His eyes were scary. The set had over 30 people mixed in it, yet he was able to catch the slight differences in the actions of the four of them. Maru gave the others next to him some glances before standing in front of Joongjin.
“I guess I don’t need to explain why I called you here, right?”
Maru nodded his head.
“From what I saw, it didn’t look like you were moving individually. It seemed that someone came up with the idea of changing the tone. Am I correct?”
“I see. Then I’ll get straight to the point since we’re busy. Why did you not act the way I told you to?”
Joongjin waved at Jangsoo to wait. Maru looked back for a sec. Over a hundred pupils were looking at him.
“Because this is better.”
“You’re saying that the act you four did is better than the one I instructed you to do, huh?”
“So you, Mr. Maru, are saying that you know acting better than me, yes? And that you’re more knowledgeable about the character than me.”
Joongjin pointed at the script as he spoke. Maru spoke to Joongjin who had a faint smile on his face.
“I can’t tell you that we know acting better than you. It’s also rather difficult to say that we know the characters better than their creator. However, I believe that we are better at expressing. I’m not saying that the characters that you gave us are bad. I believe that we’ll still get a good picture even if we acted as you told us to do.”
“Then why do you say that you’re ‘better’ at expressing?”
“Because we have our individualities. The acting that you instructed us to do is too well-fitting. It’s just like putting up a statue. It’s good to look at, but it’s also rather bland.”
After saying that, Maru had to cringe one eye. That was because Sooyoung, who stood behind him, hit his back with a fist. Tone it down a little - he seemed to express. However, Maru believed that he had to be even firmer in his decision at this point.
Joongjin was listening to his opinion. If he deemed that there was no need to face him, then he would’ve told the four of them to go back already. Throughout the entire morning, he made it clear that he would do what was necessary and would not do what wasn’t. And here, he kept asking questions. It was as if he wanted Maru to keep going.
Maru looked at Joongjin’s eyes. A blue speech bubble popped up behind him. This was the first time he saw such a deep blue color. He wondered what the meaning was behind that color, but right now, he had to focus on the contents of the speech bubble instead.
Joongjin’s lips were curved slightly. It meant that he welcomed this situation like a child full of curiosity. Maru closed his eyes shut before opening them again. The speech bubble was gone. Although the functionality was imperfect as it couldn’t look deep into a person’s heart, it was plenty enough to see through his intentions for now.
“Bland, huh. Have you researched into the characters that you are acting?”
Hearing Joongjin’s question, the four of them nodded their heads without hesitation. Although they were ‘Friends A through D’ in the script, they still had their names in the story. There were times when Taehoon and Gwangsoo would call out to them, and in the brawl scene, they would swear at each other as well. An actor would research into even a ‘passerby A’ if they got that character. And right now, they were given a character with lines and even a name. How many actors would not do the research?
Ever since they arrived here, the four of them gave feedback on each other’s acting. They tried changing the tone of the words, and sometimes even changed the words as they repeated the short scene. They supplemented each other’s acting while thinking about different combinations even back in the action school, in the coach, and even during the spare time after lunch.
“I think that a strand of grass knows a strand of grass’s thoughts the best!” Bangjoo said.
His voice was very loud as though he had been holding back this entire time. Maru could feel Sooyoung and Joon-gi flinching. Maru also coughed awkwardly inside. It was good that he was bold, but he went a little bit too far.
“So that means that I was a bit lacking in expressing your characters, huh? I’m good at looking at the forest, but not at looking at the tree, is this what you’re trying to say?”
“That’s not entirely the case.”
The reason they stood in front of the director was not to go against him. It was to express their opinions and get back a good result. If the director was firm, they would have no choice but to leave the negotiation table and go back.
“I think that’s what Mr. Bangjoo meant. Am I wrong?”
Maru looked at Bangjoo. He was worried about how Bangjoo would answer.
“Yes, that’s what I mean.”
Maru lowered his head and sighed. ‘He’s the type of guy who would become reckless once he gets excited’ - Joohyun’s voice flashed through his head. Well, he did like the fact that he was bold enough to answer that way. After all, he wanted to say that as well.
It was impossible for Maru, who instinctively s.u.c.k.e.d up to his superiors, to act that way, but that bold high school student did it so easily. Being influenced by his courage, Joon-gi and Sooyoung also said that their acting was slightly better.
Hearing Joongjin’s call, Jangsoo came.
“Let’s have a look at the footage.”
“With these kids?”
The video they shot just now played back on the external monitor. Looking at the screen, Bangjoo exclaimed.
“This feels rather new to look at it this way. Oh, there’s me.”
The acting was slightly different, but it didn’t look bad on screen either.
“Let’s have a look at the one we took before that.”
Following that, the footage where they acted as they were instructed to by Joongjin started playing back. It definitely wasn’t a bad act. This had its own charm. However, if they were asked which was filled with more vitality when comparing the two, Maru had the confidence to say that it was the second take. The others seemed to think the same as they all had expressions of confidence.
“What do you think? Can you say that the one you four did is better than the one I requested even when comparing side by side?”
“Yes. In fact, I have even more confidence now that I see it in person.”
“I think the same.”
Hearing answers from the three people, Joongjin looked at Maru. Maru replied that it was better. After stroking his chin, Joongjin spoke,
“Do you remember that I told you to be prepared to leave if you don’t follow my words?”
Maru carefully nodded. He had to be careful here. He might suddenly change his attitude into a strict one from an accepting one. If he was the type of man who could only speak gallantly, there was no way he would look at the four of them in a good way since they were challenging his authority.
“But the fact that you acted differently in a group like this without listening to me is that… you have the confidence, and to me, I feel very happy about that.”
“Let’s shoot one more time the way you four did it and talk again.”
