Amid snowfall, migrants dream of stardom

14:59, January 04, 2010      

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Harboring hopes of landing a job as an extra, Zhang Pengfei braves the heavy snow yesterday to wait at the front gate of the Beijing Film Studio. Wang Jing

Undeterred by heavy snowfall, 20 migrant workers stood outside the Beijing Film Studio yesterday hoping to become stars.

The workers said they would continue to come today and even tomorrow.

The coldest weather in four decades is not a condition that would keep them away.

Beijing Film Studio has become a famous spot for Beijing drifters known as bei piao. They are outsiders, usually young, who come to the capital from other provinces seeking fame and fortune on film and television production teams.

Guo Xunan, a 24-year-old bei piao from Liaoning province said he was tempted to stay indoors Sunday morning. He has been queuing up outside the studio daily since Oct 15.

"I'm different from the others. Some of them come to find part-time jobs, hoping to earn 20 to 30 yuan per day for a living," he said. "I am here to realize my dream as an actor."

Guo arrived in Beijing in 2006. He lives in a room that is more of a tiny closet than a home with two of his friends who also share the same dreams.

"My mother is suffering from breast cancer. My girlfriend left me," he said. "I have to stay here to be successful. It's the only way to improve my value."

Dressed in a thick, green military-style overcoat, Guo stuffed his hands into its sleeves and said in a gloomy tone that someone from an advertisement had called and offered him a chance to audition for an acting gig.

"But the weather is so bad today," he said. "I'm really worried they may cancel the shooting."

Zhang Xiulan, a 48-year-old woman dressed in red overcoat not heavy enough to protect her from the burden of the cold, said she walked three hours to get to the studio. For her, a job there was more about survival than stardom.

"I just want to find some job opportunities to feed myself," she said.

Cao Jianhua, a Beijing Film Studio employee, said the migrant workers waiting in the cold snow were not surprising.

"I can see them everyday," Cao, 48, said. "On sunny and warm days, there may be more than 100 people waiting outside."

Usually groups of around five or six bei piao appear daily at 5 am, staying until the studio closes in the evening, Cao said.

"Most of them are young people chasing superstar dreams," Cao said. "They are driven by successful legends like Wang Baoqiang."

Wang Baoqiang drifted to Beijing as a bei piao. He waited outside the studio for almost eight years before scoring a role as a migrant worker in 2004 in the movie A World Without Thieves, an award-winning Chinese film directed by Feng Xiaogang.

Li Kuangning, a Beijing Film Academy Freshman, posed as a bei piao among the group.

"I major in literature and want to write a 10,000-word short film script on them," the 21-year-old said. "They are such a complicated and specific group with contradicting feelings, both humble and self-conceited at the same time," Li said. "Meanwhile, they struggle at the bottom edge of society."

After waiting for a day, Guo only managed to meet one xi tou, or agents who have strong ties to production teams. They usually introduce jobs to the bei piao.

Guo had an offer to audition for a supermarket advertisement and weight-loss commercial. He was not successful with either.

"The first director thought I was too young. The second one was not satisfied with my weight as I am not a fat guy," he said. "I know tomorrow and Tuesday will be much colder, but I will still wait here."

Source: China Daily
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