-One, two, three - Hello, everyone! We are Redday. I’m Hana, the leader, and this is Jiyoung, the main vocalist. Then this...
“Hey! Move your head out of the way. I can’t see my Hana!”
“Hey, honestly speaking, Jiyoung is much better than Hana.”
“Shut up. Seul-i is the best. Man just look at her volume.”
“Quit yapping and just watch.”
It was lunch time. The boys gathered in front of the TV in the classroom and sang along to the idol music. They shouted the names of some members when there was a break with a perfect sense of rhythm.
“This place is chaotic too, huh.”
Maru closed the book he was reading and turned around. Daemyung was standing there with some drinks in his hand.
“Are you guys watching that as well?”
“Yeah. Apparently, they’re quite popular these days.”
Maru had a glance at the screen. Unlike the girl idols he had seen until now, the girls on the screen had very powerful moves. Breakdancing, back tumbling - they were better than most boy bands out there.
“They do look different from the rest.”
The boys in front of the screen suddenly crouched down. The girls’ skirts were waving around on top of their thighs. Their inner trousers could be glimpsed at.
“Just a little more!”
“Camera, go down a little more!”
Perhaps this was proof that people gained not collective intelligence but collective stupidity. Maru shouted at the boys that wouldn’t be able to see what they wanted before turning back around to Daemyung.
“Man, they’re devoted.”
“That’s just how they are. I guess they must have startled you from time to time, huh?”
Maru could not understand what Daemyung was saying. At that moment, the others shouted the names of the idols in unison. Maru smiled faintly when he heard the names hitting his ears.
“So that was what was bothering me this whole time while I was reading.”
“Oh, take this. I met Aram on the first floor and she bought it for me.”
“What’s gotten into her?”
“Apparently, it’s natural for the club president to look after the aged members.”
“I guess aging has its merits then?”
“Thanks to her, it has gotten a lot easier for me. The others follow Aram well too. In fact, I think we’re doing even better than when I was the president.”
“Aram is the type to gain full control after all. Even the ones that were secretly defiant should have changed their attitudes now.”
After taking a sip, Maru spoke,
“I met writer Lee Hanmi yesterday.”
He briefly explained what happened yesterday. Daemyung trembled when he heard that Hanmi asked him all sorts of questions while drunk.
“Once she starts, there’s just no end. Teacher Ahn Pilhyun also bombards me with questions when he drinks strong alcohol, but he doesn’t really expect an answer from me, right? But Miss Lee Hanmi wants an answer from me until the very end. If I give her a vague answer, she will nag at me for that too. If I think of a decent one, she will say it’s boring. I mean, I’m sure she’s a good person, but I get stomach pains whenever she asks me something.”
“So that’s why you didn’t go yesterday.”
“I-it’s not like I didn’t go. I had no choice because of practice.”
“Same thing. She was looking for you yesterday too. She said something about how she was disappointed since she has fun teasing you.”
“You didn’t tell her anything, right?”
“Who do you think I am? I told her that you like her very much. She’ll give you a call soon enough, so try your best to look good in front of her.”
“Looks like I might have to turn my phone off for a while….”
“It’s a good opportunity, isn’t it? Have her teach you.”
“The mental damage is too much. I want to train my mind for it before I go to her.”
Daemyung sighed. It seemed that he had a hard time handling Hanmi.
Maru also talked about how she might join an agency.
“That’s good. She’s coming today for the film shoot, right?”
“No, not today.”
“There’s no shoot?”
“There is, but she won’t be coming. She’s meeting the president of the agency today. Writer Lee Hanmi is incredibly quick when she sets her mind on it.”
“Reckless, you mean. But an agency huh. I hope it goes well.”
“Yeah. When I heard about it, it sounded like a really solid place. Since it’s her first workplace, I hope they can lead a new actress like her well.”
Maru turned around to look at the TV again. The new idol group was introducing themselves. Their stiff smiles and shaky voices were followed by their performance.
“I wonder how many idols can make a living off their work.”
“I heard that it’s only a handful of groups out of hundreds of thousands. I saw it on TV before.”
“We aren’t that different either. Joining an agency is merely the first step, and I guess only a handful will become able to start running by themselves, just like idols.”
“I’m sure it will go well for the both of you.”
“Thanks. Call us when we don’t get any jobs in the future. What good are friends for? That’s when friends come to save the day.”
“Hey, I don’t know if I will ever get to direct a film either. You two both appeared on TV, so it’s me who should be asking you instead. If I ever do become a director, I will have to ask you two to join me without any guarantees.”
“Park Daemyung, you’ve become quite shameless, eh?”
“Who do you think I’ve been learning from?”
Daemyung looked at the clock before saying that he would leave. Maru waved at him before turning around to look at the TV again. The artists who just finished their performance took a bow before leaving the stage. Despite the fact that the stage was open to the public, no one applauded. When the idol group left the stage amidst silence and the camera switched to the show host, the TV turned off.
“HR is coming.”
The one with the remote control shouted. Maru looked at the screen which had turned black, for quite a while, before picking up his book. Would I be able to leave amidst applause? - he suddenly had that thought.
* * *
She drank a sip from the teacup in front of her. She saw people walking around busily through the whole-glass wall that had a hint of blue. Some of them were people she recognized. Though, they wouldn’t know her.
‘It’s the actor Lee Seokcheon.’
She met eyes with Lee Seokcheon who was walking on the other side of the glass wall. He faintly smiled at her and waved. She quickly took a bow. She felt quite weird, having a famous actor like him greet her first. She had seen numerous professional actors in shoots until just a while ago, but this felt different. She felt rather excited when she thought that she might be working in the same agency as such people.
“Did you wait a long time?”
The door opened before a woman came in. She was wearing a dark brown office suit and a fedora. She blankly stared at the woman for a brief moment after seeing that the woman looked very stylish.
