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The unwritten rule of broadcasting companies was that even for top A-list celebrities, the appearance fee for variety show panels didn’t exceed one million won. Since actors had to worry more about damaging their image, would they hesitate to participate in variety shows? That was just a prejudice. The reason this kind of talk came up was probably because the income and cost didn’t match. However, these days it is true that appearances have become smoother for reasons like promoting works and increasing public awareness.
“Manager Song, why are you hiding here?”
Like the mole from the Mole game, Manager Song Jeongmin stood up with an awkward expression from his hiding place at a corner of the shooting site.
“You’ll get arthritis if you keep crouching like that. At our age, we should know how important our joints are. By the way, it seems like you’ve sharpened your knife at Hyewon Entertainment if you’re acting as Seo Minhye’s road manager. Manager Song, it’s been about three years since you’ve been on the field, right?”
“Last time I saw you, PD Kim, was right before I got promoted, so it must’ve been around then. This is the most important time, isn’t it? It’s easy to let your guard down when you’re halfway up the mountain. I volunteered to be Minhye’s manager just in case she got any wild ideas. If it weren’t for me, would Minhye have obediently followed along this far?”
“Wow, that’s why I acknowledged you, Manager Song! I was so nervous thinking Minhye might not come today. But how did you persuade her? She would’ve refused immediately if she knew what today’s show was about.”
“So, I just vaguely told her. She’s just sitting in the studio, talking, and taking a short break. I’m worried her head might get too big, and she might become too difficult to control. That’s why she needs to experience some hardship now. Otherwise, she’ll end up like someone else who is reckless. Ugh, I don’t even want to imagine it.”
As mentioned earlier, there were exceptions to why actors didn’t appear on variety shows even after their appearance fees were met to their satisfaction. In reality, it was hard to cast them in slapstick variety shows even if you offered them a fortune. Moreover, the current filming location was for a program called the “Marine Corps” of variety shows.
As soon as she arrived at the filming site, actress Seo Minhye’s eyes lit up with anger as she looked for her manager.
“PD Kim, by the way, how did you cast that actor called Jang Yeongguk?”
“Yeongguk’s agency said everything was okay. He said he was fine with it too. He even came here without a manager, riding a bicycle. It’s the first time I’ve seen an actor come to record on a bike.”
“A bicycle? Sonwon Entertainment may be noisy right now, but they shouldn’t be that financially challenged…”
“It seems like it’s just his hobby. Even when the agency offered to provide him with a car, he stubbornly refused. He said it’s more comfortable to travel alone. If I were the agency’s CEO, I would be content with just one actor like Yeongguk. Anyway, I heard Sonwon Entertainment is making some noise these days? The industry was turned upside down, right?”
Manager Song nodded briefly.
Sonwon Entertainment was in the midst of a hot issue in the agency industry. Co-CEO Hwang Cheolsu had already been summoned several times by the prosecution for illegal activities, including embezzlement. The fact that the informant was the other CEO, Kim Seonghwan, made it even more shocking.
“What happened, Manager Song?”
“Well, that jerk Hwang Cheolsu has been marking his territory all over the place, and some people started giving us hints that they wanted the same thing from us. All because of that one piece of trash, the industry was practically turning into a mud pit. Thankfully, things are settling down now. CEO Kim made a huge decision, something related to Songwon’s equity issue. Hwang will probably be out in a few years.”
“It’s divine punishment for that trash, you know. We’re all supporting CEO Kim. That Hwang Cheolsu guy has had a habit of not being able to leave his dog ways behind, causing headaches with illegal entertainment and such since way back.”
“Is it that serious?”
“Didn’t you know? CEO Kim Seonghwan’s nickname is Buddha, but once he gets angry, he’s like a raging bull. It seems like he’s been collecting data for years. It was so sharp—aigoo, I almost made eye contact with Minhye. Sit down, quickly!”
Manager Song Jeongmin cautiously asked.
“PD Kim, I couldn’t watch the recording properly because I was hiding, but how about the ratings?”
Although PD Kim was from the drama department, he was still a PDs. An expert’s eye was more outstanding than anyone else’s.
“The impact was clear from the insert. With that kind of content, the ratings are guaranteed even if they just release a preview. The head of the entertainment department will probably be shocked and faint when he sees today’s recording. It’s like a rebirth.”
“Is it that good?”
“Even if he doesn’t know, wouldn’t it feel like he has been to heaven and hell?”
Kim Jin and Song Jeongmin, who had been talking for a while, slowly turned their attention to the shooting site. There, they saw a pair of young men and women who were perfect for the term “youth.” Their soaked appearance seemed to remind them of the upcoming summer.
* * *
The scent of summer.
The shooting site of the drama Youth felt as if the heat of the beginning of summer has already arrived. Dragonflies that have emerged from pupae above dogtail grasses hurriedly spread their wings. Like a carpenter handling wood, the filming staff’s hands were busy while a young man, who had rolled up his short sleeves like a sleeveless shirt, helped without hesitation, even with unpleasant tasks. Sweat beads on his messy hair flowed smoothly down his graceful jawline past his earlobes.
“Don’t call me that again. It’s embarrassing.”
