“Yes, yes. Over there. Throw it towards the blackboard. As for those of you gathered over there, scatter it towards the ceiling. Like this.”
The director put her hands into the box with the logo of the telecommunication company and scattered the balls into the air. The multi-colored table tennis balls flew into the air before falling back down again. The staff and the background actors picked them back up.
“Make it look like you’re enjoying it as much as possible. You can go a little overboard if you want. We’ll blur your faces, so you don’t need to worry about that. Just exaggerate your actions as much as possible.”
After saying those words, the director took off the baseball cap she was wearing to scratch her head. While the fatigue-struck female director explained to the actors the theme for this ad, Maru put down the box that the staff gave him at his feet. It was full of red table tennis balls. The one sitting next to him had blue, and the one next to that person had green. He still had no idea what the ad was trying to do.
There were some students in school uniform in front of the director who yawned as she explained. They were two girls that he probably saw somewhere before on TV as well as Sooil. The girl that had the mascot doll for the telecommunication company at her waist smiled brightly and nodded.
“We’re starting the shoot. Let’s get this done quickly,” the director spoke again as she pressed down the cap on her head.
* * *
“Let’s do that again.”
The director spoke as she rested her chin on her left hand. Maru poured the balls back into the box. The balls fell from the dustpan into the box. He couldn’t remember how many times he had done this. Maybe eleven?
“This time, make it feel like you’re filling the air in the classroom with balls. You know that air molecules are round, right? Or was it particles? Anyway, it’s there in science books, the round balls scattered in empty space. Make the classroom look like that.”
Her voice was fatigued, her eyes were loose, and she yawned whenever she felt like it. Unlike what she said at the beginning, she kept changing her demands and continued shooting over and over again.
“Yoonji, for you, it’s like you’re not looking at the camera but beyond the camera. Don’t just look at the lens, and make it look like you’re actually talking to the person on the other side. Sooil, you just keep doing that. Haeyeon, you too.”
It wasn’t just the background. She kept changing her demands from the actors as well. The girl that had her actions pointed out, replied with vitality, but she clearly wasn’t as energetic as she was at the beginning of the shoot.
As soon as Maru sat down after putting all the balls into the box, the director raised her hand. She was eagle-eyed despite being so tired. She signalled the camera director. The actors smiled, and the rest of the people hugged a bunch of table tennis balls.
Along with a cue sign, the actors sitting at the front ran towards the camera. Maru threw the balls in his arms towards the ceiling. Atoms, or particles or whatever, he didn’t know and didn’t care. He just wished for the director to be satisfied with the picture this time. The people sitting behind the actors scattered the balls just as passionately as the actors.
Maru looked at the director and threw the balls sideways as well. This required more strength in his wrist and shoulders than throwing a basketball. He would probably sweat like he played a full quarter of basketball if he did this a couple more times.
“Let’s turn off the air conditioner. I was wondering what it was, and it was that, huh.”
Hearing those words, Maru said ‘Murphy needs to be killed’ in a small voice. He felt as though the heat from the installed lights and humans were being reflected and diffused back into the classroom. This was a splendid oversized microwave.
He wiped away his sweat with some tissue and looked at the director. The director, who was twitching her fingers as she stared at the monitor, clicked her tongue and raised her index finger.
“Let’s try that one more time.”
* * *
The female director never raised her voice even once. She never glared at someone either. She only changed her demands with a voice that made the listener feel powerless. After looking around the scene with eyes that were devoid of any fighting spirit, the director stretched her arms around and spoke.
“Let’s do that again after tilting cameras 3 and 6 a little.”
Maru heard a small swear next to him. Maru sighed shortly and straightened his back. He could deeply sympathize with that guy. This was probably the twentieth run. Or was it the twenty-third? He started losing track.
‘My luck with work is definitely not good.’
If it was acting, it might have been better. After all, when it came to acting, he could change his expressions, actions, or at least his breathing pattern to change things up. However, this shoot was 100% repetitive labor. Was ad shooting so hard? Or was she a peculiar director? He would’ve endured if the shoot was boring or exhausting, but this shoot was both boring and exhausting. He was reminded of doing manual labor during his military service.
“The one that swore just now. You’ll live a long life.”
The director spoke slowly as she leaned against her palm. Even her jokes were devoid of ups or downs. It was as though she was sleep-talking.
“Just twice more. It’ll end after just two more shoots. Please cheer up a little. Why are you so lacking energy? Haam.”
Maru could only laugh in vain when the person with the least energy here said such words.
The director’s yawn infected everyone on the set. Everyone started yawning. People found that funny as some people started chuckling.
“That’s good. It’s just two more runs, so let’s keep this up.”
The director urged everyone with a faint smile. It was the first smile she showed on the set, and it was also the signal that the end was near.
Maru wondered if it was really going to end with just two more shoots, but he decided to trust her for now. The cue sign fell, and he threw the balls into the air once again. The actors ran forward, and the balls were thrown upwards. The balls that were thrown in the air like fireworks made up the background, while the actors said their lines. The director then shouted cut.
“Just one more.”
The director spoke as though she was saying the ending of a finished book. Maru wondered what her confidence was based on. Did it mean that she already took all the pictures she wanted to? Or was she simply running out of time?
‘Or perhaps she might really be predicting that we would produce the perfect picture this time.’
After a final tuning, the director stood up from her seat. She raised her cap a little and crossed her arms. Although her eyes were still filled with fatigue, her pupils were filled with unknown confidence. She pulled her chin inwards.
“Last run. Let’s do this, everyone.”
Maru threw the balls into the air with as much power as possible.