“Why? Is it strange?”
“No, it really suits you.”
“That’s a compliment that doesn’t feel too rushed. I like that.”
The woman took off her fedora and sat down on the president’s seat. Her eyes landed on the glossy black nameplate. Yoo Ahyoung. She was the president of the entertainment agency ‘Hwan’.
“Not many people get a recommendation from writer Lee Hanmi.”
Ahyoung faintly smiled. She made an uncomfortable smile back. There were thorns in the president’s words.
“I really like writer Lee Hanmi, because she’s an interesting person. She has skills too. If she ever wants me to recommend to her a person for a character she wants to use in her work, I am willing to give her the best actors I have. However, this matter is completely unrelated to my friendship with her. This is about choosing someone who would be working with me after all. So, even if you end up not being able to work with us, I hope you don’t resent writer Lee. A recommendation is, after all, just a recommendation, right?”
She nodded. In fact, it would make her much more comfortable if she was given a strict examination. If she was told to join without a second thought just because of the recommendation, she might have thought a second time about this contract instead.
“Good then, shall I have a look? I’m not sure if you know this, but our company really gives a lot of support for new actors. Do you know Ahn Yeseul?”
“Sorry. I don’t.”
“That’s disappointing. Oh, I don’t mean that I’m disappointed with you. I’m disappointed in myself. It’s me who failed to raise the name value of my own actress. Do you know about ‘New Semester’ then? She’s the heroine there.”
“Oh! Ahn Yeseul from New Semester? I know her.”
“You do? That’s good. I almost got dejected. I was about to boast about my company, but it’s no good if the start isn’t good.”
“Is she in this company as well?”
“Yeah. She’s the same age as you, 3rd year of high school. Also, ‘supporting’ you naturally doesn’t mean I’ll use underhanded means to get you into something. I don’t have such tendencies. By support, I mean things like auditions. In this industry, even opportunities for auditions are given differently to different people. Think of yourself as a producer of a movie. Would you notify a third-rate agency that there’s an audition?”
“I think I will,” she replied honestly.
“Because just because the agency is third-rate doesn’t mean that the people there are third-rate too.”
“You’re right. That’s true. A dragon might be born from a small stream. But you know? Dragons usually arise from the cleanest waters. Yes, a dragon might live in muddy waters. There are people like that from time to time. There are people who stay in a place that’s not on their level, but stay there because of a contract gone wrong, or because they don’t know what they’re capable of. But that’s also a form of skill. Do you know why the top businesses in this country take importance in the college their applicants are from? Because the ones from those colleges are capable? Maybe, but the main reason is different. It’s efficiency and connections.”
Ahyoung stood up.
“This field is not that different. A good agency doesn’t necessarily have good actors. There might be some half-assed people who have a high name value but no skill. But on average, there are better people in better agencies. It’s natural. The fact that an agency is popular means that they manage their business well with decent actors. That’s why when the producers create a good scenario, they either directly give a copy to an A-grade actor or distribute them to agencies that are classified as A-grade. Of course, the majority goes to the former. There are producers who do all sorts of things to sneak a script into the hands of top actors. After those scripts make rounds but do not fill up the cast, they will get distributed to companies like us. That’s when the first round of auditions happens. Hey, you’ve seen a lot of what’s called ‘open auditions’ right?”
“Yes. I saw a lot of leaflets looking for actors.”
“Have you ever seen one that was looking for lead or supporting actors?”
She shook her head. She had never seen one before.
“Very rarely, film producers who are reckless might pick supporting actors through such auditions. However, even for such films, the lead characters are decided with an internal audition. An open audition is the same as an audition picking dregs. Anyways, if the producers hand out their scripts to every single agency, they’ll get calls from everywhere, right? Going through every one of them will take a lot of time, and precisely because of that inefficiency, A-grade films are usually given to A-grade agencies. B-grade to B-grade, C-grade to C-grade. Now then, what grade do you think we are?”
“A plus-grade I would say. We’re pretty well-known. Well then, through that efficiency, we got a script and managed to successfully shoot that film. What does that create?”
“Right, connections. Backers, influence, or whatever you want to call it. You’ve heard of the term ‘director brigade’, right? In this field, there are teams where actors or directors have a team they frequently work with. This means that there are outsourcing teams for lighting, arts, costumes, music, and sound effects who always work with some director. And companies like us stand in between them. Movies aren’t shot by just one person, right?”
“The places left after the lead and supporting characters - where do these teams find people to fill up those roles? It naturally is likely that the agency the director feels comfortable working with will get those roles. The lead and supporting roles might differ according to the director’s preferences, but below that level, most of them are at a similar level, so most of the time, they just make do with just one agency. Lee Hoseok, Choi Joonggeun, Park Joongjin, Yang Woonjoong. Park Changyung. Baek Joonyeol. Don’t you find it quite tempting to get an opportunity to work with such people even as a minor actor?”
They were famous directors with famous works under their names. She felt her lips go dry but still nodded.
“You have a basic understanding of why actors seek good agencies, and why agencies seek good actors, right?”
“Well, then. What I’m about to do now is similar. First up, I will show you the reason you have to join us. After that, you have to be the one to show me what level you are on as an actress. Stand up for now. Let’s take a tour around the company. I’ll be the one guiding you because writer Lee brought you to me.”
Think of it as an honor - Ahyoung added with a smile.
 Pronounced “Ah-young”
Ahn Yeseul, Ah, yes, I know her. The one who thinks that Giwoo's popularity is hers.
Anyway, what do you think of this new Ahyoung person? Still too early to judge?
Man. I became a big fan of Red Velvet and when I looked up their debut, I felt so bad. So many people trashing them, calling them a flop. Idols live hard lives.