Mainland China has become a monetary paradise for many Hong Kong television actors. With higher pay, more resting hours, less strict scheduling, and higher production values, Hong Kong artists who managed to break into the mainland market enjoy their filming experiences in the Mandarin-language television circle.
Sammul Chan Finds Self-Respect
Having to leave home and learn a new entertainment culture and language is difficult, but the pros outweighs the cons. Sammul Chan (陳鍵鋒), who left for mainland China after shooting TVB’s Relic of an Emissary <洪武三十二> in 2011, explained, “Money comes second. I can actually find my self-respect now.”
Sammul found fame in Hong Kong after starring in TVB’s megahit, Triumph in the Skies <衝上雲宵>, but his refusal to sign a management contract with TVB left him filling in only supporting roles for the station’s dramas. His colleagues of the same generation – Raymond Lam (林峯), Ron Ng (吳卓羲), and Bosco Wong (黃宗澤) – have all scurried past Sammul to be male leads. Even Kenneth Ma (馬國明), who was promoted relatively later than the former, had found his place as TVB’s #1 brother before Sammul.
“I used to work in an institution; I did not have the power to make my own decisions. After coming to the mainland, I have the right to shoot whatever I want and whatever I don’t want. For example, it is very difficult to shoot costume dramas in the summer, so I will not choose dramas that require shooting in Hengdian [World Studios] at that time.”
Sammul explained that actors in mainland China are allowed to appear in every television station – all that is required is to sign a per-series contract with the broadcaster.
“We have our own motor vehicle, which has its own bed and kitchen! The film crew also gets to stay in five star hotels. All of this is already arranged in the contract. The production company will guarantee that these benefits will be available for us. Actually, I am pretty laid-back and I don’t demand a lot. As long as the hotel is clean and security is competent, I will be fine. Just do not bother me after I get off from work. Let me have my time to play my games and do what I want to do.”
When Sammul injured his neck for the filming of The Academy <學警雄心> in 2004, he had to resume his work immediately after getting released from the hospital. “The mainland Chinese crew will help me purchase at least $1 million of insurance,” said Sammul. “I will always mention in my contracts that I am not an action star, so they will arrange a stunt double for me. However, I can do things like wire work.”
With his 150,000 RMB per episode salary, Sammul also finds the time to have at least a two-week break in between jobs. After shooting The First Myth <搜神记> last year, Sammul went scuba diving in Sabah, Malaysia. “I find the underwater world very quiet. There is no gossip, no fighting, and very peaceful. I will not be shooting dramas forever. I am considering to get my teaching credentials on scuba diving so I can be a scuba diving instructor in the future!”
Rain Li Earns 60 Times More
Rain Li (李彩華) found relative success when she debuted as a singer in Hong Kong thirteen years ago, but her music career contract only limited her to shoot Hong Kong-based television dramas. She recalled, “I only earned a couple thousand dollars per episode. Now I earn 60 times more! We have our own van, our own hair stylists and makeup artists. We have a set amount of works hours each day, which are all mentioned in the contract.”
Rain’s 2006 mainland Chinese drama, Home Temptation <回家的诱惑>, broke Hunan TV’s viewership record, dethroning the highly popular Korean drama, Dae Jang Geum. Rain added that she has been earning at least over a million RMB each year since her 2006 success, and has already purchased several properties in Hong Kong.
The 29-year-old star films about four to five mainland Chinese dramas per year. With a right to select her own projects, Rain often chooses shorter dramas that can be completed faster. “My mom became my manager in the last two years, and it’s so much better. She will take care of me, and when choosing dramas, the first thing she will consider is my health and not the money. There is no love to that!”
Although Rain does not mind working full-time in mainland China, she expressed that she is not interested in purchasing an estate in mainland China and stay in the country for the long-run. She said, “I am not familiar with the real-estate market in mainland China. Also, I often have to go around the country to film dramas, so it’s hard to find a place to settle.”
Hawick Lau as Producer
Lau Dan’s (劉丹) son, Hawick Lau (劉愷威), did not have the same fame that Sammul and Rain did when he left Hong Kong. One of the first young TVB artists to leave for the mainland, Hawick, who did not speak Mandarin, had to work his way up. After two years of training and nonstop dedication, Hawick can now recite his dialogue in fluent Mandarin. He is also now dating China’s most popular idol actress, Yang Mi (楊冪).
Hawick’s efforts in mainland paid off, and now he owns his own production company. His company’s first production, Shen Xia Wan Qing Tian <盛夏晚晴天>, was a local hit, and the 38-year-old is now preparing to shoot for his second drama, Heading North <一念向北>.
Hawick said, “I have to prepare my own crew and find my own sponsors. The jobs in the industry are also very limited – the cameramen, makeup artists, lighting technicians, costume designers, and editors are all very high in demand. So no, it is not only Hong Kong artists that are getting the good slice of the pie, but the industry as a whole and its thirst for talent. I will try to shoot at least two dramas per year, and leave the rest of my time to do some outside work.”
A special characteristic of the mainland Chinese television market is that it is able to provide support for artists who do not speak Mandarin as their main language. Certain television stations require actors to be dubbed in post-production, thus providing a platform for artists from other countries to star in mainland dramas as well.
Hawick explained, “Many artists from Hong Kong, South Korea, and Taiwan film dramas in mainland. We all tend to recite our dialogue in our own language because we will get dubbed in post-production. It’s very common. Of course, it is not very convenient if our costars cannot understand us, so I spent two years trying to master my Mandarin. Now, I speak all my lines in Mandarin.”
Source: Face Magazine #318 via ihktv.com
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