TM Chapter 67

Chapter 67: The Most Important Thing in This Industry, Decision-Making (5)

TL: emptycube / ED: Isleidir


 

For a second, I was confused.

Whether she was currently Lee Songha or Jung Haewon.

Since she felt unfamiliar.

While I momentarily hesitated, her white hand covered her mouth. Then I heard her cough.

Ah, it was Lee Songha. As soon as I thought that, my mind jolted awake.

“Come here quickly.”

When I spread open a thickly padded parka, Lee Songha, who had come in front of me in a few steps, seemed to be swallowed by it when she put it on. Her face was pale. I zipped her parka up, even covering the bridge of her nose, and put the hood on.

It would be a big deal if she caught a cold.

“Are you done already?”

“No, after they film the reactions of the male and female leads, I have to go back.”

Lee Songha shook her head and lightly grabbed my arm.

She stared directly at me. Since I had wrapped her up like gimbap{1}, all I could see from the outside were her eyes. Every time the campfire flickered with the wind, so did Lee Songha’s eyes, which were lit by the firelight.

“Oppa.”

“Yeah?”

“Who was it?”

Only then did I recall the conversation I had with Chief Lee Bongjoon just now.

So she heard all of it.

I quickly replied in case she was taken aback while she still had to film.

“I don’t know either. I heard the team 3 leader refused right away.”

“Ah, but who…”

“I really don’t know. I only heard it from Team Leader Park as well.”

“Team Leader Park.”

Lee Songha mumbled while nodding her head. Although I couldn’t clearly hear her voice through the thick padding, I could clearly tell that she was trying to calm her surprise.

Her hand, which had made its way out of the parka sleeve, was still holding my clothes.

Even though she didn’t create a fuss like Chief Lee Bongjoon said I was satisfied with this.

I felt a ticklish feeling so I scratched my neck.

It would be a lie if I didn’t feel proud.

As this meant that the relationship I built up with Lee Songha all this time wasn’t frivolous. I was the same. If Lee Songha said that she wanted to change managers, I might really hit the bottle for a few days.

“Scene 37! Ms. Lee Songha, please standby once again!”

Lee Songha returned to the film set surrounded by dozens of staff and camera equipment. I focused my eyes there as well. The way she looked as she nodded and replied to Director Shin Taekyun’s words were no different from normal.

Making a fuss at the company or monopoly.

As expected, they didn’t suit Lee Songha.

“Songha’s personality is a bit placid.”

When I shrugged, Chief Lee Bongjoon placed his thick arm on my shoulder. Then he stared at me.

What were those eyes that seemed to explode with a sense of kinship?

“I don’t know about that. Didn’t you see the words on Songha’s eyes?”

“Words?”

Chief Lee Bongjoon pointed at my left eye with his other hand.

“’Who’ on her left eye.”

Who?

“’Was it’ on her right.”

Who was it?

I recalled how Lee Songha’s eyes looked, but Chief Lee Bongjoon continued to speak.

“I think her eyes were clearly opened just now.”

“Pardon?”

“I feel like you just turned on the switch.”

“What do you me-”

“Cut! Ms. Songha, did you forget your lines?”

Just as I was about to ask, Director Shin Taekyun’s voice pierced my ears.

I thought I had heard wrong. She forgot her lines? Lee Songha did?

I turned my head and looked at the film set. Under the white lights, Lee Songha stood with her mouth tightly shut.

It wasn’t Jung Haewon but Lee Songha.

 

That day, Lee Songha constantly made mistakes. It was a first.

Just in case, I repeatedly told Lee Songha that I wouldn’t go anywhere. If I had my seal{2}, I would have made a contract.

I wasn’t sure if it was because of it, but fortunately, she received an okay from Director Shin Taekyun in the end. The event that day was glossed over as light incident caused by an irregularity in her condition.

There was no problem afterwards.

Since Chief Lee Bongjoon said such weird things like her eyes opened or I turned on the switch, I was continuously observing her, but she was the same as usual.

She had finished Next K-Star’s past hit song cover mission well just now.

Well, the judges did give her harsh evaluations. They were like Cinderella’s stepsisters. She had reduced her sleep time to practice for this performance, and in my eyes, she did great.

Judging aside, I was already worried about how things would be edited this time as well.

The person known as the main producer of the show was someone who had already gotten a taste of using Lee Songha to raise their viewership ratings. If the judges were like stepsisters, then he was the stepmother.

After glaring at Producer Go Joontae who was wrapping things up, I turned my gaze to Neptune. They were returning their mics to the audio staff. Maybe it was due to the long recording time, but they all looked exhausted.

Since the traitor said he had something to talk with Simon Lee about, I was alone as I waited for the girls. I patted their shoulders one by one, and when I went to find Lee Songha, I suddenly frowned.

