Chapter 104: Important Between Manager and Celebrity, Compatibility (2)
TL: emptycube / ED: Isleidir
“Weren’t you in the movie ‘Pet Shop’?”
When I asked, the actors’ gazes fell on me. Someone looked like he was recalling whether there was a similar title among the independent films he was cast in, and another person gave me an odd look, as though asking me what I was suddenly saying.
Then there was the man sitting at the very back.
The man who was slowly fanning himself with a wrinkled script paused.
So he was.
Even though it was a long time ago, I faintly remembered a scene. He gave a strong impression despite wearing a grey school uniform and having a tidy haircut that covered the tips of his ears. His arm barely managed to stretch out from a rusty grating.
“That’s right. How interesting. Not a lot of people know that film because it flopped.”
The man said while resuming to fan himself. The wind tangled his messy hair even more. His long eyes were revealed through his hair. Like diluting water with water, his eyes were dull and tepid.
I was the one who was surprised. Should I say it was like I discovered a trace from the past?
“I was watching a ton of movies when it released because it was just before my mandatory military service.”
“You have good eyes. Nam Jiyoon, this guy, he didn’t appear much in the film.”
A different man who wore a baseball cap joined in.
So his name was Nam Joyoon.
He really didn’t appear a lot. I remembered him as a supporting role. One who stood out more than the lead.
“He was to my liking.”
“Ah, I respect your tastes. If he was to your liking, then I can see why you remember him.”
“His atmosphere. His atmosphere as an actor was to my liking.”
The man wearing a baseball cap seemed to have a joking personality as he giggled.
When I looked to my side because I felt an itch on my cheek, Kim Taewoong, this guy, was looking at me while covering his mouth. I had an ominous premonition that ‘respecting your tastes’ would be plastered in the group chat with my friends.
“Bastard, today, to learn about your hidden preferences…”
“I like U-turns, should I do it?”
“Don’t, don’t. I’ll shut up.”
After shutting him up, I drove down the unpaved road again.
When I looked in my rear-view mirror, Nam Joyoon, seemingly unsatisfied with fanning himself, had opened the window halfway and enjoyed the breeze. Maybe it was because I first saw him on the big screen, but it felt like I was seeing him through a screen rather than in reality.
What sort of projects did he work on after Pet Shop? Seeing as I didn’t see him in theaters since, it seemed he was only cast in independent films.
He had a unique atmosphere and his looks and body weren’t bad so why didn’t he become popular?
While I was immersed in my thoughts about Nam Joyoon, the other actors were complaining about their companies and contracts.
“I was in a 5-year contract, but the company did nothing for me. They didn’t get me a good scenario or role. They just took a commission whenever I got a minor role after chasing down auditions. Bastards.”
“Big companies are absolutely better. They have a lot of connections and get a ton of scenarios.”
“Who doesn’t know they are good? I just don’t get scouted by them even though I can work like a bull.”
“Companies are companies, but you also need to get a good manager. Even though I was in a company, I had to hand out my own business cards because my manager wasn’t good at business. Hearing what other people have told me, it seems like chiefs lobby to get roles for you.”
It felt like I was watching women chatting at the stream while doing laundry, though two of them were men. The only one who didn’t join their conversation was Nam Joyoon. It seemed he wasn’t interested in talking about companies as he simply enjoyed the breeze.
The actors were discussing a few companies.
“W&U doesn’t seem like they are interested in discovering rookie actors, right?”
I unconsciously let out a dry cough.
“They are probably busy looking at top stars and A rank actors on the free-agent market.”
“I think they are more focused on developing idols than actors these days since the profitability of developing idols is good relative to the investment. I don’t like W&U as much these days since it seems like they’re getting greedy for money.”
“Yeah, right. You’re going to sign if they scout you.”
“Hey, of course, I am.”
“Still, W&U is still virtuous. There are quite a few who they discovered and raised to A rank. Just look at Seo Jijoon, who blew up recently, and they pretty much took care of Lee Songha as a rookie.”
“Isn’t her manager the one who took care of her, instead of the company? It seems that way when reading the articles.”
I had a feeling, but the actress with long hair brought me up in the end.
Kim Taewoong, who was fully aware of the company I worked for, kept alternating his gaze between me and the back. Glossing over their gossip about companies, I had no intention of eavesdropping a conversation about me in real time. I was already tired of monitoring comments about me on the internet.
Just as I was about to take off my sunglasses before the mood became weird…
“Is this your first time in this industry? That’s totally media manipulation. W&U keep bringing him up because he does well on entertainment shows. If they package it like that, it becomes a good story and Lee Songha’s image becomes better too.”
