Director Baek Janghun carefully observed the boy walking toward the podium. Despite the numerous audience members watching him, the boy showed no signs of trembling or nervousness. His steps were relaxed, and a faint smile lingered on his lips.
Performing in front of a large crowd was similar to theater acting in that it required close interaction with the audience. This was different from movies and dramas where filming locations were set up. There were no cameras, so the frame was infinite, which affected the vocalization and movement accordingly.
“What are you staring at? Are you not going to act?”
A booming voice shook the auditorium. The boy’s role was a middle-aged director, which contrasted with his youthful appearance. His task was to watch and advise the acting of a rookie actor. He had no lines, so the script simply instructed him to display nervous expressions and actions. However, the boy was speaking lines.
Is it natural talent?
With just one shout, everyone in the auditorium was focused on him. Even college students who came on stage to play extras became tense, like bears after eating honey. As the extras began to act, the boy, who seemed to have an invisible camera in his hand, asked,
“I’m going to use a 1S-B/S shot. How am I supposed to frame it when you move like that? Didn’t you listen to the director about how to set up the scene? How do you expect not to get edited out when you act like that? Are you really an actor?”
From the boy’s mouth, the experienced director’s voice burst forth. The college student playing the extra’s face was filled with crushed pride. However, he couldn’t argue with the boy. His restless eyes had been staring at him as if they would devour him.
“Do you want to waste the film’s budget with that kind of acting? If we continue like this, we won’t even finish the next scene tonight, let alone stay up all night. Where did they find such a guy! If you don’t concentrate properly, don’t even think about stepping in front of my camera again!”
Actual filming locations are even worse than this.
Director Baek Janghun secretly admired the boy. He was doing a great job of portraying the role of a director. Not only was his dialogue filled with on-site atmosphere, but also his bright eyes conveyed the typical agitated director’s persona.
The sharpness of an actual filming location would not be lacking compared to what the boy was portraying now. In fact, the director the boy was playing was more patient than most. The filming location was not a place to practice acting but a real battlefield. However, college students without experience on set didn’t know the difference. So, their faces were tense and full of injustice.
“If you’re going to act like that—!”
The boy yelled, and the college student acted again. Although the student wanted to say something to the boy, he couldn’t because it felt like he was really facing a seasoned director. Baek Janghun knew this feeling well.
Even famous actors sometimes said they felt overwhelmed by their acting partner’s presence. The boy’s acting captivated the entire auditorium. Moreover, since they were people who had learned to act to some extent, the suffocating atmosphere would be even more oppressive, and their breaths would be stifled.
But once again.
“Last time. If you mess up again, just pack up and leave!”
The audience was leaning forward, concentrating on the repeated acting. It really felt like the boy had become a director. The college student’s acting, seen through the boy’s angle, was just as messy as the audience’s gazes. However, as the cuts piled up, the student’s acting gradually regained stability. At that moment, the audience let out a sigh of relief.
Then it happened.
A page of the script slipped from the college student’s hand. Panic was evident in his eyes. Afraid that the boy would shout “Again!” once more, the boy quickly got up and picked up the dropped script page. Amidst the tension-filled moment, the boy returned the script page to the student.
“Good job, hyung.”
As soon as the acting was over, the college student collapsed into his seat, not knowing what to do. The audience was no different. When the angry director’s youthful smile spread across his face, sighs of relief erupted everywhere. Baek Janghun looked at the scene and thought about the boy again. It wasn’t just improvisation. It wasn’t even an unpolished gemstone.
He’s showing a fully matured performance.
How on earth was such acting possible?
* * *
The lifespan of entertainment agencies in South Korea was not very long. As one can see from the agencies that emerged in the 80s and 90s, they all eventually collapsed. Like in Japan, they started as an extension of organized crime, so their professionalism was also faint.
Not only were the salaries of their actors and singers not properly paid, but even slavery-like contracts under the guise of exclusive contracts were rampant. It was an environment where the saying “the blind leading the blind” perfectly fit. However, some genuine agencies emerged like a ray of hope during hard times, and one of them was Songwon Entertainment.
“Kid, take a good look around as I show you. After all, we’ll be sharing the same pot from now on.”
Park Suyeong was a grateful person. At first, she seemed a bit rough, but as time passed, it became clear that she was quite amiable. The agency’s hallway was adorned with posters of the company’s actors, including Park Suyeong.
“You’re here too, kid.”
Just as Park Suyeong said, a familiar face was in one corner of the hallway. It was a poster from a beach scene filmed in an independent movie. The boy had faced many posters from his past works, but this one evoked different emotions.
“Yeongguk, how are you planning to attend the year-end awards ceremony?”