Some guy was sticking next to Lee Songha.

Even though I only saw the back of his head, I could tell who he was in an instant.

The guy who raps in Punchline. Lee Juhwan.

He was the guy who chatted about how he put dibs on Lee Songha or something to his stylists. Since I always saw his face every Next K-Star recording, I observed his behavior. He had only glanced at her in the passing until now, he never straightforwardly approached her.

When I walked towards them, I heard Lee Juhwan’s voice.

“Are you okay?”

“Ah, yes.”

“Just consider the judge’s drivel as dogs barking and forget them. I did the same.”

Lee Songha halted. I was so shocked that I looked around.

Was this guy out of his mind? There were cameramen everywhere. Luckily, there wasn’t anyone filming the two as the recording ended. He could have still been picked up by the mics, yet he directly called the judges dogs?

Did he want to screw Lee Songha over along with him?

I didn’t hesitate to step between them.

“Songha, you worked hard. Let’s go.”

“Yes, oppa.”

Lee Songha stuck next to me. I heard him mumbling behind me.

“Can’t idols even flirt? So protective.”

Like hell, you were flirting.

The look Lee Songha gave him indicated that they were a million light years away from flirting. If that look was flirting, then were the eyes that she looked at her rice bowl with, lust?

It seemed I would have to have a talk with Punchline’s manager.

“Songha, don’t associate with him.”

Songha nodded without hesitation.

That’s right. What flirting? I snorted.

It looked like the other girls had already gone to the waiting room as they were nowhere in sight. I was leaving the set with Lee Songha when someone made his way through the busy staff.

A thick-skinned eyesore. It was Producer Go Joontae.

He tapped my forearm as he said,

“You don’t have to worry about the judges’ comments today. While editing, if we take out the unnecessary parts and keep what we need, we can definitely show it in a good light.”

“Please take care of us for real this time.”

Why was this guy acting so unusually?

While I greeted him, I raised my suspicion radar. Producer Go Joontae continued,

“Oh, right. I’ll make sure to tune into Cat Guardian Ghost’s broadcast. When I saw the special episode last time, the drama was very fun. Ms. Songha’s acting was amazing. If things continue like this, Next K-Star might be able to produce a top star.”

I was dumbfounded.

Although Lee Songha becoming a top star was something to celebrate, why are you trying to take credit for it, you shameless man? All Next K-Star had given Lee Songha was an armful of popularity and a pile of shit so enormous it could cover all of that.

How hard did we try to change the public opinion of her that had gone bad due to Next K-Star into something positive? And how much hardship did she have to endure?

Only my mouth smiled as I replied,

“Yes, as the project is so good, we are expecting good results as well.”

“Ah… Really?”

Producer Go Joontae opened his mouth a few times before asking,

“What kind of ratings are you expecting?”

To be honest, I was expecting over 10% ratings, but I didn’t say that.

Just in case people told me it would bring bad luck.

Since the special episode reached a peak minute rating of 6%, if we could maintain that, it would be a success considering it was on cable. The staff and related parties were predicting 8-9%.

“We are planning on a public pledge{3} for when we hit 8-9% for now.”

“8-9%?”

Producer Go Joontae’s eyes widened before he scratched the back of his head.

Then, in a shameless tone, he said,

“You must be so busy filming these days, right? Since even Ms. Songha, who is playing a supporting role, looks tired, Mr. Seo Jijoon from your company must be even busier since he’s the lead, right?”

“… That’s right.”

Aha. I was curious why he was acting so unusually.

Seeing as how Seo Jijoon’s name suddenly came up, I could guess what was going on his head

Although only my mouth smiled previously, this time, my entire face was smiling.

“Mr. Seo Jijoon is very busy too.”

 

CEO Kim Pansuk of Pan Production tapped a beer bottle with his spoon.

“Cheers for Mr. Seo Jijoon!”

A cheer erupted in the Korean BBQ restaurant.

The table where the filming, lighting, and audio staff were sitting at, the table where CEO Kim Pansuk, Writer Hong Jumi, Director Shin Taekyun, as well as the actors were sitting at, and even the table the managers were sitting at, glasses of alcohol sloshed everywhere.

This was a get-together to tune into Cat Guardian Ghost’s broadcast.

Since Seo Jijoon was paying, besides a few who had important schedules, everyone had gathered. Even the behind-the-scenes team was present with their cameras rolling, but everyone frantically covered their face to not be filmed. As we had come after filming an outdoor scene, everyone’s appearances were a bit. If people watching didn’t know, they would think this was a gathering of homeless people instead of a drama production team.

