This chapter is generously sponsored by Erin.
Like a verse from the Bible, the young man’s voice entwined itself around his head. Director Shin Seonghyeon, who had just left Sonwon Entertainment, looked as if a ghost had bewitched him. Unable to bear his curiosity, the AD at the steering wheel asked him,
“Director, what happened? Is Actor Min going to do it?”
“So that’s why you’re like this, your soul half gone? Hey, since when have we been able to cast the actors we want so easily? This is the time when you should be pulling yourself together!”
“Seokcheol, how long have you been working with me?”
“Ten years. It’s rare for a competent AD like me to work under one director for so long while doing a scripter’s job as well. So do better. Get your driver’s license, too, okay? Do I have to be your driver every time like this?”
“It seems like I’ve been dreaming all this time. This work can’t go on like this.”
“What did you say!”
The car came to a sudden halt, along with the loud sound of the brakes being stomped on. Fortunately, the signal changed just in time. The car behind them honked nervously as if blaming them for not passing through the dilemma zone (orange light). But that was not the important thing. AD Kim Seokcheol didn’t care and turned his head around to glare at the passenger seat.
“Director, no, Shin-hyung! You’re not saying you’ll give up just because you’ve been turned down once, are you? It’s not even the first or second time. What’s the big deal? You’ve been toiling over this script for years, and now you’re giving up so easily? I can’t accept that! Do you know how much pressure the investors are putting on us, and you’re acting like this! What, are there no actors in Korea other than Actor Min?!”
“Shit! Stop yelling and drive. The light’s changed!”
“That’s what I’m saying. I’m following you! What on earth did you hear in Sonwon CEO’s office that made you lose your soul like this? What happened? Are you going through menopause already?”
AD Kim Seokcheol scratched his head and took hold of the steering wheel again. After a long silence, Director Shin Seonghyeon finally spoke as if he had made up his mind.
“Seokcheol, don’t take the Olympic Highway. Turn the car around and head straight home.”
“What? We have a meeting with the investors today!”
“If we go there, all they’ll do is pressure us to cast the useless actors they’re pushing! If it weren’t for their damn money, I would’ve kicked their asses long ago! So, turn the car around quickly. I need to catch my emotions now and reshape the main character’s image.”
“Reshape the image?”
“That’s right, the main character’s image. Nothing is confirmed yet, but I think a major revision will be necessary. I’ll tell you more details later. Just take me home quickly for now.”
“Ah, this stubborn guy, really.”
Director Shin Seonghyeon’s state of mind was more complicated than anyone else’s. The verse that flowed from Jang Yeongguk’s mouth reawakened the inspiration that came to him while writing the screenplay.
Meanwhile, back in the CEO’s office,
“Psalm? What’s that, and why did Director Shin look so out of it?”
CEO Kim Seonghwan asked with a puzzled expression. Jang Yeongguk smiled silently and stared at the empty space in the air.
As a college student who had been obsessed with the script for The Priest’s Confession, he would know. When the movie failed at the box office and public interest faded, who would have known that Director Shin’s drunken ramblings to a close journalist friend would be published in an article? A short piece of writing contributed to a magazine that no one would know about unless they looked for it. Who would have thought it would cause such a butterfly effect?
Time flowed like water. Youth had already passed its halfway point in filming, and the highly anticipated scene was finally broadcast. The viewers’ reactions exceeded expectations. Discussions about Youth could be heard everywhere, from the media to the streets.
It was a scene that solidified the image of “the nation’s first love.” The schools would surely be abuzz if it hadn’t been summer vacation. This one scene had created so much buzz that SBC’s drama department was almost like a party.
“Peak viewership rating of 36.9%!”
The youngest PD, who had just been promoted from AD, shouted enthusiastically. It had been a while since the atmosphere was this lively. As the saying goes, “A broadcasting station is like a jungle”—a survival of the fittest. It was always difficult to maintain a good atmosphere. When lineups overlapped, people would spy on each other’s partitions, sometimes even leading to physical altercations.
But now, everyone was united in happiness. Even the usually cynical editing team leader was busy expressing his emotions.
“I can’t remember the last time we won like this! I’m even happier than when we won the Korea-Japan World Cup game.”
It was understandable as KBC and MBS constantly beat SBC’s drama department in ratings. As a result, the atmosphere over the past few years had been gloomy, almost like a funeral parlor. And wasn’t there an example from the year before last when a so-called high-quality drama had failed miserably? PD Kim Jin, the orchestrator of that incident, now headed towards the director’s office.
