were a few small movie sets, camera lights, and lots of crew spread out in every direction.
A production assistant then led us to a beatdown costume room where we caught sight of locals throwing on fashionable suits and Cheongsam dresses reminiscent of early 1900’s China. "Alright, this ain't bad...", we thought. Then someone handed us our clothes.
I’ve always wished there was a camera placed somewhere in the room to catch our reactions. What we were holding were costumes styled like U.S. Navy sailor uniforms of the WWII era. WHAT...THE...@$%! There was a mix of shock, anger, and regret all rolled into one, but we mostly wound up laughing our a**es off. Nevertheless, we all decided the show must go on!
Afterwards we found ourselves on the main set--a fight club situated inside of a gritty bar. Ip Man would be battling a bunch of random opponents and we’d be there to cheer on the chaos.
As a bonus for the night we were even paired with local girls as our dates and given fake booze to wave around. This just kept getting better and better.
The cameras rolled and we yelled at the top of our lungs while taking swigs of the booze. And we did this take, after take, after take. I was actually so good in my role that they changed the entire introduction to the scene by switching the camera to start on me before heading into the action. Awesome!
Later we met the only other foreigner on set--a black guy from the States that would play Ip Man’s toughest challenge: an American street boxer.
Per the setting we'd cheer him on as our friend. We watched him take on Ip Man in choreographed fight sequences and in-between takes he’d stop and chat with us.
It's funny, in the end when he was ultimately defeated, we were instructed to hop over a barricade, pick him up, and carry him out. Simple right? The director yelled “Action!” and as we all lifted ourselves over the wall my almost-skin-tight pants split in front of everyone. Ha!
After changing my wardrobe filming went pretty smooth and everyone took lots of pictures. Around 9 o’clock we were paid about 500 RMB and sent home. What an EPIC experience for my 1st year in China, don't you think?
You can watch the episode. Catch me at the 23 second mark!