“Jeyeol? He hated the thought of doing that underwear advert, but he actually likes it now that he actually did it. When I showed him his appearance on a comic ad, he turned his eyes away, saying that he can’t look at it. He looked like he would look at it in secret when I’m not there. He’s so cute.”
“Look after him carefully. I had a hard time persuading his mother.”
“What about Gyuho?”
“I think the movie audition fell through. I think they decided to go with a kid they found through connections with other agencies. I wanted to look further into it, but I wasn’t able to since everyone didn’t want to talk about it.”
“President Park told me that we should have a drink together a few days ago, so that’s what this is about huh. I guess we can’t help it. It’s a bit of a pity, but it’ll only ache your arms if you wave at a bus that already departed. I heard that RBS decided on a mini-series. Try to send a video to that producer before the audition gets announced.”
“Yes. Gyuho, video, got it,” Byunchan noted that down on his notebook as he muttered to himself.
“What about Sooil?”
“He finished shooting the public service advertisement, and he’s now shooting an ad for an educational program. I heard that it was a day-long shoot, but it seems like some of their equipment died on them since they told me I should empty his schedule until tomorrow. I agreed for now since there’s no other schedule.”
“If they want something from us, don’t agree immediately and drag for some time instead, before you give them the okay. We should take the upper hand in this tug of war while we still can. If we let go or pull suddenly, they will get startled, so show them early on.”
President Lee Junmin, who had buried himself deeply in his chair, yawned before standing up. Byungchan also relaxed a little. The business meeting was now over.
“How is it these days? You have a hard time looking after all of them, don’t you?”
“Not at all. I seem to be blessed with my work when I listen to what my colleagues are going through.”
“Minors rarely have overnight shoots. Their parents will get mad if they do. Also, there’s a rumor circulating around about a law that will forbid minors from night shoots. Apparently, it will also restrict the shoot times to under 30 hours.”
“Will that really work?”
Junmin snorted before sitting down on the sofa on the other side. Byungchan received a green plum drink from him.
“Like hell it would. They might as well stop minors from doing shoots altogether. They’re just making a big noise about rights and whatnot. They look like they’re doing something if they look like they are taking action. If some journalists write something about that, the masses will think that ‘oh, the drama/movie industry of this country is also developing’, or something.”
Hearing that, Byungchan took a sip.
“Are you preparing your acting?”
The drink that was going down his throat came back up. He coughed a few times before looking at Junmin.
“Why are you so surprised? Did you do something wrong or something?”
“No, it was just unexpected.”
“Now that I think about it, I don’t talk with you that much huh. That’s just how it works. People that quietly do their work well aren’t looked for that often. They do well even if I leave them alone.”
Junmin crossed his arms.
“I really don’t like talking about things like this, but I don’t think acting suits you.”
Byungchan wiped his lips.
“I think so too.”
“But you’re still trying?”
“Yes, I am. I’m still twenty five, so I think I still have an opportunity.”
“Really? Then have a look at this.”
Byungchan had a look at the copy of a scenario that was placed in front of him.
“A scenario for a one-act play. It’s somewhat of a filler for YBS, and they wanted me to recommend someone. Go try it out.”
“Honestly speaking, you’ll probably get rejected.”
“The characters aren’t that hard. What’s left is the acting skill, and it’ll probably be hard for you. That producer, although he just became a full-fledged producer from an assistant director, has good eyes. He will probably use everything he can since it’s his first work, so he probably won’t pick someone he doesn’t think is perfect. It’s not like he’s running out of time either.”
“Then why did you give me….”
“To try doing it. And then think about your decisions afterwards.”
Decision - Byungchan felt that the stack of paper in his hand was very heavy.
“Twenty-five. You are at an age where you can try anything. Even if you fall, you will be able to get back on your feet right away. But you know? The world is becoming harsher by the day. Debuting is a red ocean, but surviving is an even deadlier blood ocean. Actors? They’re good. Receiving the spotlight, having journalists tail them all the time, receiving attention. Everyone dreams of that. But these days, everything is becoming more and more systemized. Kids are learning ballet and whatnot to learn to use their bodies when they’re still infants, and they undergo all sorts of care from child actor-specialized agencies. They will become young stars just like that and achieve beautiful success. We live in an era where the prepared gets what’s prepared for them.”