“Year-end awards ceremony?”
“Come on, you know Man of August broke the KBC miniseries viewership ratings record. You have to attend. The agency has already received the invitation. Please don’t tell me you’re planning on wearing the same outfit I bought for you last time? Sometimes you can be so careless. Are you going to show up in that van again?”
“Look at this. You would’ve made a scene if I hadn’t said anything!”
I wondered what the issue was. Just in case, I brought the tuxedo I wore at the Busan International Film Festival, neatly ironed. But Park Suyeong seemed dissatisfied. I had a feeling I might end up going on a department store tour again, and the thought of it was already overwhelming. Before I knew it, we arrived at the CEO’s office.
“Yeongguk, are you comfortable staying at Baek Janghun’s house?”
CEO Kim Seonghwan asked me, and Park Suyeong also looked curious.
“Grandpa is so kind to me. We talk about movies every day, and time passes by so quickly. I’m learning a lot too.”
“Grandpa? Are you calling Director Baek Janghun ‘grandpa’?”
“Yes, Director Baek Janghun asked me to call him ‘grandpa’ informally.”
Park Suyeong’s eyes widened in surprise. For actors, Director Baek Janghun was nothing short of an idol.
“By the way, aren’t there any other senior actors at our agency?”
Actors don’t often come to their agency. Most of the time, they receive scripts and scenarios through their managers. Except for events like CFs and meetings, they’re usually at home or on set. But still, the office seemed too empty. That’s when it happened.
The door opened, and a stranger entered the CEO’s office.
“CEO Kim! Is that the kid you were talking about?”
At first glance, the man didn’t have a very pleasant expression. His upturned eyes and thick lips made him appear greedy. I wasn’t bothered when Park Suyeong called me a “kid,” but hearing it from this man didn’t sit well with me.
“CEO Hwang, calling him ‘kid’? He’s an actor who’ll brighten up Songwon’s future. Yeongguk, let me introduce you to Hwang Cheolsu, co-CEO of Songwon Entertainment.”
“Hello, my name is Jang Yeongguk.”
“Nice to meet you. I was curious about the big fish CEO Kim caught with all that contract money. But I’m not sure if he’ll be worth the investment.”
“Oh, look, Actress Park is here too?”
Park Suyeong blatantly rolled her eyes and avoided his gaze. Hwang Cheolsu awkwardly licked his lips and turned away.
“CEO Kim, let’s talk once our guests leave. I have a golf appointment with Chairman Park later on!”
As if leaving a foul stench behind, an unpleasant atmosphere lingered after he left.
* * *
“CEO, aren’t you going to do something about that man? I know it’s not right to talk about this in front of Yeongguk, but I have to say something!”
Park Suyeong couldn’t hold back any longer and burst out. The reason for her anger became clear with her following words.
“CEO Hwang keeps bothering the female actors and invites them to entertain the executives from the construction and film companies he knows. All our female actors are planning to leave as soon as their contracts end!”
“He did that again? I made it very clear that he shouldn’t do that.”
“Does that man ever listen? He contacted me a few days ago, saying he was having drinks with a chairman he knows and asked me to join them. I would’ve left this company long ago if it weren’t for you!”
I finally remembered the reason why Songwon Entertainment, once a gathering place for renowned actors, went bankrupt. CEO Kim Seonghwan’s partner embezzled funds, which led to Kim Seonghwan being wrongly accused. He lost everything. That partner was Hwang Cheolsu.
What should I do about him?
“Why don’t you just fire him right away? Is there anything else he can do besides taking care of drinks?”
“Actress Park, it’s not that simple. The company would face financial consequences if I just fired him.”
“I know you’re a good person, CEO, and it’s hard for you to cut off relationships, but this is different. The female actors who endured so far were all relying on you. If you don’t get rid of him soon, even the remaining actors will turn their backs on us. Of course, there will still be greedy ones left.”
CEO Kim Seonghwan licked his dry lips. Clearly, he couldn’t handle the situation as he pleased. There was a reason – he was a co-CEO. But in times like these, firm decisions were necessary. It was this indecisive relationship that would ultimately ruin his life.
“CEO, can I ask you something?”
The two turned to me with curious eyes at my sudden question.
“Do you believe in physiognomy?”
Taken aback by my question, Kim Seonghwan nodded shortly.
“You’re too kind, CEO, and that’s your weakness. I’ve been able to read faces since I was young. You’re destined to be betrayed by someone you trust.”
“Betrayed by someone I trust?”
At that moment, Kim Seonghwan felt a sudden chill down his spine.
‘Don’t trust people too much.’
The fortune-teller from Yeongdo told him the same thing. Now, this boy’s words matched exactly with what he had heard before.
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