“You have to give it to the W&U PR Team’s media manipulation skills. It’s certain that Lee Songha became popular because of their manipulation than her acting. Her manager just got lucky because of them. He got to appear on shows and spread his name. Honestly speaking, what kind of amazing talent does a road manager have to make an unknown girl into a star in a few months?”
An actress with bobbing hair and a muscular man jeered.
When I clicked my tongue and took off my sunglasses, Kim Taewoong calmly asked,
“I know, right? Bastard, how did you make an unknown celebrity into a star within a few months when you don’t have any outstanding talent?”
“I don’t know. Maybe I have some other talent.”
“You definitely have a talent in taking care of people. Your quadruplets are proof of that. We thought that it was a loss for the national child education industry when you became a manager. Still, I didn’t think that your talent in taking care of kids could be useful in taking care of celebrities.”
“They do have their similarities.”
I said while grinning. Kim Taewoong looked back with a sly face. The back was quiet for a while as though someone had pressed the mute button. My face itched while they stared at me with uncertain expressions.
Kim Taewoong looked back at the woman with curly hair and the muscular man and said,
“Oh, right. I shrink when I don’t say what’s on my mind so I have to say it.”
“This bastard isn’t lucky because of his company, it’s the opposite. His nickname there is Lucky Charm. While it’s funny, the minivan you’re riding in right now and his gas bill are paid by his comp-“
“Stop, dammit. It’s embarrassing.”
At my words, Kim Taewoong shut his mouth while smiling.
There was no doubt he said that to tease me, damn bastard. How did he know that my nickname was Lucky Charm? I definitely have never mentioned it before. Did some bored reporter write an article about it after hearing it?
While thinking I should hit him when the opportunity arises, I looked in the rear-view mirror.
Then I said to the two actors who became flustered because of Kim Taewoong,
“Lee Songha didn’t get popular due to media manipulation. You should know if you saw her drama.”
“I-I didn’t say that. Hey, you’re the one who said it.”
“That is… I’m sorry. I didn’t see the drama…”
Beside me, Kim Taewoong was astonished, saying, “Why would you saw it was certain she became popular due to media manipulation if you didn’t see her drama?” I also clicked my tongue. I had a real headache because of Lee Songha’s acting controversy that I was more sensitive to conversations like this than others.
The two actors curled up and apologized.
The other two, the actress with straight hair and the man with a baseball cap, looked like they were dying to ask questions.
“You’re really Lee Songha’s, ah, Neptune’s manager, right? What brings you here?”
“Don’t tell me you came here to look for decent actors on the film set…”
“No, it’s for a personal reason. My friend’s younger cousin is on the film set.”
My lips curled into an awkward smile on its own. However, the actors didn’t show any signs of disappointment at my words as their eyes shined as though they knew it.
“Ah, then could I ask you a few questions? How do casting managers at W&U obtain profiles? As expected, through agents?”
“Can you give me your business card? I might need to call you one day!”
For the first time since I was promoted to a chief, I handed out my stiff, new business cards.
I answered the pouring questions the best I could. Since I didn’t have an opportunity to talk with actors like this since Cat Guardian Ghost ended, I enjoyed it quite a bit.
Despite this, my eyes kept wandering to one person while talking.
Towards Nam Joyoon who was silently sitting in the back seat.
He flipped through his wrinkled script, brushed his faded grey t-shirt, and even placed his small head against the headrest as if he enjoyed the plush seat.
Why was I so concerned about him?
The set of the independent film was a quiet resort with a small pond.
It seemed they were finished with a shoot as the staff were bustling around quickly while carrying cameras, lights, and reflective panels. While the scale was incomparably smaller than Cat Guardian Ghost, their passion didn’t lose out to them.
I parked next to a truck. The woman with curly hair and the muscular man, who were uncomfortable the ride here, ran away towards the set. The other actors gave us their thanks as they got off.
While Kim Taewoong was looking for his cousin, I approached Nam Joyoon.
“Err, Mr. Nam Joyoon.”
Nam Joyoon, who was standing crookedly, turned to look at me.
“Did you only film independent films since Pet Shop?”
His voice was pleasant.
But how old was he? Since he played a high schooler role in the movie I watched before I went to military service, he would be a few years younger than me if he actually was a high schooler then. Though when comparing appearances, he looked three to four years younger than me.
I was looking for questions to ask while thinking this when the man wearing a baseball cap joined in.
“This guy barely managed to appear on a few independent films, chief.”
I was surprised. Once because he called me chief. Once more because he said that Nam Joyoon barely managed to appear on a few independent films.
“After filming Pet Shop, he was caught by a truly trashy company full of trashy people. After wasting his life tied to an eight-year contract, he spent another few years with a contract cancellation lawsuit. He’s thirty this year… Ha, this guy’s life is frustrating.”