At that moment, the sound of popping popcorn could be heard. The table tennis balls that hit the ceiling all fell down slowly. It looked as though hundreds of baby mobiles were floating in the air, and the feeling of fullness that couldn’t be experienced until now could be felt. It literally looked as if the table tennis balls were air particles.
The others seemed to have gotten similar feelings as they watched the falling table tennis balls in a daze. While the plentiful laughter from the actors filled the class, the director shouted cut.
“Well done everyone. Let’s clean up.”
Even as she put a period at the very end of the sentence, her voice was devoid of any ups or downs. The tone was practically the same as ‘I have a book’. The actors approached the director, who was looking over the footage with the camera director, and the rest were being directed by the staff.
“We’ll pull out after cleaning things up. Thank you for your work everyone. Please return your clothes after this.”
After putting away the balls, Maru went to the bathroom to change his clothes. When he came back, he saw the director talking to a person who seemed to be from the school. He could hear her thanking the man for lending them the classroom.
Maru looked at Sooil, who hung his arm around his shoulders and drooped down. Since Maru had no intention of supporting a boy, he quickly shook off that hand. Sooil, who was shaken off, smiled and approached him again.
“You worked hard.”
“It was indeed hard.”
“Hey, you should say the same thing to me. Tell me that I worked hard.”
“You get a lot of money for it though. You are supposed to work hard.”
Maru moved his shoulders a little. He could hear some cracking noises. They were the traces left behind from playing basketballs and throwing the table tennis balls.
“But what’s that?” Maru asked as he looked at the black plastic bag in Sooil’s hands.
“It’s leftovers from the staff, and I asked if I could take it, and they told me yes. It’s free food.”
There was soboro-bread inside. Sooil’s eyes as he talked about ‘free’ stuff were filled with inexplicable satisfaction. He looked like a rich young master from a wealthy family just based on his looks though.
“You shouldn’t like free stuff too much. You’ll go bald.”
Sooil just shrugged.
The staff that led the background actors here told them that it was okay to go home. Everyone left the classroom exhausted regardless of gender. Maru was also in that group as he walked into the corridor. The time was nearing 11 o’clock. There was still time until the last train. He should be able to go home if he took the bus to Yeouinaru station.
“Uhm, can we take a photo with you?”
He subconsciously turned his head around when he heard a girl’s voice. Of course, he knew that the voice wasn’t meant for him. Two ladies, who looked to be in their early twenties and had thrown balls into the air along with Maru were talking to Sooil.
Sooil walked between them and made a ‘v’ with his fingers. The girls took a photo with a phone and asked if they could hook arms.
“Sorry, I’m a bit of a shy guy. Instead, I’ll take one more photo with you.”
Sooil was quite adamant on that even though he looked like he’d gladly accept such a request. He refused them indirectly and politely, but the clear refusal could be felt from his words. The girls also gave up and settled for taking another photo.
After that, many people asked if they could take photos with Sooil as well as the young actresses from before. Maru looked at them for a while before turning around. Although they belonged to the same company and even exchanged greetings, they clearly weren’t on the same level.
He didn’t know because he didn’t have any interest in dramas or movies, but Sooil was actually quite a famous actor. His acting skills were given recognition on the indie movies side, and he had shot several movies along with Geunsoo, whose schedule was full until next year. As for dramas, he showed his face here and there as a set with Suyeon.
Maru only recently found out that Sooil was gaining fame with his kind-looking eyes, neat looks, and friendly speech tone. Looking up his name, he found his name and filmography on the main page, and there was even a fan café dedicated to him. He also tried looking up his own name, but nothing came up.
In other words, he was a star that was given full support by JA Production.
Maru was just stretching his neck out after leaving through the school gates. Just then, a car passed by him and tooted its horn.
Hearing his name, Maru turned his head around. The one he saw was director Park Joongjin, who was peeking outside the car window.
“You’re Mr. Han Maru, aren’t you?”
“Yes. Hello there, director.”
“I was wondering and I was right huh. But what brings you here? Don’t you live in Suwon?”
Maru wondered if he told him that he lived in Suwon, but he answered his question for now.
“I had a shoot for an ad. As an extra.”
“Is the ad shot by director Park Jiseon?”
He thought about who Park Jiseon was for a while. Soon, he remembered that it was the powerless director that he was working with until just a few minutes ago.
“Yes, that’s right.”
“I see. Is the shoot finished?”
“It just ended a few minutes ago.”
“Hm, alright. You worked hard. Oh, now that I think about it, it’s only a few days huh. See you on set. I’ll be looking forward to seeing you.”
The sedan’s window closed and departed again. Maru looked at the orange sodium lights before looking at the classroom which still had lights on. A strange ad director and an acclaimed genius movie director. They strangely fit each other.
“Not that I have time to think about other people.”
He was currently in a state where he could fall asleep in 10 seconds if there was a bed in front of him. He staggered his way forward. He felt what it was like to be drained of all life today.
‘Let’s remember her name. That way, I can avoid her next time.’
He shook his head in resignation. Just then,
“Maru! Wait for me!”
When he turned around, he saw Sooil, running towards him with a black plastic bag in each hand. Maru smiled and waved back at him before running forward with all of his might. He really wanted to get some rest. He ran for a long time and crossed the road. However, just then, he saw the bus he was supposed to take going right past his eyes. He felt energy being drained from his legs.
Behind him, there was an overly cheerful guy running towards him.
He was stuck without a place to go.
Maru looked up at the sky. A dogshit afternoon.
That sounded like a splendid movie title for some reason.
 She’s yawning.
 A bit like melon bread, but the top is crispy. Wikipedia for details.