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After Story 75
Nam Joon stood up from his seat and twisted his body around. The big battle with profiles was finally over. He rubbed his eyes and looked at the profiles he put to the side. Those were the fellows that weren’t chosen.
“There are so many actors in this small piece of land.”
“What are you on about so suddenly?”
The a.s.sistant director took his eyes off the profiles.
“I mean what I said. There are so many applicants for a single movie. Comparing in terms of compet.i.tion, it might not lose out to employment compet.i.tions at large companies.”
“Of course. Based on compet.i.tion alone, it doesn’t lose out to large companies. But what if you factor in the success rate? It’s easy to become an actor. It’s not like you need someone’s approval to do so, and you can become an actor as long as you will it. However, how many actors are well-off? It’s actually much better to just aim to get into large corporations by studying. Or become a civil servant instead.”
“You’re quite cynical.”
“It’s reality. There are many controversies around employment corruption or whatever, but salarymen can walk past the doorstep with their own effort. They can walk in on their on will. Look at those people preparing to become civil servants. As long as they can get over the hurdle that is the public exams, they will get money. But look at celebrities. They ruin their bodies and waste their time, but that doesn’t guarantee success. Studying at least creates a foothold to try those tests, but celebrities will waste years if they slip up.”
“That’s not entirely true. A friend of mine failed while preparing to become an idol and failed, but he got employed in that field and is working there. Whatever happens, I think there’s a way out. On the contrary, the guy preparing for civil service exams is trying really hard but not pa.s.sing.”
“If you say it like that, then everyone must be doing well. But how’s reality? Since you talked about idols, do you know how many groups debuted just last year?”
“I’m not entirely sure, but from what I saw on TV, about three groups?”
“It’s twelve. There were twelve groups who finished their preparations and made their debut. How many groups do you think there are that fell apart without even standing on the starting line? Too many to count. Then, how many trainees are there practicing hard just to get into those broken groups? I sometimes feel freaky if I think about the sheer number. I’m sure there are aspiring actors among them too.”
“I guess there are many people debuting as idols to become actors.”
Nam Joon thought about the profiles he looked through in the morning. In their experiences section, there were many people who wrote down ‘X team’, ‘Y Agency trainee’, and the like.
Even to someone who was not knowledgeable, the lifespan of idols was not long.
The idol group that colored South Korea with green balloons in 2004 ended up disbanding in 2007 due to disharmony between members. Even the most popular groups would disappear eventually. This was why even field idols looked for a way out early on, whether that be as singers, actors, or general-purpose entertainers. In order to survive, they had to ‘graduate’ from being idols.
“But hey, you’re quite knowledgeable about idols.”
“A friend of mine works as a producer for a music program. I pick up a few things from him.”
“Really? Then you must hear about a lot of the rumors circulating in the entertainment industry too, right?”
“Rumors are just rumors. They’re best ignored.”
“But a rumor from a producer is reliable. You got anything? It’s boring so tell me something.”
“There’s none. Even if I had one, I won’t give it to you. Haven’t you seen loads of people who screwed up their lives because they said the wrong things? Don’t take interest in unnecessary stuff either and just keep working hard.”
The a.s.sistant director, who was looking at the profiles, slapped down on the pile on the table.
“It’s not a bad one, but there is one fact I know.”
“Feeling itchy, are we? I’ll listen to every word. What is it? Someone dating? Or gambling?”
“I said it’s not a bad one. Do you know about Yoo Jon?”
“Yoo Jon? Never heard of that before.”
“I mean the male idol Yoo Jon.” Nam Joon sighed.
“I’m not someone with a whole lot of time on my hands, so why would I remember any boy idols? There are many cute and fresh girls out there. Do I have to know the men too?” The a.s.sistant director laughed.
“Anyway, that Yoo Jon kid is apparently going to be in a drama this time. It’s an RBS drama. Apparently, his agency did all sorts of things to push that guy in.”
“As a lead?”
“No matter how great idols are, there’s no way directors will use someone without experience as a lead role. He’s a support actor.”
“Wow, a support actor. A support actor for a public TV drama that the owners of thousands of profiles we just tossed away would never even dream of?”
“Don’t be so skeptical. Idols work extremely hard too.”
“Who said they don’t? They just do so in a different area. I guess there will be talks about c.r.a.ppy acting again.”
He could still clearly remember it. It was around this time last year. There was a news article about the leader of a famous idol band getting the lead role of a film. Nam Joon watched the first episode since it contained one of his favorite actors, and he was surprised the moment he saw the idol. It was incredibly c.r.a.ppy. With that fellow in, a serious drama became a sitcom.
Perhaps due to the influence of his agency, there were no news articles that mentioned his acting skills, but the responses of everyone around him were consistent. They were of the opinion that they could do better.
“But shall I be blunt? Compared to an actor who’s crazy good at acting but has no name value, it’s much more profitable to use an idol who’s terrible at acting but has more than enough name value.”
“But the resulting work is a stark contrast. The eyes of the ma.s.ses aren’t decorations. There’s no way a terribly made piece would earn a lot of money.” The a.s.sistant director shook his head.
“Hey, you only worked for the film industry, right?”
“Yes. I’m a slave to Chungmuro through and through. I have no interest in anything other than that.”
“That’s why you can say that. Right now, the ecosystem of dramas is completely different from ours. Not just in the way things are shot, but also in the way money is earned.”
