10.26.2010

An extra in the "Chinese Professor" ad speaks out

Soon after that "Chinese Professor" got everybody talking, question started to emerge over the Asian participants in the commercial. A lot of people pointed out that it didn't look like they were actually from China, and more likely young Asian Americans who were recruited here, in the United States, to be part of the ad. So who were these Asian faces?

Turns out, most of the extras in this commercial had little or no idea that their appearance in the ad would turn out like this. I was recently able to track down Josh H., who happens to be one of the extras in the now-infamous future Chinese classroom. He says he was recruited when he signed up to be an extra on Transformers 3. Here's what he wrote to me:

So yes, I was an extra for this commercial. The way I got involved in this commercial is by signing up to be an extra for Transformers 3, which was being filmed in DC. So I got an email from my Kollaboration staff (I am on the board for Kollaboration DC) saying that they were filming Transformers 3 (Our show just ended btw too, like a week ago). Some of us signed up to be extras and a couple of us got called for this commercial because the Transformers 3 shoot was full, and they informed me that it was for a conservative - political ad, so I was aware of the political stance (thinking it wouldn't be a serious issue). So thats basically how I got involved.

BTW, to sign up to be extras we had to fill out information like, our name, gender, age, height, ethnicity, and a picture.

It was filmed at a community college (NOVA in Alexandria VA) and when we got there, the production team did tell us about the ad, but in a misconstrued kind of way. I know that the ad was about the US deficit and they did tell us the premise of the ad (taking place in the future, and we all supposed to be "chinese" students in a lecture). I saw the commercial and it's pretty intense and one thing I did not know that the commercial would do, is put this almost red-scare type of fear in the eyes of Americans (effectiveness wise, the political ad works, not saying I agree with the tactics).

What's interesting is that the production team told us that we would all be laughing in the commercial because the "Chinese Professor" said something funny, so there were multiple shots where we all "laughed" after the "Chinese Professor" said his so called, "joke."

At the end of the production, the person who was in charge of managing the extras came to us at the end of the shoot to inform us that the production crew is non-partisan about the issue, and that they were just doing it for the money. Of course as extras we all did get paid for the all day shoot. Another thing, the production team didn't convey to us that this ad would be used in this way either.

Personally, I had no idea that this commercial would be aired nation-wide and as soon as it aired, it was put onto the politico blog. I got a few emails from friends who work in politics telling me that they saw me in this crazy ad, and it kind of took me off guard.
And there you have it. Apparently, a lot of Asian folks initially signed up with the hopes of being cast as extras in Transformers 3, but instead found themselves getting contacted to be in this commercial, with only a vague idea of what the spot was for or how their appearance would be used. That's really sneaky. Like an Evil Chinese Professor.

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