“Thanks for organizing my life story in 15 seconds.”
Nam Joyoon said nonchalantly. Then he said goodbye and left.
I watched his figure trudge away for a while.
Maybe it was because I could visualize the wicked company he was tied to, he looked like he was wasting away, struggling with hardship. I could understand his dull, lukewarm atmosphere and easygoing attitude. Rather, it was sad.
“It really is a shame.”
Suddenly, the man wearing a baseball cap struck a conversation with me.
“I’m not saying this because I’m his friend. He really is someone who loves acting. And if he didn’t love it so much, he wouldn’t have endured all these years and appear on independent years after all that.”
“Did he not join a different company afterward?”
“A few tried to scout him since he’s good at acting and has good looks, but they all backed off after saying they wanted to sign him. Well, his filmography only consists of independent films besides Pet Shop. He also has his age. They probably thought it wouldn’t work out after plugging in the numbers. If they were going to turn their backs on him, then they shouldn’t have shaken up the quiet tree in the first place.”
He clicked his tongue.
“Well, I’m only telling you this because you seem interested in Joyoon, that guy.”
“Ah, thank you.”
The man shrugged his shoulders and left. I looked around a few times and quickly found Nam Joyoon. He was moving the luggage with the staff. Again, as though there was a filter, only Nam Joyoon stood out.
It was similar to when I first saw Lee Songha.
Why was this? Was I biased?
If I had seen the future, one where Nam Joyoon became a successful actor or where we were joined by fate, then I could understand being so concerned, but it wasn’t like that.
While chasing Nam Joyoon with my gaze, I decided I needed to see him act.
However, before I did, I needed to settle the reason I came all the way here.
After briefly greeting the film director, I sat down on a bench next to the resort. In front of me were Kim Taewoong and a woman, who introduced herself as his cousin and was staring at me.
“But are you really a chief from W&U?”
Dumbfounded by his cousin’s doubt, Kim Taewoong said,
“Blockhead, don’t you use the internet? His face is like his business card.”
“Ah, I told you not to call me a blockhead! I hate you!”
“It’s not like you can call blockheads ‘smartheads’.”
His cousin ignored Kim Taewoong’s joking words and quickly checked her phone. It seemed she searched my name as her gaze alternated between my face and my picture on her screen before smiling.
“He is. Oppa, if you had a friend like him, you should have introduced me to him earlier!”
“Are you crazy?”
The staff and actors around us constantly glanced at us. Their gazes, which brushed past Kim Taewoong and his cousin, landed on me. Nine times out of ten, they started murmuring to each other afterward.
Should I have put my sunglasses back on?
While regretting it, I asked Kim Taewoong’s cousin,
“So that CEO said that you should debut as a girl group first?”
“Yes, it’s easier to get auditions as an idol than as a rookie actor these days, you know. Well, they said it’s more like a meeting than an audition. They already have four members, and I just go in as the fifth member in charge of looks.”
“Are you perhaps exceptionally good at singing or dancing?”
“No. I’m the member in charge of looks. The center of the group.”
The cousin said in a very proud manner.
She was pretty, she was…
While I was thinking about what to say first, my phone vibrated briefly in my pocket. Since I thought it was a text or a chat message, I continued talking,
“How old are you?”
What do you mean ‘why’? It was because I couldn’t understand the CEO no matter how much I thought about it.
There were more than a million celebrity aspirants in this age. The number one dream of young students was becoming a celebrity, and two million kids gathered for the preliminaries of a public broadcast audition program.
Because the competition was so fierce, even young, pretty trainees who were great singers had a hard time debuting. Yet why did this CEO want a 25-year-old aspiring actress as a girl group member?
“Tell me that the name of the company and CEO.”
The cousin took out a business card. Just as I received it and began examining it, my phone began to vibrate again. It wasn’t only once. Thinking it might be a call, I took out my phone only to find that they were messages.
-Oppa, I’m Songha. I heard that you were hit in a fight! Are you injured? Hyunjo oppa is apparently taking care of today’s schedule for you, are you unable to come because you’re hurt?
This was the first message. The ones after came right after one another as though she was worried because I didn’t reply.
-Are you really hurt?
-Did you go to the hospital? Are you okay?
There were only a few lines of text, yet I felt like I could hear Lee Songha’s voice.
How big did the clash where we each hit each other once get for her to be so worried? Especially her last message with just ‘oppa’, that one oozed with impatience and worry. Other people might think I was in a critical condition or something.
Don’t tell me she thought that I found against 17 or was in a bloody fight against someone?
I first asked for Kim Taewoong and his cousin’s understanding and replied back. While I was typing, Lee Songha’s name appeared on my screen. This time, it was a call.
A sudden video call to boot.