ChinaDaily | Lights, camera, action as movie town back in full swing
Hustle and bustle returns to 'China's Hollywood'
With the midday temperature reaching 37 C, many tourists took a break from the summer heat by staying indoors or under the trees in Hengdian, a town in Zhejiang province known as "China's Hollywood".
However, there was no rest for Wang Ling, an agent who helps movie and television crews find locations and book time for shooting scenes.
"I've been busy like crazy since work resumed in Hengdian and am now working with 50 percent more crews than I did previously," said Wang, who uses an alias.
He said he walks a considerable distance each day throughout the town, which is the country's biggest film and TV production center.
Some 25 percent of domestically made movies and 33 percent of the nation's TV series, including more than 64,000 episodes, have been shot in Hengdian.
For months, shooting was restricted due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but since June as the outbreak in China was controlled, a frenetic pace has been set in Hengdian. More than 100 film and TV crews are currently working in the town, about 16 percent more than at the same time last year.
At the end of February, Xiangshan Film and Television Town in Ningbo, Zhejiang, was one of the first production bases to reopen.
Hengdian World Studios, one of the country's biggest movie and TV production centers, reopened five of its shooting locations on March 28, with more than 20 crews resuming work on productions, including the new TV series Legend of Fei starring Zhao Liying and Wang Yibo.
Work then resumed in quick succession at Shanghai Film Park, Oriental Movie Metropolis in Qingdao, Shandong province, and Bai Lu Yuan Studios in Xi'an, Shaanxi province.
On July 29, shooting began on the online movie Shuiyue Jinghua, a production sponsored by Youku, the streaming company owned by e-commerce giant Alibaba and Shanghai Films and Media Corp. The fantasy/romance drama is being filmed in Hengdian and Shanghai.
Its producer, Ma Zhanyou, said, "We have spent more time and money than usual due to the COVID-19 pandemic, especially on preparing the script, design, costumes, makeup and hairstyling, and are now rushing to start shooting in Hengdian as the film and TV industry recovers from the outbreak."
Ma cited "superb" infrastructure, advanced technologies and favorable policies in Hengdian as the main reason for deciding to shoot in the town, adding that he hoped more locations could be provided and accommodations improved.
However, as more crews arrive, the shortage of extras has become a problem.
Thousands are needed each day－most of whom are good-looking, young, hard-working and have dreams of stardom. They act as corpses in war scenes and play other supporting roles.
Labeled hengpiao, or Hengdian drifters, they travel long distances from their hometowns for the chance to realize their dreams, but they seldom speak lines or appear in credits.
There are more than 80,000 registered hengpiao, according to the Hengdian World Studios Performer Association, including 6,000 to 8,000 who remain in the town all year round.
Zhou Fenglai, vice-president of Hengdian World Studios Management Services Co, said that with the outbreak under control, extras can now apply to the Hengdian authorities for actors' passes by using their health QR code and travel records.
Local restaurants, hotels and guesthouses have welcomed the crews' return.
Zhejiang Daily reported that more than 90 percent of the Dongyang Qiyang Film and Television Equipment Rental Co's gear has been hired by crews since the middle of last month amid increased demand.
Sun Qiyang, the company's chairman, said that since mid-March business had gradually returned to the level of previous years. In addition, in early March the company and some of its competitors promised to provide rental services for the lowest prices possible until the end of this year.