Byungchan slowly nodded. The children under his care mostly took those same steps to become an actor. The days where stars appeared out of nowhere and lasted a long time were long gone. There were times when an actor over 30 years old suddenly became popular, but even such people had at least 10 years of experience when you dug into them. The so-called top stars had enough experience to match. The current entertainment industry was one where a windfall star will not continue receiving the spotlight for long. There were more things to see, and even more actors. The audience chose very rationally between new things and what they were used to seeing. In that process, many actors lost their titles and left the field.
“You told me that you shot your graduation piece before you went to the military, right?”
“Did anyone contact you after that? A lot of them must have gone to Chungmuro. Did anyone ever call you to play a minor character, or heck, to help at all?”
“Not even once.”
Byungchan smiled bitterly. He was aware that he didn’t have the talent. But he kept trying with the mindset that he should try hard enough to cough up blood before giving up.
Junmin sighed in a low voice.
“I really talk unpleasantly when I start to talk about personal stuff. That’s why others don’t usually like me. I am aware of it, but I probably won’t try to fix it. There are many people who still try to suck up to me even if I live like this.”
It was just as he said, his words weren’t that pleasant, but he looked cool for some reason. People who had deep thoughts really were different when they said something like that.
“Since I’m like this, let’s go even further. What do you think effort is?”
“Effort, you say?”
“Doing your best.”
“What’s doing your best?”
“Seeing blood at least.”
“Are you acting enough that you’re seeing blood?”
“I plan to.”
“I’ll have a look at the scenario and do that until the audition….”
“No, you probably won’t be able to. Of course, you might do it. But from what I’ve experienced, that isn’t so easy. You think that acting is something you can improve if you try hard enough, right?”
Byungchan nodded. Acting was a realm of talent, but he also thought that effort could make up most of it.
“Is it not?”
“Let’s say there’s a swimming athlete. Is swimming a realm of talent or of effort?”
“I guess there’s a talent element to it since long limbs and a sturdy body gives them an edge.”
“Then what about studying?”
“Studying? I think that’s about effort. Your grades will rise as long as you do your best.”
“Then what’s the difference between swimming and studying?”
“Swimming is something you do with your body while studying is something you do with your head. I think that’s it?”
“Then what about acting?”
“...You use your body and your head.”
Byungchan gulped down his drink in one go.
“Studying is the realm of effort, huh. Never in my life have I thought that way even once. Sitting down in a chair for a long time is a talent in and of itself. There are people that, like you said, try their best to the point that they cough up blood to get what they want. But how many people actually get what they want?”
“Do I really lack that talent?”
“Take it from an actor who stayed nameless until I was over thirty - you are worse than me.”
“You are being too harsh.”
“If we are talking about work, I would tell you to put your effort in, that you will be able to do well if you try. But this is just a personal conversation. It’s not my style to give people useless hope.”
“People ruin themselves by trying to ape their betters, and yet we say that there are such things as ‘beautiful challenges’ amidst a difficult situation. These two contradict each other, but we accept both. And then, we just use the more convenient one according to the situation. Talent and effort. For me, I believe that both of them are the same. It’s an extremely personal opinion of mine, and I might be entirely wrong. However, seeing as how I became quite successful, it’s highly likely that I’m right.”
“What should I do then?”
“Do what you want first. Do it before coming to me. For now, there won’t be a huge problem being a manager and practicing your acting at the same time. I didn’t give you a lot of work after all. But I can’t always leave you hanging in the middle like that. If you come to a decision to focus on this work, I am going to give you a lot of work. You’ll meet a more diverse range of people, and your public position will naturally climb as well. I’ll set you up with a whole department, not just a corner desk in the office, and give you a nameplate to match. I climbed up all the way here with my talent to discern people and raise them. I was also quite lucky and didn’t experience that many failures. From what I see, you aren’t someone that should act, but someone that should lead those that act.”