“Increase the viewing rates and sell out all the ad slots to earn money. Isn’t it the same?”
“Structurally, that’s right. But think about the market.”
“The market? It’s just Korea.”
“With film, the only market is Korea. The works that are exported overseas are generally done so for a.s.sessment rather than commercial worth. For dramas though, there’s one more market: j.a.pan.”
“The Korean wave? I heard that it’s on the decline lately.”
“Like h.e.l.l it is. Do you know where half of the production funds of dramas with idols come from? It’s j.a.pan. In j.a.pan, a drama sells if you put a named idol in it.”
“Even if it does, isn’t it a minor genre there? I’ve heard that some Korean dramas became popular there and the people of j.a.pan started to call some people Choi-sama and Hyuk-sama, but I thought that was just luck.”
“Not at all. Although not completely mainstream, it’s riding on the flow of the mainstream. There are channels that put on Korean dramas 24/7 too. It’s also quite popular in the DVD market. Not only that, the price for ads there is totally nuts. Above all, the media consumption market cannot be compared to ours.”
“You mean things like merch?”
“So you know about that. Yeah, those kinds of things. Drama producers aren’t idiots. They aren’t using idols who are c.r.a.ppy at acting because they’re stupid. The principle is simple: Use them, get money. The financial department of the TV station proves the worth of idols, so who would refuse? A producer on the level of masters can win against pressure from higher-ups, but do you think the same can be said for other producers?”
The a.s.sistant director gathered the profiles. They were the ones that were sorted.
Nam Joon put the rest of the profiles in the trash.
The box was full. There were at least a hundred. It felt quite iffy to throw away hundreds of dreams into the trash.
“Dramas must be even harder than here huh? At least in the movie industry, there aren’t actors who lose out in favor of idols.”
“You never know. Film production is ultimately a form of business. Right now, the wall between TV and theater screen is still thick, so idols don’t dare try to enter, but what do you think will happen if enough time pa.s.ses and those idols come after having received proper acting lessons?”
“People will use them. Fandom is ticketing power after all.”
“Even I would use them. Unless they’re totally terrible on camera, I’ll give them a support role or something. Rather than s.c.r.e.w.i.n.g up the whole movie and never picking up the megaphone again, I’ll just compromise once.”
“I guess you really will never know what will happen in ten years. I think by 2018, idols will be in films too.”
“I think there might be more than you expect. Right now, n.o.body’s giving them a glance since the few films that tried screwed up badly, but if they manage to open the Chinese market on top of the j.a.panese market, things will definitely change.”
“I guess it’ll be hard for actors to make a living.”
“That’s just how it is. 20 years, no, just 10 years ago, no one other than actors from theater troupes was allowed to stand in movies, but it’s different now. The wall between the television and the theater screen has collapsed too. There are a lot fewer people who look down on those who go to shoot dramas after shooting movies.”
“At this rate, the occupation of actors might really be put in jeopardy. Everyone will just start off as general-purpose entertainers and just choose actors as one of its many paths.”
“General-purpose entertainers have been on the rise lately. But the value of true actors will rise. I at least think so.”
Nam Joon lifted the box to the right of the a.s.sistant director and put it on the table. There were about 300 profiles that survived from the more than 1000 original pile.
The reward for getting past the 1:4 compet.i.tion was the qualification to take the audition. How many of these 300 people would ultimately leave behind their names on film?
“Do you think there are true actors among these people here?”
“Maybe, maybe not. It’s about time male actors in their 20s rise. The male actors in their 30s are solid, but there’s no one who comes to mind when you think about a good male actor in their 20s.”
“Now that I think about it, you’re right. For the 30s, there are many well-known ones.”
“Yang Ganghwan, Hong Geunsoo, Choi Hojung, Park Sinseo — these four people are the representatives of the male actors in their 30s. Grab anyone from the street and ask the same question, and they’ll answer one of these four.”
“I saw Yang Ganghwan’s last theater performance in his twenties while I was in college. It was the best. There’s just no other way of describing that.”
“Right. After those four, who decorated the 20s actors beautifully, rose to their 30s, the 20s male actor slot is totally empty. So it’s about time. The media will not accept the absence of a star. They will find one, and if there isn’t one, they’ll make one.”
“I prefer actresses though. There are many pretty actresses in their 20s, but there isn’t anyone that comes to mind when I think about them in terms of acting.”
Nam Joon sat down and turned on his laptop. It was time to create a list of audition partic.i.p.ants.
He had to send this to the picky ‘director Baek’ so he couldn’t make a mistake.
“Director. Say you’re producing a film. If there’s a decently good top idol actor and a truly good actor, who will you use?” he asked as he typed on his keyboard.
The a.s.sistant director, who was checking the profiles with a blue pen next to him, responded, “There’s no need to consider.”
“No, you can only choose one….”
“I’m going to use both, so let’s just shut up and finish things. You don’t want to stay with me until Christmas is over, do you?”
“It’s not like you have anyone to meet.”
“Shut up and go buy some coffee. And some sandwiches.”
“You’re buying mine too, right?”
“How are you so shameless?”
“I threw my shame away while I was slaving my life away.”
Nam Joon s.n.a.t.c.hed the a.s.sistant director’s credit card and turned around.
When he opened the door and left, he saw couples gathered at the foot of a large Christmas tree.
“Death to couples.”
He crossed his arms and ran towards the café about two blocks away.