“Drink this in one gulp. I’ve been an AD for 3 years, but it’s the first time I’ve seen an actor like you, Yeongguk. Look, even the costume team leader, who usually doesn’t show up, is working hard because you’re like this on the set. Should we call it the Mermaid Prince effect?”
The cold tea flowed down his throat, cooling Yeongguk.
Assistant Director Park Junggi looked at him with satisfaction. The young man’s nickname, Mermaid Prince, came from a variety show he filmed a few weeks ago that was broadcast nationwide on terrestrial TV. It was a program dubbed the “Marine Corps” of the variety world that everyone avoided. Still, the young man benefited from it because he was laid-back and natural even after falling into the water. It was as if it were a scene from a movie. If a mermaid that emerged from the mud was a man, wouldn’t it be like this? It was that impressive.
“The drama director also seems to be secretly expecting something. His tie color has been blue for a week! How happy must he be?”
“Why is that?”
“The director has a peculiar habit. He tends to wear different tie colors depending on his mood. Thanks to that, everyone around him knows, even if he doesn’t know his own mood. But blue for a week? That means he’s quite excited. Surely, he saw your broadcast, Yeongguk. But don’t you find it hard to help on a set like this? PD Kim said to leave you alone because you’re stubborn, but you’re too diligent. Was your original dream to be a staff member, not an actor?”
As the young man smiled, the AD jumped up from his seat.
“You’re not serious, are you?”
The atmosphere on the set was controlled by the actors. In that sense, the young man was a puzzle piece that fitted perfectly into the shooting site. He had been through the ups and downs of the theater world in his past life. Sharing the love while putting skin in the game, building and tearing down the stage hundreds of times a year, had been a long journey. Eventually, the makeup team came to look for the young man. Announcing the start of the shoot, the warm sunlight gently poured down on the young man’s shoulders.
“Load the equipment onto the dolly and keep it steady. You got that? We’re going from a two-shot (2SWS) to an over-the-shoulder (OSS), so make sure you catch the timing right. We might use this scene for a flashback later, so follow the directions carefully! Senior! Are you listening?”
“PD Kim, do you know how often I’ve heard the same thing? It’s stuck in my ears.”
“The scene really has to be perfect. I know all about the seniors’ skills. But I’ve bet my life on this work. If it fails, I’m not kidding, I might really end up in a bad place! Are the sound equipment ready without any noise interference?”
“PD Kim, if there’s an issue with the sound, I’ll go down with it, so stop worrying! We have the Mermaid Prince here, so what’s there to worry about? It’s been a while since I’ve seen such a good atmosphere before filming.”
As the directors from each department said, the atmosphere on the set was lively. There was a saying that the first shoot of a drama determined its success or failure. Moreover, there was a lot of tension since the actors and staff were not perfectly mixed. However, the current situation is different. Look, the lead actor was the first to step in and blend in with the staff, creating a lively atmosphere.
“Scene number 1, a bicycle ride along the stone wall road!”
With the signal that the standby was complete, the clapperboard was hit. The dolly carrying the filming equipment moved ahead, following the bicycle. Starting with the sneakers stepping on the pedals, the young man’s broad shoulders stood out even more with his white shirt. It was no surprise. The veins visible on the arm holding the bicycle’s handlebars seemed natural and fitting.
“Kim Dojin! Why are you leaving by yourself, you heartless punk! You saw your friend going, and you couldn’t even go slowly, let alone ride a bike all by yourself!”
From behind, an angry voice was heard. Dojin (played Jang Yeongguk) hid a smile on his lips and briefly stopped pedaling. As the thick branches of the trees swayed and cast shadows, the girl (played by Seo Minhye) appeared panting. She must have run so desperately that a strand of sweaty hair clung to her long neck.
“Didn’t you tell me told me to go ahead?”
The boy responded nonchalantly, and the girl got angry. As he tried to start again, the girl grabbed the rear bike seat with all her strength, stretching herself out.
He loosened his grip on the handlebars.
“Hey! Just because I said go ahead, you really went? You know we’ll get in trouble with the school president if we’re late.”
“If you don’t like it, then you should have left earlier.”
“Don’t say that. Just give me a ride. Two days in a row of punishment is death.”
The girl’s grip on the rear seat loosened, and the bicycle moved forward again. It was then that the girl looked at the boy’s departing figure with a blank expression. The bicycle stopped at the entrance of the stone wall road, and Dojin (Jang Yeongguk) tilted his head.
“I knew it was too light. Get on.”
She pouted her lips but hurried onto the rear seat.
PD Kim Jin, who was watching the tally screen from the dolly, had a lively expression on his face. Although his mouth may be light as a bird, his pride as a director was tremendous. He didn’t feel any pressure after his failed drama two years ago.
However, with the first scene of this drama, his pressure melted like snow, and an unstoppable smile bloomed on his face. After all, the scent of summer was palpable from the boy’s appearance to the delivery of his lines.
“What are you doing?”
“Do you want to fall? Hold on.”
The girl’s slender fingers gently rested on the boy’s wide shoulders. She was a casual girl but had never been this close to the boy’s back before. At that moment, he pedaled hard, and she unknowingly closed her eyes and clung tightly to his waist.
Underneath her windblown hair, her eyes filled with summer finally smiled. The dragonflies skimming along the stone wall road bore witness to the scene with their fluttering wings.
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