Ever wondered what it’s like to be a “calefare”?
“Calefare” is a Cantonese word used to describe film extras or actors with minor walk-on parts in movies or dramas, and a new web drama on dimsum.my, I Want To Be A Star, shows us the lives of these unsung heroes and heroines of filmmaking, whose roles may be small, but are still important to the process.
In the 12-episode drama, veteran Singaporean stars Kym Ng and Chew Chor Meng play a bickering pair who get their start in the entertainment industry as calefare actors. Ng portrays the outspoken Hong Bao Bao, who goes on to become an well-known actress with a no-holds-barred approach to acting. Her commitment to her roles mean that she is willing to do whatever it takes to turn in a stellar performance.
Chew plays Zhong Da Tian, an enterprising part-time actor who set up Da Tian Calefare Agency, when he realised how the media industry could not do without calefares. The resourceful fellow goes around scouting talents to take up walk-on roles in drama productions.
In an interview, Ng talked about her early days in the industry and said that she was never a bit part player. Although she started out as a singer, the 42-year-old Ng quickly made her name in hosting and acting. “My first role was already the female lead. For my second, I played an alien. Even in TV commercials, I was the main character. It is only now after so many years in this industry that I’m being invited to do walk-on roles like cameo spots or guest appearances.”
She recalled her most memorable encounter with a calefare actor in her first drama, which was a period costume flick. “It was a tiny little baby. And the scene required me to hold up the baby towards the sky and thank the heavens. It was a very hot and sunny day and the baby kept crying, so I felt very sad. But, we had to shoot the same scene from several different angles. So, we couldn’t make any changes.”
When asked for her thoughts about rookies in recent years, Ng groused that they were picky about their roles and were more concerned about whether their facial expressions looked flattering. “Newbies nowadays, they just want to be popular right from the start. Attitude-wise, they’re not very serious. Unlike in those days when all we thought about was how to do our best. It’s a huge difference in attitude,” she said.
Chew, on the other hand, felt more sympathetic towards the newcomers, having started off as a calefare himself. “The competition has grown fiercer in recent years with the increase in variety shows and drama productions. These days, it is more challenging to be an artiste. One has to be a very versatile Jack-of-all-trades. It’s really not easy at all.”
The 48-year-old actor reminisced about his humble beginnings as a newcomer in the 1980s. “My very first appearance was a walk-on part in the 1984 Singaporean drama series The Awakening, where only my back could be seen. From there, I went on to do speaking roles. Then after my military conscription, I participated in a singing competition, and since then, I’ve been plying my trade for more than 20 years.
“Our thoughts were very simple then. We were glad for every opportunity we got to perform. Just being able to participate in a production made us feel proud. That’s how we discovered our passion and enthusiasm for drama,” shared Chew, who won the all-time favourite artiste award at the 2004 Star Awards and best supporting actor for his role in The Golden Path at the 2009 Star Awards.
Ng, who is known as the Hosting Queen of Mediacorp, has hosted more than 150 shows and says she prefers light comedy to heavy drama. “In the past, audiences used to consider only those who could cry to be good actors. Now, we look at things differently. Doing comedy requires one to have rhythm. A good grasp of timing is crucial in order for comedic scenes to work. Hence, a good amount of skill is required,” said the four-time winner (1998, 1999, 2011, 2013) of the best variety show host award at Singapore’s annual Star Awards.
I Want To Be A Star also features other award-winning actors such as Shane Pow, Somaline Ang, Dennis Chew, Ya Hui, Henry Thia, Jeremy Chan and Nick Teo.
I Want To Be A Star is now available on dimsum.my, a video-on-demand streaming service that is currently available in Malaysia and Brunei. Its extensive library includes exclusively Asian content from China, Taiwan, Japan, Thailand, South Korea, Singapore and Malaysia.
Subscription is priced at RM15 a month and can be used on as many as five devices, including smartphones, laptops and computers. New registrations come with a complimentary 30-day trial with full access. Users can also download videos and watch them offline.
For more information, visit dimsum.my, or dimsum’s official Facebook page (facebook.com/dimsum.my) or Instagram (@dimsum.my). Dimsum.my is operated by Star Online Sdn Bhd, a member of Star Media Group.