Recently my friends and I had the opportunity to be extras in the popular Chinese sitcom, iPartment (爱情公寓, aìqíng gōngyù) which has been compared to How I Met Your Mother, Friends, The Big Bang Theory and probably any other American show involving young professionals living in an apartment and becoming romantically entangled with one another to comic effect.

The filming took place in an art gallery in Red Town, an area known for its myriad quirky art galleries and coffee shops. There was an exhibition by Takashi Murakami which I was pretty excited about, but they took down his paintings for filming and replaced them with a bizarre selection of mismatching works, one of which would later have a hole punched in it by one of the main characters.

I must admit, I didn’t really know what was going on in the scene. There were Chinese actors dressed in turbans, one of whom spoke very quickly and with a Japanese accent, making it doubly hard to understand anything he was saying (though I suspect I wouldn’t have understood that much even if he spoke perfect Beijing Mandarin).

There was a moody diva actress, because every set needs one of those, and a shouty director. A man with a floral towel around his shoulders to wipe the sweat from his brow herded us into position and became frustrated if we moved too much or too little.

First we had to record some background noise, discussing the painting we were looking at. It was actually quite a dull and poorly painted picture of a grey concrete building, but we decided not to slag it off, instead saying semi-thoughtful and mostly positive things so as not to disturb the peaceful background burble.

We were then filmed silently pretending to talk about the painting while the real actors went about their business in the foreground. We had to do this repeatedly for a long time before they got the right take, and began to mouth more and more insulting things about the painting just to entertain ourselves.

They let my little group go after around three hours, but kept some of my other friends behind as they were placed in an area of the art gallery where they were filming the next scene. It seemed unfair that we all got paid the same amount even though they had to hang around there for an extra four hours. However, chances are they’ll have more screen time when the show is aired in March. It was actually a nice surprise to be paid at all as we weren’t expecting anything.

Then we went and played around in Red Town, which was fun.

If we’re in the final show I’ll post a video on here when it comes out.

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