Hengdian ‘drifters’ laudable for pursuing acting dreams
Published: Oct 30, 2023 11:22 PM
Illustration: Chen Xia/Global Times

Illustration: Chen Xia/Global Times

Like a magnet, Hengdian World Studios, dubbed as China's Hollywood, attracts many young people from across the country and beyond to chase their dreams of being on big or small screens. Some are eager to become the next Wang Baoqiang (who rose to fame and became a top actor from being an extra), while others just want to experience acting. 

One of them is 50-something Zhang Aiyue from Northeast China's Heilongjiang Province. On the night of October 27, she finally made it by bagging the Best Hengpiao (Hengdian drifter) Actor Award together with other three background actors at the Wenrong Awards, which was named after Hengdian World Studios founder Xu Wenrong, aiming to encourage young talents to chase dreams and increase their abilities through hard work. 

The jury stated that the purpose of the award has remained unchanged, which is to encourage grassroots film and TV workers, including the thousands of extras. 

Coming from her hometown of Harbin to Hengdian in East China's Zhejiang Province, the world's largest film and TV base, Zhang has lived a drifter's life for over six years. According to her, becoming a member of the drifter crowd was something of a coincidence as she had traveled with a film crew to Hengdian and then received another offer after shooting had finished. 

The charm of the film and TV industry gave her great courage as "Hengdian is a place to chase dreams," she said. 

"As long as you study hard, you may not be able to become a star, but you can definitely realize your dream of being an actor," Zhang said.

However, many of the people she has met have given up the dream over the years as it is rare to see performers become as well-known as actor Wang Baoqiang. Zhang said that she has seen many people coming and leaving Hengdian. 

"As a middle-aged person, I had struggled with the idea of living and working in Hengdian alone, but I still followed my heart. During these six years in Hengdian, I have been very fulfilled and happy."

In Hengdian, there are dazzling star actors like Wang Hedi and Xu Kai, and also extras who have been acting for several years but never had a chance to speak a single line. At the same time, there are also a large number of professional actors, who have a professional background and solid acting skills, but are not familiar to most audiences.

"Everyone here wants to be Wang Baoqiang," Tan Limin, who has been acting in Hengdian for years, said, adding that for young people who dream of becoming actors, Hengdian is a fertile ground with opportunities everywhere. However, the important thing is that you must be able to endure hardship and loneliness, and hone your acting seriously. 

The vast landscape of China's film and TV industry provides abundant opportunities to the young talents.

Besides filming, Zhang also provides regular free training for new extras at the Hengdian Actors Guild. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the establishment of the Hengdian Actors Guild. 

"The guild is home for us extras. Here everyone can contribute their efforts," she added.

Statistics show that as of September, the total number of extras registered with the guild has exceeded 130,000, of which more than 8,000 have lived in Hengdian for a long time.

Young 20-something Miao is one of the newcomers as he just got his guild certificate. 

"Here is where dreams begin, full of infinite possibilities." 

In Hengdian, everyone has dreams and can become their own hero as long as they have the courage to dream.

The author is a reporter with the Global Times.