“Director Choi, what do you think?”
“I was surprised.”
Music director Choi Yul didn’t hide his emotions. It was the filming of the intro. Given that it was the scene lifting the curtain, caution was inevitable. There were expectations of a possible multiple retakes.
After all, there was no such thing as a standard employment contract in a movie set. Therefore, the culture of shooting until it was done was prevalent. But then…
He did it in one go.
The main actor (Yeongguk)’s face after the intro shoot was nothing but calm. Was the image he showed in front of the camera a few moments ago a mask, or was the image of him having a comfortable conversation with the staff a mask? It was hard to differentiate.
“Director Shin, is it common to finish in one go in the first shoot?”
“No, it’s not. Why else would my nickname be stubborn bull? In the previous work, we shot a five-minute scene for two days straight. I got an earful not only from the actors but also from the director of photography. He said, ‘Only you’re making art here.’ But today, an arty scene came out, so I unknowingly shouted cut. I want to try one more time, but I’m trying not to. I’m afraid it might ruin the good picture.”
That wasn’t wrong.
As he watched the first shoot, Director Choi Yul remembered Beethoven’s overture to Egmont. The sequence of majestic and grandiose yet lively melodies. When the young priest listed the seven sins, his heart pounded without him realizing it. When young priest wailed about the final sin, he felt like a trumpet was ringing.
“Director Choi, let’s move to the next location.”
Choi Yul, who was deep in thought, snapped out of it at Director Shin Seonghyeon’s words. In movie filming, there’s no limit to the number of scenes in one day. Thanks to that, they could repeat shooting multiple times. Before they knew it, they moved from the shooting site to the morgue set. As soon as they entered the morgue, Assistant Director Kim Seokcheol pinched his nose.
“What’s this smell?
The props team leader, who had been there, sprayed something on the morgue floor with a sprayer and yelled,
“What smell? It’s the smell of a rotting corpse!”
“The smell of a rotting corpse?”
“If you’re so curious, ask Director Shin! Given the previous work, I thought we would only be shooting the intro all day today. I didn’t know we would move to the morgue scene straight away. The director said he wanted to recreate the same atmosphere on set, including the smell. Oh, it’s so harsh! If someone has rhinitis, their nose will clear up today.”
Of course, the camera wouldn’t be able to express the sense of smell. However, directors who valued liveliness tried to create situations in the script into reality. Among them, Director Shin Seonghyeon valued such realism the most. As evidence, didn’t he spend a hefty 3 million won just to make a dummy corpse model?
“Can we really act properly here?”
Just like Assistant Director Kim Seokcheol’s muttering, the morgue was filled with the smell of rotting food. The props team leader looked somewhat awkward, although he didn’t show it. Of course, it was because he thought he had sprayed the rotten smell too excessively.
But after the shooting began, they realized that all those concerns were unnecessary worries.
It was a scene recalling the past.
The main character (Yeongguk)’s father died in a hit-and-run. The body was decomposed to the point of being unrecognizable and was clumsily stitched up.
The sight was so gruesome that the staff on set, who knew it was a dummy, avoided eye contact with the dummy. On top of that, the rotten smell penetrated their noses, making it difficult to breathe properly.
Everyone was speechless at the sight of Yeongguk crying in front of his father’s corpse. Yeongguk, who had shown a cool appearance until the morning shoot, was now a bachelor attending a theological school.
He had faced drowned corpses while assisting his father, who was a mortician. He didn’t flinch even when he saw bodies that had decomposed to the point of being unrecognizable, with their skin melting. He thought his father, who was a mortician, was emotionless. He was the same. He thought he had become completely numb to death.
Under his calm gaze, his tears flowed endlessly. Director Shin Seonghyeon, who was watching him, clenched his fists. He felt under his skin that the priest who would later commit a series of murders was erasing his last remaining emotions.
* * *
There’s no better way to greet a refreshing morning than jogging along the river. Time passed and the bruise he got during the fan meeting almost healed. CEO Kim Seonghwan was so mad that he got treatment in a famous dermatology clinic. Thanks to that, there wasn’t even a trace of the bruise on his spacious back.
As he went downstairs with a towel around his neck, sure enough,
“Uncle, you seem to be coming to work here every morning.”
“A lonely old bachelor should at least have a hearty breakfast. Don’t be so harsh. Do you know how lonely it is to be alone in an apartment? There’s no warmth in the room. Warmth.”
“That’s why you should get married, even if it’s late.”
“Marriage, what marriage? If you count not getting married, you and I are in the same boat. You little punk, now you’re trying to teach me. Hey, I used to wipe your dripping nose with a handkerchief!”
“What are you talking about? How old was I when I first met you?”
“Yeah, you’re great, great.”
In fact, as my uncle said, we’re in the same situation. I didn’t meet any significant relationships in my past life. Building relationships required leisure, but who could have liked me, a guy who was only crazy about acting?
“Yeongguk, don’t make fun of an old bachelor. Look, how lonely must the national actor be to come all the way to our house to eat meals every day.”
“No! Even you, hyung?”
“That’s why you should get married, even if it’s late, just like Yeongguk said. Don’t the reporters always say that you can’t settle down because you don’t want to?”
