Chapter 595

“About work?”

Ahyoung replied with only a nod to her question.

“Unni, have you had lunch yet?”

“No. I was planning to eat here.”

“Then shall we all go down?”

Ahyoung led the way. She thought about what was happening right now as she walked. They came down to the first floor and entered the corridor to their right. There was a glass door at the end of the corridor, and in front of the door was a hand-written menu. The Korean menu item was Ugeoji gukbap(Cabbage rice soup), and the Western menu item was pork cutlets. Ahyoung entered the cafeteria and took out her ID from her pocket.

“What are you going to eat?”

“Korean for me.”

“How about you?”

“I’ll take Korean as well.”

“So I’m the only one getting pork cutlets huh. Don’t you like fried food better?”

Ahyoung bought the food tickets from the ticketing machine. She thought that Ahyoung would just show her face and ask for food since she was the president, but she just bought the tickets like everyone else did and lined up. The employees who were lining up in front of her talked to her from time to time. They didn’t look like they were uncomfortable with talking to her. They seemed to be having fun talking about trivial things.

“I can never get used to this place.”

She looked at Narim, who had whispered in her ears. This person was also the CEO of a company. Did NL Company have a strict hierarchy? She followed Ahyoung to an empty table with her food tray.

“I went to a lot of places to find the best food service company. I can proudly say that this food service company is top class when it comes to food.”

“Yeah, I have to admit,” Narim said.

She first smelled the savory smell from the gukbap before putting a bit of her rice in it.

“You put your rice in the soup?”

“Eh? Ah, yes.”

“You know your stuff. Hey, why don’t you come to our company instead? If you work with this girl, who keeps probing other people out like she did to you before, you’ll have a hard time, you know? I’m quite direct so there’s nothing like that. Yes is yes, and no is no. I tell people clearly.”

Narim said that with a smile. She couldn’t tell whether Narim was joking or not.

“She’s going to join me so don’t even think about it. Also, writer Lee recommended her to me.”

“Writer Lee? Writer Lee who?”

“Writer Lee Hanmi.”

Narim abruptly turned around when she heard the name Lee Hanmi. She flinched and leaned away from Narim. Narim’s eyes were a bit scary when she looked straight at her.

“I am Park Narim, the president of NL Company. I should have introduced myself properly before. Oh, would you like my business card?”

She took out a business card from her clutch bag. She looked at Ahyoung and Narim alternately while fidgeting nervously. She felt sorry towards Ahyoung if she receive it, but she felt like it wouldn’t be polite of her to not accept it. As she was hesitating, Ahyoung told her to take it.

“Take it and ask her to treat you to a meal later. Don’t go over to that company though. Big companies are big for a reason. Our company is much better than a stuck-up place like that.”

“Excuse me? What part of my company is stuck-up?”

“The fact that you’re the president says everything that needs to be said. Well then. Let’s get some food. I’m hungry.”

“There’s no company that’s better than mine, you know?”

“Oh, there’s one here.”

“I won’t accept it.”

“Should I ask my employees which one they like better?”

“After you reveal the base pay for both companies, sure.”

“That’s cheating. A company listed in the KOSDAQ shouldn’t do that.”

“Having a higher base pay isn’t a bad thing, though.”

“Fine, you pay a lot, okay? I admit that. But your terrace is on the 5th floor. How about that?”

“I guess I’ve lost when it comes to that. Should I expand the resting area in the company? Or should I just modify the rooftop to a grassland like you did?”

“It’s expensive, you know?”

“Oh, you want to talk about money in front of me?”

“Forget it. Goddamned money. Is money all you care about?”

“Who was the one who said things about being an A-grade agency or whatever?”

She lowered her head slightly and picked up her spoon. Bullets made of words were flying right above her head. She couldn’t follow what these two CEOs were talking about. If they were ordinary people, she might have thought that they were joking, but they looked very serious because of their titles.

“The food here is really good though. I really wanted this company to sign a contract with our company too.”

“The president doesn’t plan to expand though. I got the golden egg-laying goose. As long as we have this good food, the welfare at our company will be top class. Don’t you think so too?” Ahyoung asked around her.

