July 31, 2007

The Communist Party Secretary

Filed under: China,culture — Kim @ 5:47 pm

Now the university summer holidays are here I have time for silly season work, and it’s not just flange.

Recently I took three mornings out to be an extra for CCTV in the up and coming CCTV 4 thriller “The Communist Party Secretary.”

What an inspiring and inspired title I am sure you are thinking, but wait, it gets better!

The story takes place in an anonymous generic Chinese boomtown where corruption is getting a little too prevalent and someone needs to take a stand and stick up for the poor exploited common man. At least so I garnered.

I was there with a Scottish guy and 5 Russians… 2 female students and 3 sailors. One of the sailors (Hallo Sailor!) spoke a bit of English and told me he had come along “not really for money, but for exotic!” Together we formed the visiting foreign business delegation.

On day one we were met at the airport with a rapturous welcome replete with paparazzi and maidens bearing garlands of flowers. I felt so important! Then we were whisked off to meet the city’s top dogs.

As a humble extra I didn’t get a chance to deliver any of the deathless dialogue, but as the security man for my Scottish businessman boss I was right by his side when we met the female Mayor on day two. Actually, we’d been hanging around for about 3 hours before our shoot and the Russians seemed a bit tired and fed up already so they needed some chivvying from the director…”It’s a Mayor you’re meeting! A very important person! Try to look excited and nervous!” They managed to muster wan smiles that disappeared the moment the camera was off them. I was starting to warm to these guys.

Anyway, first off the mayor had to apologise for the heat because the air conditioning wasn’t working…in the script that is. She then offered us each a beautiful traditional Chinese fan to fan ourselves with and we were told “These are presents from the party.” To which my Scottish boss had to reply “How kind! What a nice government!”

Nice subtle writing, I’m sure you’ll agree, and in my humble opinion a needed counter to all the unhealthy cynicism about the CCP. Much of it, it has to be said, from foreigners, yes, you know who you are.

There then ensued a brief exchange about how many garment factories there were in the city and whether we would like to visit one. “Ah how kind!” replied my boss, “We’d love to!”

I’d been pissing around with my fan a bit, trying to open it with an elegant flick of the wrist and failing foolishly and the director spotted a chance for a good gag. I was asked to take the fan out of the case and then try to open it by pulling it the wrong way! This I did in a truly Mr Bean-esque fashion and was rewarded by laughter from the cast and a compliment from the director that he could see that I came from the land of Shakespeare! (Never underestimate the power of cliché.) He then lavished a 5 second close up on this bungling. Ha ha! I will soon be rich and famous and known and celebrated throughout China as “Fan-man”, so there. (Insert your own clever pun about fans and fans here.)

Day three we were to meet the eponymous and celebrated “Communist Party Secretary.” He was due to greet us by saying

“I am very sorry it is so hot, but in China when it is hot we Chinese have the custom of drinking hot tea to cool us down. My respect and welcome for you is so warm that the thermometer cannot measure it, so there’s no need for air conditioning!” (All this was in Chinese btw but we had a translator.)

We read this and puzzled over it a bit then realized that his warm welcome was meant to be like the hot tea and so would cool us down. Ah ha! Very smart…and kind of hard to follow.

The time duly came and the Communist Party Secretary rolled in, a short but broad and imposing man with a Falstaffian laugh (I come from the land of Shakespeare remember) and an endearing manner. He recited his rubbish with some gusto and my Scottish boss dutifully responded with his “How kind! Thank you! I feel very cool!” and then handed the Communist Party Secretary his fan. This of course was greeted with much merriment, and so with bonhomie and rapport well and truly established we drifted off into the sunset…and were told we could claim our pay the following day.

According to one of the CCTV guys this drivel is going to get a big audience. He actually said that about a quarter of China would watch it but I assume this has got to be total bollocks. I say this of course because the whole production seems certain to be total clunkety bollocks, apart from the brilliant bit with the fan. But since the director, I am told, has a good reputation I am guessing that he had to do this in order to get away with shooting more risqué stuff later.

Oh, and a nice comment from my “Scottish boss” who said that the whole drama would be a bit more interesting if it was more realistic. “There’s a good plot going begging here about a Party Secretary who goes to KTV all the time, skims off the local businesses all he can and ends up getting executed.”

Well, I’m off to write that one up now…and for all my fans out there, I’ll let you know when “Fan-man” is on.


  1. First! How did you get into this? It sounds like you flew somewhere for this role, not like you just got dragged in off of the street. (Although the being met at the airport bit may have been part of the filming, not real life. It wasn’t clear.) Anyhow, I’m interested to hear how you were ‘discovered’, as the celeb bios seem to say.

    Comment by Seannie — August 2, 2007 @ 10:32 am

  2. How did you get into this? Did they advertise “Wanted – Clumsy Englishmen for role in ridiculous movie”?

    Comment by Sean — August 3, 2007 @ 9:29 am

  3. Good Lord, Ben Ross Part II! 😉

    Comment by canrun — August 4, 2007 @ 2:52 am

  4. @Sean
    Thanks to your bogus email addresses featuring “bunghole”, “hotmale” and “fart@you” your comments went straight to spam. But I found them and rescued them and can answer your inquiries by saying that I got the job the same way as almost everyone gets jobs in China…through the friend of a friend.

    I thought Ben Ross wrote about haircuts. Where do I mention fringes, quiffs or mullets in my piece?

    Comment by Kim — August 4, 2007 @ 5:37 pm

  5. Where do I mention fringes, quiffs or mullets in my piece?

    Is “Flange” not a ‘do??

    Comment by canrun — August 6, 2007 @ 11:32 am

  6. Hi there, I found your blog via Google, good stuff, thanks.

    Comment by Cedric — August 26, 2009 @ 12:10 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.