Even while they used their chopsticks, everyone kept turning their heads towards the TV on the wall. The program before us had just ended, and it was currently playing commercials.

“Should we do something when we reach a certain rating?”

 Said the manager of the female lead as he swallowed a piece of beef still red inside.

Another manager joined in while creating a bomb shot{4}.

“Oh, right. Mermaid out of Water is doing something like that as well. They are aiming for 20% over there.”

“20%?! Wow, that’s high.”

As people made a commotion, the manager who brought it up shrugged.

“It’s not an impossible number. Their upwards momentum is no joke. I wonder how long it’ll keep rising for.”

Probably until the third episode.

I thought while flipping a delicious piece of beef.

“I thought that the masterpiece in the beginning of this year would be our drama.”

“Ehh? Do you know how strong the public network lineup is? Even IBC’s Time Slip reached 12% yesterday. It’s a great start considering its genre.”

“The director and writer of that project have such great teamwork.”

Yeah, they have excessively great teamwork.

Enough for a drama to flop since the director and writer got into an affair.

I cut the beef into big pieces with scissors. Its juices dripped down.

Was Lee Songha eating well?

I looked at Lee Songha who was sitting between Seo Jijoon and another lead actor. She was nodding her head as she listened to people conversing around her. Her mouth didn’t rest either.

Lee Songha, whose one cheek was bulging, turned around and looked at me. Our eyes met. I smiled, telling her to eat a lot since it was expensive meat, but she looked to her left and right as she read the mood.

Then she stealthily got up with one hand holding her plate and the other holding chopsticks.

Walking towards me on her knees, Lee Songha turned to the seat next to me. Then she placed her plate in front of me. There were large pieces of beef on it.

“For me?”

“Yes.”

She nodded and said in a small voice,

“Only the chief keeps eating.”

I ate one of the pieces Lee Songha made a big decision to give me before piling her plate with meat. Even though Chief Lee Bongjoon’s stare stabbed at me, I ignored him.

I need to eat until my stomach bursts. I enthusiastically placed a new batch of meat on the grill.

An associate producer shouted,

“It’s the last commercial! 1 minute before the broadcast!”

The Korean BBQ restaurant, that had been as noisy as a marketplace, became quiet in an instant.

Everyone looked at the TV with faces full of excitement and expectations.

People enjoyed the drama in various ways.

There were people whose eyes fixated on the TV as if they were at a theater and people who went online to check the real-time reactions of viewers.

What they had in common was that they all were in festive mood.

“There are tons of comments popping up in community sites and social media outlets!”

“The majority of them are positive!”

“Euah, when Seo Jijoon and Lee Songha are on the screen together, the reactions are explosive!”

Although I had read the script enough times to memorize it and seen them film the scenes, seeing the well-edited version moved me beyond expectation. The polish of the drama was good, and every time Lee Songha’s face appeared onscreen, my heart swelled with pride.

As expected, Lee Songha seemed captivated as she looked at the screen.

With a face that seemed more satisfied than when she was eating beef.

Between their heated words, the sounds of phones vibrating and ringing never ceased. Even my phone didn’t stop ringing since a while ago.

Reporter Park said that she already wrote multiple articles, and my brother and sister-in-law sent me a long message expressing their thoughts and feelings before it even ended. There were even texts from my parents, friends, and even from the PR team employees at work.

The one who sent me the most messages was Im Seoyoung.

It looked like the other girls were watching it together at home as a new message popped up every minute. The messages were about how Lee Songha was filmed yet she didn’t appear onscreen and how the fans in the fan café were going crazy. There was no need for me to monitor it on my own.

Just then, the drama ended.

The Korean BBQ restaurant was packed with the sounds of twenty people chatting all at once. The waiters didn’t have time to rest as they constantly brought beer over, and glasses were refilled as soon as they became empty. People became a mob, scrambling back and forth as they toasted with each other.

What silenced this commotion was a phone call.

It was a call from TVL’s master control room.

Everyone, even the employees at the Korean BBQ restaurant, watched Director Shin Taekyun while he was on the phone. As he wasn’t someone who easily expressed his emotions, it was difficult to guess the ratings by his expression.

Soon, Director Shin Taekyun hung up. Then he looked towards us and asked,

“Actors, at what ratings are you planning on setting your public pledges?”

Someone said 8%, another replied with a 9%.

Director Shin Taekyun smiled as he said,

“I guess we need to raise the bar.”

 


{1} I feel like I said this already o.o but gimbap is a Korean ‘sushi’ roll. Very popular.

{2} Koreans also use seals as a form of signature.

{3} Actors in Korea make pledges for when they hit a certain rating. An example would be a fan meeting or charity work when they reach X%.

{4} In Korea, this is typically done with soju and beer.

 

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