The employees, who were eating, all said ‘yes’ in a cheerful manner while raising their spoons in the air. The president was cheerful, and the employees were cheerful as well. She looked at herself, who had also raised her spoon. Being next to Ahyoung, she subconsciously imitated how she acted. What was funny was that Narim was also shouting the same thing.

After that, they didn’t talk for a while. Everyone focused on eating. She also tied up her hair and focused on eating. Just like how Ahyoung praised it, the food here was really nice. After finishing their food, she drank some coffee that Ahyoung brought. It was from a small vending machine that worked by inserting coins, but the coin entrance was blocked off. She tried to go get coffee with her, but she had to wait awkwardly since Ahyoung told her to sit.

“You’re still a guest for now, so I have to treat you like one. You should take one too, unni.”

She accepted the paper cup. Ahyoung crossed her legs as she drank the coffee and looked like she was about to get to the serious stuff. She felt slightly nervous and straightened her posture.

“I’m going to ask some personal questions, but you don’t have to answer them if you think they’re too sensitive. People are sensitive to different things, right?”

“Yes.”

“Good, then let me get to know you better. When did you first start acting?”

“I first started acting in my first year of middle school.”

“When did you take interest in it then?”

“Since I was very young.”

“What made you interested? TV? Or is a member of your family a celebrity and you wanted to be like them?”

“I watched a play with my father and it was just too fun. When I was young, that was the only impression I had, but when I entered middle school, I thought that I wanted to do more than that. That’s when I started practicing by myself while watching my favorite dramas and movies.”

“Did you ever go to an acting school?”

“No.”

“Then you mostly practiced by yourself?”

“When I started off, yes. Eventually, I met a few friends that I got along with and practiced together with them.”

“May I ask why you chose not to go to an acting school? You could have had an easier time learning the basics if you did.”

“When I was in middle school. I had plenty of fun with my friends practicing by ourselves with the scripts we found. That’s why I didn’t think about applying for one.”

“So you didn’t want to do it that much, huh?”

“Maybe you can see it that way. I only thought that I should start learning properly when I got to high school. I joined the acting club after all. There were seniors who were fundamentally different from me with their movements and pronunciations. A lot of people at my school wanted to be celebrities or work in that area, so everyone had solid foundations. That’s when I started getting taught by my seniors and the instructor.”

“I don’t mean to look down on your acting, but if you join my company, you’ll have to start getting basic training first. You understand why, right?”

“Yes, in fact, I was going to ask for an instructor if you didn’t.”

“I like your attitude. Well, I guess that’s enough questions.”

Ahyoung finished her coffee in one go.

“From now on, I am going to talk one-sidedly. Even if you think I’m wrong about something, just hear me out.”

“Okay.”

“You said that you wanted to be an actress no matter what, right? You don’t want to take a detour by being an idol. For now, I’ll talk about the reality of things first. There are actually quite a lot of kids who join an agency and make their debuts in dramas and movies. There’s a trend where they get their first, or even second piece smoothly. The problem occurs after that. Let me be clear with you. Actors who don’t have recognition earn less money than part timers at cafés. There are loads of people like that in this field. If there’s a list of people who do part time jobs even though they are actors, I can probably read off that list for days without rest. And that’s only among the people I know.”

She nodded heavily. She was prepared for this when she came here. She knew how hard it was to receive the love of the masses.

“You have to remind yourself that you might be throwing the most important moments of your life away by doing this. A trainee’s practice is worthless by itself. The worth of their practice is only shown when they catch the eyes of the public and become a product. Before that happens, everything is just a waste of time. You might want to retort, however, I’m not talking about acting here. I’m strictly talking about business. As cruel as it might sound, actors who don’t become big are not actors. That’s because no one calls them that. This applies to you as well. There’s no guarantee that you will become successful. What I’m doing is just giving you support to increase the probability of that happening. Do you understand what I mean?”

“Yes, I do.”

