Foreigners living in China can easily land one-day gigs acting for commercials and other productions. Earlier this year, I put on an ill fitting tuxedo, was made-up, and "welcomed" people to an expensive high rise apartment at their extravagant opening day party. For this, I was paid the average factory worker's monthly wage. Knowing that makes me feel guilty, but not guilty enough to reject the money. Actually it's not much money if I exchange it to dollars. And that is the normal rate for doing that kind of work, as dictated by scarcity of supply and strength of demand.
Last month, I spent a morning along the sea wall in Zhuhai pretending to be a foreign good-Samaritan who helps a stricken fisherman, while all the Chinese bystanders stand around him doing nothing. I walked up and knelt down to place an unknown medical device on his chest. Then he sat up and vigorously thanked me, and I said "you're welcome" in Chinese. A German guy was hired to wear a white lab coat and hold the device while speaking medical jargon into the camera. The device seemed to be just a little plastic disk with a blinking red light and a switch.
people playing bystanders surround a man playing a fisherman in Zhuhai
The whole concept was curious. Why do the "white" guys get to save the day and play doctor in the Chinese commercial? Neither of us are health care professionals, or even real actors. My impression is that the people who produce these commercials assume that using foreigners provides them some amount of credibility and "prestige". I later felt some regret that some people may interpret my appearance as an endorsement, as if my relatively pale skin color represents knowledge and experience. Perhaps the device is real and useful. But, I suspect my appearance was being used to deceive people.
You can see that doing commercials in China makes me a bit guilty. But I've just got news that I'm an actual Hollywood star! No more China commercials for me, I've hit the big time.
There is George Clooney from the 2009 film "Up in the Air" (Chinese names: 在云端，型男飛行日誌 ). Where am I? In the carpet!
In my last job as an architect back in the states, I was responsible for design when that same apartment building was renovated a few years ago. I chose that rich orange color for the carpet and doors, among other things. What do you think of the colors?
Now, if I can just figure out a way to build my new career on this...