Joongjin smiled and clapped twice. That was the signal for everyone to go back to their positions. Maru looked at his friends behind him. Everyone had vague expressions. It looked like it went well, but not entirely.
“I’m not sure what’s happening, but I don’t think we’re being chased out.”
“Let’s try it out once. We’ll see then. Also Bangjoo, I was startled because I thought you were getting angry. Geez, man.”
Sooyoung headlocked Bangjoo in his arms and shook him vigorously. Bangjoo apologized and g.r.o.a.n.e.d at the same time.
“Let’s do it like we did last time. The director would probably tell us something once we do.”
The three of them nodded after hearing Maru’s words.
Since this was the first time that there was a delay in the shoot, all of the actors and the staff looked at the four of them with confusion. Maru ignored their gazes and prepared his own acting. If he got the permission to do whatever he wanted to in this scene, he should be able to get more freedom to express his emotions in the next scene, where he died.
‘Now that I think about it, this is the first third take of the day, huh.’
During the classroom scene in the morning, they got an okay after the first take, and it took two shots with the a.d.u.l.t actors. It was done practically in an instant, and Joongjin did not take any more shots. Yet right now, Joongjin went into the third shot after hearing their words.
“Please prepare yourselves. Ready, action.”
Maru acted with more focus than ever. It wouldn’t be funny if he made a mistake when he expressed his opinion. He grabbed Joon-gi’s collar and let go before falling down after getting a hit. After checking Jangsoo walking past him with the camera, he grabbed Joon-gi’s hand and stood up.
“I hope that went well.”
“We’ll have to wait to find out.”
Jangsoo went around filming everyone until the last shot, and Joongjin shouted cut after that.
“The four of you.”
Since they were prepared for this, they walked up to him the moment Joongjin called them. They watched the footage that Jangsoo took just like last time.
“Good. I get what you are trying to say.”
Phew, Maru inwardly sighed in relief. It seemed that their opinions were accepted.
“But why don’t we change it like this? Oh, this is just a proposal, so just listen to me. First is you, Mr. Maru.”
Maru checked the footage as he listened to Joongjin’s words.
“Try to raise your anger even more here.”
“Yes. It’s good to shout while pushing your body forward, but your expression is lacking a little in detail. We’re going to do a close-up shot on your face, so put your effort into it. For example, like this.”
Joongjin made an expression himself. It looked quite funny, but Maru could understand his intentions. After that, they slightly edited the lines as well. It was a minute change, just a change in postpositions. The moment Maru heard the contents of the change, he could only nod. It was a very clean direction without room for retort.
“Does that make you satisfied?”
“Good, then next. Mr. Bangjoo.”
Like before, the two started changing the scene a little. Now, there was a cut that didn’t exist before in the script. What was supposed to be a single long-take scene was split into two. While changing the lines, Joongjin even asked the art director to change up the landscape. The scriptwriter next to him busily wrote things down with a pen. The staff holding shovels carved the mountain so that there was room for Bangjoo to run around.
Text and image were being altered at the same time. Hearing Joongjin’s explanation, Bangjoo dazedly nodded his head and walked back. Sooyoung and Joon-gi were the same in that regard.
The skit that the four of them prepared while supplementing each other’s part was altered once again, in a better, more detailed fashion.
“We should insert a cover shot halfway through, and that… hm, I think it will look pretty decent.”
Joongjin smiled and started writing things down on the script.
Seeing that, Maru was flabbergasted. They took just one shoot. After seeing that one shoot, he changed literally everything about that scene on the spot. However, it didn’t feel spontaneous nor chaotic. It looked as though everything was intended to be this way from the start. Maru was amazed, yet felt a little disheartened. If the four of them were given more time to think about it and exchange opinions, they would probably have arrived at the same conclusion that Joongjin gave right now. However, Joongjin skipped that entire process and pulled out the best picture from his mind alone. Wasn’t that too smart for a brain? He wanted that brain for himself.
“But why did you listen to our words?” Bangjoo asked.
Joongjin, who was writing things down on the script, raised his head and replied.
“Because you told me to do it.”
“I’m a very lacking person. I’m far from perfect. Embarrassingly, I hear the word genius a lot, but I’m not actually that smart. That’s why I try my best to experience and accept various things.”
“But you said you’ll chase us out if we don’t listen to your words….”
“That’s because I need to select the right people. I’m not generous enough to commit my time to useless stories. I only listen to words that have value. Mr. Bangjoo, who would you want to listen to? One that says that his thing is the best? Or one that hesitates and says that his thing is worthless?”
“Of course, the one who’s confident.”
“I’m the same. Actors that have pride in their acting are bound to speak no matter what kind of warning I give. That’s because actors are creatures that can’t accept acting that’s below their level. As for me, I’m always ready to listen to words from actors. It doesn’t matter whether their opinions are better or worse than my directions. Having a conversation with actors is always a form of study for me. It’s valuable. In that sense, your sister was also a very splendid actress. She was an amazing actress.”
After closing the script, Joongjin notified everyone that they’d start shooting in 10 minutes.
Maru looked at Joongjin who looked where the ground was turned over. He was a scary man. He was endlessly open and endlessly accepted other opinions. By now, that man’s dictionary of direction should have recorded the ‘standard model of high school student acting’ in it. He couldn’t be happier that his last shoot was tomorrow. He couldn’t begin to imagine what kind of acting he would have to do in order to continue satisfying him.
While resting, Maru took out his phone that he had put on silent. There was a text message from Joohyun, who told him that she was going back to sleep. He opened that text.
[Push forward with your opinion until the director is satisfied; until the word ‘good’ escapes his mouth.]
It was a rather late reply. Maru shook his head and put his phone back in.
 Korean grammar has what is known as ‘postpositions’, just like nouns, verbs, adjectives, prepositions.