“No, I wouldn’t feel wronged if I had a girlfriend.”
The atmosphere at the breakfast table was warm and friendly. After all, neither grandfather nor I disliked uncle coming.
On the contrary, despite his stern title of national actor, he enjoyed gossiping more than an average high school girl in private. Thanks to that, the house was always filled with laughter when my uncle came. The air itself was different.
“Yeongguk, come to think of it, Hyeongseop praised you a lot.”
“Senior Kim Hyeongseop?”
“Hey, the guy who calls me uncle is being all formal with Hyeongseop. Look here, I debuted three years ahead of Hyeongseop according to debut years.”
“Hey, are you and Senior Kim Hyeongseop the same? Alright. From now on, I’ll call you Ahn Junghyeon-sunbae without respect, okay?”
“Anyway, you can’t beat him with words. Hyeongseop is known as the ‘licorice of Korea,’ a friend who never evaluates others’ performances. But one day, he called to praise you a lot. I’ve never seen him praise another actor, especially a rookie, like that. What magic are you casting on the set?”
“I didn’t do such a thing?”
“The more I think about it, the more amazing it seems. You’ve managed to charm the ‘tiger’ of the film industry. The directors you’ve worked with are all praises. Even Kwak Myunghwan, who is not one to sugarcoat things. Let’s do the next project together. I need to see what you’re doing on set.”
After breakfast, I put on my uniform for the first time in a long time, and my grandfather asked,
“Seems like you’re going to school instead of the set today.”
“Yes, Grandfather. There’s a break in filming today.”
Thanks to the school’s understanding, I could focus on filming as long as I attended the required number of days. Life has been non-stop lately. I could have taken a day off under the pretext of filming a movie, but today seemed like an important day.
As if reading my thoughts, my uncle next to me expressed his curiosity.
“If it was me, I would have skipped school and slept in. How does a young person like you go jogging in the morning? You don’t even have a morning sleep like old people.”
“I have a mock test today. I have to go for sure.”
“A mock test?”
Once Yeongguk pedaled his bicycle out of sight, Ahn Junghyeon, who was sitting in the main hall, asked Baek Janghun,
“Hyung, is that kid still the school’s top student?”
Baek Janghun only smiled and did not reply. Watching Yeongguk’s receding figure, Ahn Junghyeon clicked his tongue.
“He’s got it all.”
* * *
It is said that autumn grains thrive in the cold dew. As everything ripens, the autumn leaves turn red, and the reeds sway like golden waves. In the midst of all this, the film set was bustling. The early morning set looked like a labor market.
Once the rusty drum started to burn firewood, everyone gathered around to warm their hands. It’s dangerous to handle filming equipment with frozen hands.
“We still have a long way to go before winter, but this morning wind is so cold. Everyone, take a heat pack, three each! No more than that.”
“Seokcheol, do you think we can survive with just three heat packs? Be humane and give us more. What are you hoarding the production budget for? It’s meant to be spent here. We have to hold the camera with bare hands. Three won’t be enough!”
“Park-sunbae, it’s not just the camera. We have to handle the lighting with bare hands too. It’s only warm for the person under the lights; holding the reflector in this wind chill is freezing. Can our juniors freeze to death?”
“Seonwoo, you’ve gained some nerve, talking back to your senior like that after getting a little hair on your chest. You can’t take care of your family too much. Didn’t you forget how much I took care of you when you were a rookie?”
“How can I forget? Senior, you scolded me so much because the butterfly reflector was not well placed. You’ve even told me to consider another path when I’ve only been in the lighting team for three months.”
“Did I say that?”
“I knew it, the hitter never remembers.”
“You expect me to remember every detail from ten years ago? Thanks to my harsh words, you’ve survived until now as a lighting director. I said that out of love. Weak people can’t survive in this field.”
He’s not wrong. This job didn’t even offer the basic four insurances.
If we assume a hundred rookies enter Chungmuro every year, less than thirty survive a year. It’s a rough path. The seniors already knew if it didn’t suit your aptitude, it was best to seek another path.
“Everyone, have some of this!”
Yeongguk brought a box full of something. It was sweet potatoes wrapped in foil. It’s rare for anyone to have breakfast for a dawn shoot. As he placed the sweet potatoes among the drum can fire, a delicious aroma filled the air. The director of photography gave a thumbs up at the sweet aroma.
“Wow, as I said, Yeongguk has a real sense! How did you think of this?”
“When I was in Yeongdo, I used to go out early in the morning to lay out the fish stall. The sea breeze on the way to the harbor is so cold that even in early autumn, it feels like winter. So, the market elders have a shot of soju to warm their bodies, and they grill mackerel on the charcoal fire. In my case, I often brought sweet potatoes. This one here melts the cold right out of your body.”
“No matter how I see it, Yeongguk, you seem like someone who has spent decades on the set. You’ve been remarkable since day one, and you continue to be. You seem more mature than Seokcheol!”
“What, Seonwoo-hyung. Why is the spark suddenly flying at me?”
“You were the one who only provided three heat packs.”