“Director, you’ve heard the news!”
PD Kim Jin barged into the director’s office.
“Hey, I’m your director, so you should at least knock before entering!”
“Come on, you saw me coming through the glass anyway. But did you see the ratings from yesterday? The peak rating was 36%! A whopping 36%! You didn’t know?”
“How could I not know? I received the report earlier!”
“You said that this is a turning misfortune into fortune moment. I’ve avenged the humiliation from the year before last. MBS has even given up with both hands and feet. They’re even changing the programming time back to what it was originally. The ratings aren’t even coming in anymore. How about that? I did well, right? Please praise me for once.”
“Ah, yes, yes. Thank you, thank you! Thanks to you, I even received encouragement from the president. Everything is all thanks to you. All thanks to you! Are you satisfied now? The president has ordered a company dinner for the entire drama department and even gave a separate bonus. I’ll give you a separate card for that, so have dinner with the actors as well. The top contributors shouldn’t be left out.”
“There’s no reason or need to refuse when he’s personally giving it to us. Then, I’ll be going.”
“Wait! How’s the discussion about extending the drama going?”
PD Kim Jin’s face twisted briefly, but he quickly fixed his expression and turned back to the director.
“You know, Hwang Writer has said from the beginning that there will be no extension. I even tried to bring it up casually when she came to the filming location last time. But as soon as the word ‘extension’ came up, she turned all sorts of colors. What can I do?”
“Hey, you’re usually so talkative, like a sparrow in a mill. Why can’t you persuade Writer Hwang? Be honest. You don’t want to extend it, do you?”
“Well, it’s not like my salary increases if we extend it.”
“No, but seriously, from an artistic standpoint, it’s right for Hwang Writer to end it where they’ve set the conclusion. What, are you going to throw that signboard at me? Go ahead, throw it. But think about who will suffer if I get hurt and can’t film.”
“Kim Jin, seriously! They say you can pay off a thousand-dollar debt with words, but your debt only grows as you talk. Get lost. Ugh, something else came up. We got an offer from Japan. They want to buy the broadcasting rights.”
“Really, from Japan?”
“Yeah, they’re offering a huge amount per episode for the rights. It wouldn’t have mattered if only I’d heard about it, but it’s already moved up the chain and reached the vice president and president. So how can we not extend it when they offer so much?”
“Well, first of all, I can’t convince the writer, so what am I supposed to do? Ugh, I don’t know! I don’t know!”
At that time, it was rare for Korean dramas to sell their broadcasting rights overseas. Even if they did, they often didn’t satisfy foreign tastes and received poor ratings. However, Youth was exceptional as it received an offer from Japan right from the beginning.
“First, match Jang Yeongguk’s appearance fee to Seo Minhye’s level from now on. Of course, this is something known only to us and should not be leaked to Seo Minhye’s agency. Make sure to keep a tight lid on it.”
Appearance fees varied greatly among actors. While child actors could earn a few hundred thousand won per episode, star-level actors could make tens of millions won. After all, appearance fees were the barometer of an actor’s popularity.
In that sense, it was remarkable to put Yeongguk, virtually a rookie, on the same level as a high-teen actress at the height of her popularity.
“Yes, yes. Is there any other choice? I have to do as told.”
“Also, subtly float the idea to the other actors. You never know. Even with Writer Hwang, it could happen if the actors want it, right? Lastly, let’s hold onto Jang Yeongguk’s tightly. Make sure he works with SBC on his next project as well. That friend is not a rookie.”
He was a big fish.
* * *
“Yeongguk, there’s a hierarchy even in pouring cold water, so this egg roll is mine.”
Ahn Junghyeon picked up the last egg roll on the breakfast table with his chopsticks.
“No, if that’s your logic, shouldn’t Grandpa have it first? Why should Uncle be first?”
“Don’t you know that your grandpa doesn’t eat more than three egg rolls? Am I right, hyung?”
Director Baek Janghun smiled warmly as he watched the two bicker. In the meantime, the housekeeper quietly brought out more egg rolls, ending the egg roll war. It was time to enjoy the view of the blooming summer flowers in the garden while sipping warm tea after their meal.
“Hyung, did you know that Yeongguk has become more popular than me these days? He’s now called the ‘nation’s first love,’ taking away the title I had when I was young.”