“As for the details of the contract, I’m going to go through it with your parents. It’s an important step after all. But the most important thing is your willpower. I’ve seen numerous people who gave up after years of circling around the industry. Do you think they were bad at acting? No, at least I don’t think so. There were many that had much better skills than the child actors that show up on TV. However, they never became big. This is what I mean by image business. The public looks at a person’s image before they evaluate their acting skills. As long as an actor has an image that they’re good at acting, that actor’s acting skills will be evaluated higher than it actually is. It doesn’t sound like it makes any sense, does it? You might ask: shouldn’t you be good at acting to have an image that you’re good at acting? To tell you the answer, those two are completely separate things. Of course, if a person is stupefyingly good at acting and can enchant anyone that looks at them, then movie companies will treat them like a VIP. What I’m saying though,  is that it usually isn’t like that. Most actors are around the same level. Then how do you make that image? The answer is character.”

Ahyoung sighed.

“If we officially sign a contract, I will definitely include this clause. Your first piece will be decided by the company. Before that, you are not allowed to do any work.”

“Nothing?”

“I’m not going to allow you to participate in auditions either. I’m going to reduce your exposure as much as possible. Right now, there’s the unnecessary image you got from the sitcom. I’m going to remove that first.”

“Was my acting bad in the sitcom?”

“It’s not about being good or bad. The problem is that it sticks to you. Especially for people like you, who caused quite a stir by appearing intermittently.”

“I caused a stir?”

“A miserly girl who’s quite cute. There were rumors in the industry that quite a decent rookie has joined. But that’s quite troublesome. If you really want to succeed as an actress, we need to reset that image.”

“I don’t specifically want pretty and feminine characters. It’s fine if I’m funny. Isn’t that what acting is about?”

Ahyoung slowly shook her head.

“I told you, didn't I? What I’m talking about is business. You still don’t know how terrifying an ‘image’ is for an actress. Later, you can act like a madwoman all you want. But you can’t do that now. I told you, didn’t I? A daring character should suit you.”

Ahyoung approached her and grabbed her hair. She then pulled out her hairband and lifted her hair to look at her nape.

“Cinderella heroines are past their time now. You need to ride a different line. I got a few ideas when I looked at you. If we get a piece that has a suitable character, that’s when I will put you in front of the public. Image is consumable. You can’t look cheap from the get go.”

“If I sign the contract, will I really not be able to do anything until a suitable piece comes in?”

“At least not within my sight, no. I’ll allow school club activities though, but no more than that. That’s the strongest condition and my final condition.”

“...Did you do that with Ahn Yeseul as well?”

“I told you, didn’t I? That being good at acting and having the image of being good at acting are separate things. Yeseul, that girl’s acting skill is about B-tier? No, perhaps she’s even below that. But the public likes her. She has already had two heroine roles in two dramas. There was a slight controversy about her acting skills, but that soon died down. You probably know about it since you have experience shooting, but under an atmosphere like that, anyone can reach a decent level, or other people will make you look like you are at one. Of course, I’m not sure if Yeseul can become a top star in the future. The funny thing is, what puts people at the top of the ranks comes down to acting skill again.”

“Can I have some time to think about it?”

“Of course. It’d be strange instead if you decided right now. I am going to do some image-making for you. I can’t have you be a doll that’s thrown away without being able to stand in front of an audience even once. I will put you on the stage, but you will have to put your full trust in me. After you get on the stage, you’re the main character, so you can do whatever you want. That’s my condition.”

She clasped her hands. It was just one condition, but she couldn’t take it lightly. She wanted to focus on acting without being worried about anything else, but society wasn’t that easy.

“Oh, and there’s one more thing.”

“Yes?”

“You need to use a stage name. Your name is really good, but it’s kinda common.”

“A stage name….”

“Think about it for now. I really like you. How can I hate you when you’re willing to run forward even if you break your legs? Think about it carefully and call me back. Talk to your parents or other people around you who are related to this line of work.”

She smiled heavily and replied that she would.

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KTLChamber's Thoughts

Uh oh, that sounds like bad news for the short film for the youth film festival?

Would Ahyoung be okay with the bully (daring?) image? Or is a bully an obvious no-no?


Editor's Note:
I'm just hoping for a name. Iticalizing has always been annoying.