A father in central China’s Hunan province paid 12,800 yuan ($1,900) for his son to get a “No. 1 role” in an online movie, only to later find out that the boy had just three scenes and one line. On Tuesday, a court ordered the film company to return half of the fees charged due to a “flawed contract,” local media reported.
In late May, Tiger Culture Group — a film company based in Changsha, Hunan’s capital — posted the movie on Youku, one of China’s major video-streaming platforms. After realizing that his 9-year-old son had only a minor role in the film, the father asked the company to return the total contract fee, plus compensation of 5,500 yuan for food and transportation.
“Magic Little Devils,” billed as an online children’s movie, has been viewed nearly 9,000 times on Youku since its release. (The term for “little devils,” xionghaizi, is sometimes translated as “bear kids.”) Over 60 children — some of whom paid up to 28,900 yuan for their roles — participated in the 72-minute movie.
According to the local paper, the contract signed last November stipulated that the film company would arrange a “No. 1 role” for the boy in its big online movie without elaborating on how that phrase should be interpreted. The father was asked to pay 12,800 yuan to cover room, board, acting lessons, and insurance during the three to five days of filming in Hengdian, a town that has been dubbed “China’s Hollywood.”
“On the day of the signing, the person in charge of the film set said that there were only five No. 1 roles, and we immediately agreed to the contract,” the father told the local paper. His son was selected to participate in the production, but when the family arrived for filming in January, they found that at least a dozen children had been cast for “No. 1 roles.” The father’s boy, meanwhile, had been assigned to play one of seven soldiers.
The film company argued in court that the phrase “No. 1 role” had only been intended as a general description, and that they had explained to the plaintiff that they could not confirm the number of scenes or lines the boy would have since parts had not yet been assigned. The film company also expressed surprise at the father’s interpretation of “No. 1 role,” given that the boy had no prior acting experience.
But the Tianxin District court in Changsha ruled on Tuesday that “No. 1 role” could reasonably be interpreted as the “starring role,” since the film company failed to clearly define the phrase. However, because the boy had still participated in the project after finding out that he would not have a lead role, the defendant should only bear liability for a flawed contract, and refund 6,800 yuan to the father.
Editor: David Paulk.
(Header image: A child actor stands onstage in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, Nov. 22, 2014. Bai Shi/VCG)