“Uncle, you were not the ‘nation’s first love,’ but the ‘nation’s playboy.’ You were famous for perfectly portraying a playboy role in a weekend drama, right? My mother knew about it too. Am I right, Grandpa?”
“Yeah, back then, Junghyeon and I went to a street food vendor and got slapped before being chased out. He was actually the nation’s bad guy, playing a role where he dumped his wife for another woman.”
“Hyung, what kind of story are you telling in front of the kid? You’re ruining my image.”
“If you want to maintain your image, you should start by fixing your habit of flinging open the bathroom door. I can’t even feel comfortable in my own house. Anyway, Yeongguk, I’ve already asked the priest I mentioned before for that favor.”
“He’s a priest I’m close with, so feel free to ask him anything you’re curious about.”
“A priest? Why bring up a priest all of a sudden? Are you planning to get remarried at that age, hyung?”
Ignoring Ahn Junghyeon’s teasing, Yeongguk hurriedly prepared to leave. He had to stop by his agency and visit the diocese, making for a busy day. Soon, the sound of a car driven by Manager Lee Bongchun arriving in front of the mansion-like house could be heard.
When they arrived at Sonwon Entertainment, unexpected news greeted them.
“A raise in appearance fee?”
“Yeah, SBC is going to raise it to the same level as Seo Minhye. It’s unusual for contract terms to change during filming like this. I guess SBC is really eager to keep you, Yeongguk. But remember, this should not get leaked outside, so be careful with your words.”
Yeongguk nodded briefly. Naturally, it was a given. Keeping the secret about appearance fees was an unspoken rule in the industry, as the guaranteed amount (appearance fee) could provoke actors’ pride. In severe cases, problems could arise from the casting stage.
“CEO, why did you call me today? Have you heard from the new director?”
“That man is quite peculiar. He already cast you, revised the script, and now wants to hold auditions again.”
“It’s not just because of his own greed.”
Of course, the director suddenly revised the script. It would be strange if the production team did not raise questions. Yeongguk could resolve those doubts. However, the real problem was elsewhere.
Actually, that wasn’t the main issue, but it seemed that the new director was in a difficult situation in many ways. One of the investment companies that promised to invest appeared to have backed out. The director took quite some time to resolve the casting issues and revise the script, causing the investment company to push their preferred actors semi-forcefully. Cornered by their attitude, the director grabbed the investor by the collar. The director demanded to know where was the real actor amongst those that the investment company was pushing.
“Just endure a little longer.”
I never thought he would be the one to grab the investor by the scruff of his neck.
“Director Shin isn’t that flexible, you know. But he still worried that you might change your mind while he ironed out the changes. He said we could have a proper audition for the lead role once the investment issue was resolved. Anyway, it seems like there’s some financial pressure because of that.”
The cost of producing a movie varied greatly. Especially in this day and age, the average production cost of a movie could exceed 1.5 billion won. It was a steep increase compared to two years ago when the average production cost per movie was around 1.2 billion won. Some even went so far as to say that this might be a transitional period.
But if they knew that in the future, movies costing tens of billions of won would be produced frequently in Korea, what would those pessimists say?
“CEO, how many advertisement offers do I have right now?”
I hadn’t done any ad shoots since the CF for the apple juice. I didn’t have a connection to ads in my previous life, so it felt awkward, like wearing clothes that didn’t fit. But thanks to creating a legendary quote in the advertisement, I’ve received countless love calls from advertisers.
Recently, because of the popularity of Youth, my guarantee was unimaginable for a rookie.
“Why would you suddenly want to shoot an ad? The company is practically paralyzed because of the advertisers’ calls.”
“I need to do it if necessary. And how about I invest all my advertisement guarantee and drama appearance fees in Director Shin Seonghyeon’s new work?”
“I won’t lose money anyway. If you insist, exclude the company’s revenue and just calculate the amount meant for me.”
CEO Kim Seonghwan looked like he wanted to stop me. Investments and stocks should never be moved by emotions.
“Yeongguk, think about it again. You know how much your advertising guarantee and drama appearance fee are combined, right? You could easily buy a house in Seoul and still have money left. Should I get you a financial advisor?”
“Of course, I understand your concern, CEO. But didn’t I tell you? I don’t plan on losing money.”
It wasn’t a lie. If Yeongguk was confirmed as the lead, even the investors who left would return. However, Yeongguk wasn’t satisfied with just not losing money.