Byungchan had a look at the scenario.
“I’m not telling you to decide right now. Decide after you see that. Though, you probably won’t make it.”
“Do I not have the slightest bit of hope?”
“If I was the producer, I wouldn’t use you.”
“Should I have given you some instead?”
“No. I think it’ll be better if I hear that there’s no hope for me. I’ll be happier if I do get picked after all.”
Byungchan tightly grabbed the scenario.
“I will do it.”
“Alright. They say the young will look for pain of their own accord. It was nice talking to you today. Do you have any work to do today?”
“Yes. I need to pick up Maru.”
“Today was the first shoot, wasn’t it?”
“Alright, you can go. There’s a phone number behind it so try calling during the day.”
Byungchan quietly closed the door and left.
* * *
“Cut! That’s it for today. Let’s wrap up.”
“Thank you for your work, everyone. We are done.”
Maru looked at the sky when he heard that everything was finished. He felt rather exhausted even though he didn’t do anything much. He looked at the staff members that were folding up the equipment before walking out of the school entrance. He waved his hand at Dongho and Joomin who took the taxi. Okseon was walking towards the bus stop.
“Thanks for your work.”
When he turned around, he saw Giwoo, Yeseul, and Jichan. Yeseul and Jichan were getting ready to go back in their parent’s cars.
“Everyone doesn’t really listen to you, do they?” Giwoo smiled as he spoke.
Maru just shrugged.
“Tell me if you find anything hard. We are friends, after all.”
“Alright. I’ll tell you once something comes up.”
He smiled and waved at Giwoo, who was walking towards a van. He felt his neck aching even more. Playing with the others was even more tiring than work.
Byungchan brought the car to the school entrance.
“I thought you had work to do. I can just take the bus home.”
“I’m going to go home as well after giving you a lift. What about dinner?”
“I haven’t had one yet.”
“Then do you wanna go eat first? We have the almighty company card with us. It’s the magical key to eating anything below 50 thousand won.”
“If it's on a company card, of course, I’ll take up that offer. Do you have anything you want to eat, hyung?”
“Me? I want to eat something spicy.”
“I thought you didn’t like spicy food.”
“Something stressing you?”
“Stress, huh. I guess you can call it that. I just heard ‘you are no good’ said right to my face. But I was so clearly dismissed that I didn’t even feel angry. In fact, it even sounded relieving.”
Maru got in the passenger seat.
“How was it for you today?”
“Me? Playing around with the others is hard.”
“Was the shoot easy, then?”
“Yes. I wonder why it’s so hard to get close to kids these days.”
“Do you know that you are included in those ‘kids’?”
“I do. Maybe that’s why, but I also want to eat something spicy. How about chicken feet?”
“Sounds good to me. Chicken feet to heal two stressed souls. Sounds nice.”
Byungchan laughed before driving off. Maru turned on the radio and switched channels for a while before letting go when he heard familiar music. It was Let It Be by the Beatles.
“Do you think that people should follow the order and know their place when they live their life?”
“If that’s easy, then sure, that’s probably for the better.”
“What if they have something they want to do?”
“Then they should do that.”
“What a backbone-less life.”
“Lives with backbones break easily so that’s not good.”
“Goddammit. The president told me not to continue acting.”
“Then don’t do it. Apparently, listening to adults has its benefits.”
“Cheer for me, will you?”
“Waa, go~ Lee Byungchan. I’m not sure if you’ll succeed or not, but go~.”
“Forget it. It was my bad for expecting anything from you. Let’s just go get chicken feet.”
Byunchan laughed as he turned the wheel.
 “To send a video” seems to be an expression for something which I cannot find...
Actually, that name at the beginning (Jeyeol) was changed to Je-il in the second line, but I couldn't find either of those names anywhere else in the 1000+ chapters... heck. Gyuho doesn't appear again either.... So I just unified them for consistency.
I have no idea what this 'send a video' thing is. Did they have something like video auditions back in the day? I don't know... Well, not that it matters since Gyuho doesn't appear again....
Sarcastic Maru is quality Maru.