Child stars face chal­lenges as op­por­tu­ni­ties grow

China Daily (Canada) - - NEWS CAPSULE - By XUFAN

Ev­ery day as Peng Yibo works on a film or tele­vi­sion series set, the 10-year-old is never far­fromhis fa­ther’s sight.

The show­biz in­dus­try “is a bit chaotic and com­plex,” ex­plains Peng Wenda, the 43-year-old fa­ther of the child star. “As par­ents, we’ve been wor­ried that he might be af­fected by some bad be­hav­ior or get in­jured.”

A re­flec­tion of China’s ris­ing de­mo­graphic of child and teenager stars, which has been grow­ing so fast it’s im­pos­si­ble to mea­sure, Peng Yibo’s rise to fame is a typ­i­cal story of striv­ing— a mix of sweat and tears.

Once a vendor in Qiqi­har, Hei­longjiang prov­ince, Peng Wenda aban­doned the stable life­style of his home­town and moved to Bei­jing in 2009.

“Yibo has showed tal­ent and strong in­ter­est in per­form­ing since­his­tod­dler­days. We­blindly moved to Bei­jing as we be­lieved the city would have a num­ber of op­por­tu­ni­ties,” re­calls the fa­ther, now a full-time agent and 24-hour­nanny of his son.

It looks like he made right move.

Most agents of child per­form­ers say Bei­jing is some­thing of a Chi­nese an­swer to Hol­ly­wood, as the cap­i­tal city fea­tures the largest num­ber of stu­dios and has the rich­est re­sources in the coun­try.

Some par­ents spend a lot of money on train­ing or agent fees, which re­port­edly runs into thou­sands of yuan and some­times mil­lions.

Peng Yi­bo­hada bit of luck— he was taken un­der the wing of Huang Bo, one of China’s most suc­cess­ful ac­tors.

Af­ter per­form­ing in a mi­nor role in the TV series Trou­bled Times Three Broth­ers, star­ring Huang and other A-lis­ters Liu Ye­andZhangHanyu, PengYibo was in­vited byHuang to star in the celebrity’s avant-garde stage pro­duc­tion of To Live.

Shoot­ing to fame since then, Peng has been cast in nearly 20 the movies and tele­vi­sion series.

His lat­est big ti­tles in­clude the re­port­edly $100 mil­lion fan­tasy movie Asura, and the se­quel of the hit TV series HomeWith Kids.

The daily de­mands of act­ing and read­ing scripts in­ter­rupt the boy’s ed­u­ca­tion — a com­mon dilemma for child and teenager stars— but the fa­ther has re­cruited tu­tors to teach his son in the ab­sence of school.

“We need to pro­tect him,” he says. For now, the fam­ily’s so­lu­tion is to watch the child ac­tor alertly— all the time.

Bei­jing has four ho­tels— all lo­cated in Chaoyang dis­trict— widely used by low-bud­get films or tele­vi­sion series as hubs to re­cruit per­form­ers. Piao Ho­tel Inn on the West Dawang Road is per­haps the busiest in the busi­ness.

“The first time I vis­ited it, I was shocked,” saysWangYu­bin, mar­ket­ing head of the agency Xing­tan001.com.

He found that most of the ho­tel’s rooms were oc­cu­pied by role-select­ing di­rec­tors or deputy pro­duc­ers, with the doors clut­tered with ads with the ti­tles and de­mands for var­i­ous pro­duc­tions.

The former pub­lisher watched di­rec­tors and pro­duc­ers smok­ing and play­ing cards while par­ents tak­ing their chil­dren to knock on doors to make a pitch, he says.

ZhangXiao’en, a 36-year-old agent for child stars, says the num­ber of such young­sters be­tween 3 and 15 years old has ex­panded rapidly thanks to the coun­try’s bur­geon­ing en­ter­tain­ment in­dus­try.

Even so, only a hand­ful of ea­gery­oung­wannabeswill soar to star­dom. China’s celebrity list is stud­ded with adults; child stars are com­par­a­tively scarce.

Suc­cess­ful ones in­clude Wu Lei, known as the “dumb swords­man” in the hit series Nir­vana in Fire, and Guan Xiao­tong, who shot to fame in Chen Kaige’s di­rec­to­rial fan­tasy epic The Prom­ise.

Some par­ents choose to take their chil­dren’s screen achieve­ments as a light chap­ter of life.

Jiang Wen­juan, a former en­ter­tain­ment re­porter, let her 7-year-old daugh­ter Chen Yunze sing with ac­tress Zhang Ziyi in a CCTV gala cel­e­brat­ing the London Olympics in 2012. But Jiang didn’ten­cour­age­herdaugh­terto take part in­more­such ac­tiv­i­ties.

“I don’t want her sim­ple child­hood to be­come com­pli­cated,” she says.

We blindly moved to Bei­jing, as we be­lieved the city would have a num­ber of op­por­tu­ni­ties.”

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