The reason why The Priest’s Confession in my previous life had failed at the box office was because of the poor acting of the lead actor and, secondly, because of the pressure from the investors. When the direction changed just because of the investors’ taste, how could the movie not fail?
But this time, The Priest’s Confession would be different, from the roles to the direction.
That’s why Yeongguk was sure this decision would come back bigger than any investment.
* * *
Priests in their robes were seen around the large diocese. The harmonious singing of the seminarians practicing hymns echoed beautifully, and in the Archbishop’s office, marked by the passage of time, two people sat facing each other.
“How is Janghun doing these days?”
The elder, filled with kindness and wearing a neatly dressed crimson cassock, showed traces of time. He looked at Yeongguk like a kind grandfather and smiled.
“Yes, Grandpa is doing well and healthy, Your Grace.”
I couldn’t believe that the priest Grandpa Baek Janghun introduced me to was the Archbishop. Moreover, he called him by name so casually. As if to clear up that question, his voice continued.
“It’s been sixty years since I’ve known that friend. We have been friends since we were very young. Both of us were real troublemakers, but now one has become a priest and the other a film director. I heard you’re quite a famous actor, Yeongguk?”
“You’re too kind, Your Grace.”
“Well, feel free to ask anything you’re curious about.”
The Priest’s Confession.
What did the sin mentioned in the script mean? For example, if there was evil, as mentioned in the Bible, would it have been committed by the perpetrators? Or was it committed by the protagonist who mercilessly committed murder? This curiosity, stemming from such a primitive thing, must have led me here.
“Your Grace, how do you define evil? I’ve heard that among the priests, some hold the position of exorcist.”
“If you’re talking about exorcism, all priests and laypeople can be called exorcists, as they all hold faith. As for the position of an exorcist, I’m not sure; it could or could not exist. I didn’t expect such a question, so I didn’t prepare for it. Speaking from an ordinary person’s perspective, not as a priest, about evil…”
As a cool breeze flowed in through the half-open window, the pages of the Bible on the desk turned on their own. For some reason, it sent a chill down my spine.
“I think we can see evil not only in invisible beings but also in our neighbors around us. How many people commit evil deeds and live their lives without repentance and regret? In fact, they might be considered more evil than invisible beings. Of course, they will eventually realize the sins they have committed. There is a psalm about the retribution for an evil life, isn’t there?”
It must have been about an hour. I asked questions and listened to answers without a break.
“Why don’t you go to the church and offer a prayer instead? Direct experience is more reliable than a hundred words.”
It was a solemn and reverent church. Long rows of chairs stretched out on both sides of the central aisle. A cross was visible above the altar, and the vibrant colors projected from the stained glass captivated my gaze.
How much time had passed? The bell installed on the steeple rang. In the midst of our conversation, it was already time for the Mass.
“Your Grace, I am truly grateful for today.”
“Don’t mention it, my child. When you go back, pass on my regards to Janghun. Tell him to visit when he has time. I wonder what keeps him so busy that he doesn’t even show his face.”
As Yeongguk turned around to walk away, he briefly bowed to a young priest entering the church. The young priest looked at Yeongguk’s face, then approached the Archbishop with a bewildered expression.
“Your Grace, who is that young man?”
At that moment, the Archbishop showed a mischievous smile to the young priest as if he had thought of something amusing.
“Handsome, isn’t he? He’s the grandson of a friend of mine, a diligent student with a sincere interest in theology. Who knows? He may become a seminarian and train in our diocese someday. Antonio, why do you look so surprised?”
“Your Grace, it’s not that. It’s just that young man…”
The young priest, who had just finished his diaconate and was on the path to priesthood, knew who the young man he had just passed by was. He was the protagonist of the drama that was currently causing a stir in South Korea. However, the words of the Archbishop made him wonder if he had been mistaken.
“Antonio, is there a rule that says only actors can be outstanding? If one has faith, one can walk the path of priesthood too. You may not know this, but I was also considered quite good-looking when I was young. But because of the Lord, I am now here in this position. It is the same for that young man, Jang Yeongguk. Aren’t you already looking forward to seeing the young man in his priestly robe?”
The vibrant colors from the stained glass were projected onto the church, where preparations for Mass were taking place. Underneath the cross, the Lord alone watched the young man walking down the long central aisle.
Enjoyed this additional chapter? Big thanks to our sponsor, Erin, for making it possible! If you’d like to see more, consider sponsoring a chapter yourself!
Love the series? Share your thoughts on Novel Updates by rating and reviewing it now!