Wang Yun, a student striving for admission into one of China's top performing academies, refuses to turn toward the camera, saying "it is not time yet". [Photo/China Daily]
Showbiz hopeful dreams of hitting the big time
Candidates look at an information board on Monday to see who have made it into the final round of interviews for the Performance Institute of Beijing Film Academy. Th is year, 4,392 applicants competed for 30 openings at the institute, which is one of the best in China.
BEIJING - Wang Yun forced himself out of bed at 8 am on Monday. Although the 18-year-old had only slept for six hours, the young man with silver screen dreams had an even busier day ahead of him.
Wang practiced his comic skit for a while before heading to the Beijing Film Academy to find out the results of the preliminary test arranged by the academy's drama institute.
He would go with his parents, who had accompanied him to Beijing for the crucial interviews with the country's top performance academies.
Wang heaved a sigh of relief knowing that he had passed the preliminary test and rushed to a shopping center to buy clothes for another interview on Wednesday.
Later in the day when he arrived at his tutor's home, another four students were already there, rehearsing for their interviews.
The country's drama academies are "holy lands" to tens of thousands of showbiz hopefuls like Wang.
"Getting into the academy is essentially getting into the industry," Wang said.
"Without training to develop certain skills, you will lose your wits onstage. An academy education is to acting what a driver's education is to driving," he continued.
"And you get the inside scoop on the business if you enter the academy, because all of your classmates will seek film roles after graduation."
The Central Academy of Drama has, for example, produced such superstars as Zhang Ziyi, Gong Li and Jiang Wen.
Wang took leave from high school in Northeast China's Jilin province six months ago to prepare for and take the academy interviews.
That means he will have to cram all the harder for the university entrance examination, which will be held in early June and is also required by the academies.
Over the past half year, Wang has been staying with a relative in Beijing. He commits his waking moments to preparing for the interview, which will include some improvisation.
His life orbits around a large mirror in his bedroom. He has stacks of scripts downloaded from the Internet, which he recites to his reflection to hone his skills.
"I adjust my tone, facial expressions and every small movement," he said.
"You may have seen someone light a cigarette in a movie, and it might seem like a casual, natural move to you - no big deal. But that motion was meticulously designed and honed by the actor."
Wang said he usually has to practice alone.
"With nobody actually talking to you, you have to use your imagination to picture your dialogist - say, for example, if he is glowering at you. Then, you have to devise responses to his fictive actions."
Wang has also hired three tutors from an academy to help him discipline his performance.
He often cannot get right the portrayals his tutors demand, which severely depresses him.
"I once played a soccer team member who was scolding his opponents after a match," he recalled.
"I did so badly, I slapped myself later, when I was alone. You have to really believe you're the person you're pretending to be."
Central Academy of Drama teacher Luo Yu explained that not everyone has this inherent talent.
"If you don't have the natural potential for things such as a vivid imagination, you won't act well, no matter how you're trained," Luo said.
But while more people are applying for drama academies, few are admitted, which is "irrational", she said.
This year, 30 of the 4,392 applicants to the Performance Institute of the Beijing Film Academy will get a spot. And 4,400 people are competing for 60 openings at Central Academy of Drama.
Wang had applied to three drama colleges in Beijing.
Wang said he had not decided whether to apply again if he failed this year but did say his childhood dream "deserved his best try".
But Luo said candidates lose the chance to compete for other university enrollment the moment they go to Beijing, because they had missed the six months that are most important for the exam preparation.
"They have only one choice if they fail the interviews - try again next year," she said.
Although he is striving to bask in the limelight in the future, Wang is reluctant to show his face on camera now.
"It is not time yet," he said.