Inside the Chinese Film Industry: On the Motives and Experiences of Extras at Hengdian World Studios

  • Min Xu
  • Stijn Reijnders
Part of the Perspectives on Asian Tourism book series (PAT)


Induced by the numerous popular films produced at Hengdian World Studios in China, many people move to Hengdian themselves to experience the filming and, where possible, to become part of the production team. Previous studies have examined the behaviour and experiences of tourists at film studios. However, little is known about the practices of those who immerse in these film tourism locations for a longer period of time, such as the extras. In order to understand their motivations and experiences, this study employs qualitative interviews with 15 extras at Hengdian. Results show that most extras undergo a similar process consisting of three steps: people enlist themselves as extras based on dreams and high ambitions; during their first months, these dreams and the ‘magic’ of filming are mostly demystified, especially when they are confronted with the multilayered hierarchy of the film industry; finally, those who stay learn to live within the hierarchy while making plans to move upwards. By shedding light on the meanings behind extras’ experiences, this chapter offers an original perspective on both the symbolical and practical power structure of the Chinese film industry.


Extra China’s film/TV industry Media participation Media ritual Symbolic power Film studio 



The authors would like to express their gratitude towards the editor Associate Professor Sangkyun Kim and anonymous reviewers for their constructive feedback and suggestions. The authors would also like to thank Leonieke Bolderman, Balázs Boross, Siri Driessen, Nicky van Es and Abby Waysdorf for helpful comments on an earlier draft of the manuscript.


This study was carried out with the financial support of the China Scholarship Council.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Erasmus University RotterdamRotterdamThe Netherlands

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