“Everyone, stop and have some. They’ll be ready soon. Let’s energize ourselves today. As they say, a full stomach is a country’s strength. I’ve brought plenty, so those who are hungry can have more. And I’ve ordered parkas for the filming team to wear, so don’t worry about the coming winter!”
At his words, Assistant Director Kim Seokcheol, who was eating sweet potatoes, opened his mouth wide in surprise.
“Yeongguk, don’t tell me that’s why you asked me to find out all the sizes of the filming crew last time?”
Yeongguk just smiled faintly without a word. He knew how hard the film crew worked on set. He appreciated their hard work, so he didn’t mind doing that for them.
I mean, what else should he do with the money he earns? It had to be used like this. Then the director, with half-eaten sweet potato in his mouth, clapped his hands and shouted.
“Everyone, give a round of applause for Actor Jang!”
* * *
As soon as actor Kim Hyeongseop arrived at the filming set, he felt warmth. Not the weather, but the unique atmosphere of the set. It’s a series of hardships to start preparing for the shoot from the cold dawn. Yet, the film crew never losed their smiles. Among them, it’s impossible not to notice a newbie actor named Jang Yeongguk.
“Is that so?”
Listening to the story unfolded at the dawn shoot from his manager, Kim Hyeongseop’s expression brightened up. It’s fascinating. They said that the atmosphere of the filming set was led by the leading actor. However, it’s not easy for rookie actors to take on that role.
I mean, wasn’t it hard enough to take care of their own careers? In a filming set where various characters gathered, it’s impossible to lift the atmosphere with appropriate social skills and eloquence unless you have considerable experience.
This young guy is amazing the more I see him.
He wa a rookie actor who suddenly became a teen star with a drama, but there’s no sign of arrogance or complacency. Not to mention, he didn’t hesitate to do even the hard work and blended in with the staff as if they were family. Seeing that, I could only say that he was truly amazing.
This was quite the contrast to the stars who usually stayed in their vehicles until the shooting started, their neck veins bulging. Not to mention, how’s his acting?
Could I have done that much when I was eighteen?
Kim Hyeongseop shook his head inwardly. Wasn’t it an age when he knew nothing? He couldn’t even get a proper role in a play, let alone act. However, this rookie actor named Jang Yeongguk not only got the lead role, but also presented a satisfactory performance even in Kim Hyeongseop’s eyes. He even controlled the immersion level of his character as if turning a switch on and off.
Although a role with high immersion had a trap that made it hard to get out, he easily overcame it as if he’s jumping over a snake’s pit. Where on earth could he have gained such experience? Amidst the questions bubbling up from deep within him.
Shall I test him?
Actor Kim Hyeongseop sported a playful smile.
“Scene number 21, the bishop and the young priest—!”
Two men dressed in black robes was walking through the area with fallen autumn leaves. The old priest (Kim Hyeongseop) spoke with a gentle voice, casting a warm look at the young priest (Yeongguk).
“Father Matthew, it’s great that you’ve joined our diocese as an auxiliary priest. It must have been hard at seminary, right? Being a subdeacon until you get ordained and living a student life is not easy. In my time, even going out was prohibited until the fourth year. If you don’t know about administering the sacraments or any other duty, don’t hesitate to ask.”
“Bishop James, there’s something I’ve been unable to answer and I wonder if I could ask it of you?”
“What do you think sin is?”
It’s no coincidence that the young priest had been assigned to the diocese where Bishop James was located. It’s also what he had been longing for. Among the seven sins in the Bible, wasn’t he the last sinner? He deceived the believers with a sad smile and a gentle voice, but he clearly committed greed.
“Didn’t the Lord say repent, and I will forgive all sins? Even if he’s a sinner, if he sincerely repents and prays, won’t he eventually be forgiven for his sins because of that? There’s no eternal evil.”
This was a scene that showed that the paths of young priest Matthew and Bishop James were different. The two silently walked through the area with fallen autumn leaves. The cross on top of the cathedral shined over the scene of the two fluttering black robes.
No one knew whether he would be punished for his sins, or if he would receive forgiveness, as James said. Only under the cross, He knows.
“Father Matthew, what do you think when you see that cat?”
A stray cat with a limping hind leg happened to pass by the diocese. Whether it had a traffic accident or was born deformed was unknown. Director Shin Seonghyeon raised his head in surprise as he looked at the tallied screen.
Was it not a sudden ad-lib from Kim Hyeongseop? It was a line that wasn’t even discussed, so he was about to call NG when—
“It looks free.”
“Don’t you pity it?”
“How can I decide if it’s pitiful? It could have been deformed from birth. What we see is not everything. The same goes for sins. How can we judge the forgiveness of sin by just looking at a sinner’s prayer? It’s also mentioned in the Bible.”
Actor Kim Hyeongseop could barely swallow his surprise inwardly.
Look at this guy.
It was only natural to be flustered by the sudden ad-lib, but the newbie actor retorted as if he was waiting for it.
Not to mention, the depth of his line wasn’t easy; it’s like a seasoned senior actor responding to his lines. Eventually, the young priest looked at the older priest with a reverent voice.
“Don’t be deceived by what’s visible on the surface.”
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