Prepping the wannabes
Updated: 2013-02-27 09:42
By Xu Lin (China Daily)
Prices range from 100 to 500 yuan ($16-80) for makeup services near the Central Academy of Drama.[China Daily/Zou Hong]
It is not difficult to find Lei Yun's 6-square-meter makeup room. There are several handwritten paper boards leading to her old quadrangle across the street from the gate of the Central Academy of Drama.
She is applying the foundation on a 17-year-old girl's face, watched anxiously by the girl's parents and a few others waiting in the room.
It is the busiest week for the makeup artist, who has rented the studio temporarily for the annual arts examination. Lei has been applying makeup on wannabe actors and actresses, all dreaming of becoming the next Fan Bingbing and Huang Xiaoming.
"It's like an image design for one's face. I put on simple day makeup on them, but it not only lightens one's complexion to give a balanced color effect, but also enhance one's self-confidence. Makeup is also basic etiquette," says Lei, who started the business seven years ago. Her studio is also near the Central Academy of Drama.
About half of her clients are girls and Lei and two of her makeup artists take about 20 to 60 minutes to serve each one.
Because of the crowd, these aspiring stars have to make advance bookings. Prices range from 100 to 500 yuan ($16-80) for services, such as eye-brow shaping, makeup and clothes styling.
Although makeup is not allowed for the acting interview, it's an unwritten rule that light makeup may win some brownie points.
Lei says the color of the foundation must be close to one's natural complexion. She doesn't encourage heavy eye-liner, as it's easily noticed by the judges.
Her husband owns a 3-square-meter bookstore and print room nearby. Business has been brisk recently because of the acting examination.
Like the couple, many others are cashing in on the examination season to do business related to the exam. Among them, acting schools appear to be the most profitable.
Ding Miaoge, 17, from Ningxia Hui autonomous region, was spoilt for choice when she searched online for an acting training center.
The centers charge a monthly fee of between 7,000 and 12,000 yuan, boasting teachers or retired teachers from famous universities.
Like Ding, most arts students enroll in such courses. Apart from learning acting skills, they also study Chinese, mathematics and English, subjects tested in the college entrance examination.
Ding's parents paid about 40,000 yuan for her four-month acting training and that's the average price most students fork out.
According to Zhang Ruige, founder and CEO of Beijing Rico Culture Communication Co Ltd - an acting school - it's a chaotic market and the way the teachers teach is crucial.
As a former teacher from the Beijing Film Academy, she has been training students since 2000.
Since last year, her company had started offering different classes for arts students and artists as well.
"Each kid is unique, and they have to demonstrate their personality. Besides talent, one needs to have diligence, perseverance, and opportunity to be an actor or actress," she says.
Zhang's recruitment technique is also unique. Apart from meeting the students, she meets their parents as well, to observe how they behave. After a simple test, she will then decide whether to accept the student.
"I know perfectly well what kind of people the university wants. I won't teach a student without potential.
"If I accept a kid from a poor family whom I know can never make it, that's almost the same as receiving 'dirty money'," she says.
She uploads about 100 online teaching videos about acting, so that those who couldn't afford the training can also have the opportunity to learn.
"The problem with some training centers is that they would rather spend money on advertisements than upgrading the teaching quality. Education should not be solely about making money," she says.
She says a 17-year-old may end up talking like an older person because the teenager loses his or her natural characteristics by blindly imitating the teachers. It's like learning martial arts the wrong way, and it's difficult to change the habit, she says.
"Just be yourself. The teachers have the ability to recognize your talent," she says.
Chen Lin (not his real name), a Beijing university lecturer, agrees.
"Acting should be true and be from one's soul," he says, adding that some students may have misconceptions about acting because of bad training, or what they see in films or on TV.
The tough testing process is for high school hopefuls who want to get on a university course that will set them on a path to becoming actors, TV presenters, musicians, dancers and painters. Competition is fierce and the chances of success are slim, with experts warning that even those who are accepted face a struggle to find regular work after graduation. More...
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