Idols Rewind – Chapter 7: Hey, are you crying?

There was no way to make money and too many ways to spend it. Composition fees, living expenses, practice facility and dorm costs, office rent, lyricist fees, etc.

And it didn’t stop there. There were also music videos, album covers, promotions, hair, makeup, and styling.

Just thinking about it made my head spin.

“Damn it, I’m going to lose my mind.”

Still, we had no choice but to make it work. Many people jumped into this field of work, only to meet their downfall like I did before my regression. If you succeeded, though, you could make enough money to establish a company in Seoul.

I had confidence I could do just that.

 “But right now, we don’t have much money to invest into a music video.”

The lyrics were already out, and Hee-yeon was receiving vocal training based on the lyrics. Once training was done, we had to schedule recording sessions in the studio and go straight to doing the music video.

Since music videos didn’t require mixing and mastering, nothing held us back from shooting. Who knew? Maybe the final version of the concept and content will be decided during meeting discussions.

However, the problem was that the cost of making a music video was no laughing matter.

“Hm… Guess it can’t be helped.”

If you don’t have teeth, use your gums. If I had no money, I had no choice but to make do with the information I had about the future.

(T/N: “If you don’t have teeth, use your gums” is a Korean idiom that means you should work with what you have if you lack the ideal conditions.)

“Yeah. Some directors can pour in billions and still produce crap, and then some can work wonders with just 10 million Won.”

(T/N: 10 million KRW is about 7k USD as of June 2024.)

The director I had in mind was part of the latter. Still, there was one thing that concerned me.

“He doesn’t have experience making music videos yet, so I’m not sure if his skills will be as good as I think.”

I absentmindedly scratched my head as I became lost in thought. Despite mulling it over, no solution came to mind. 

At times like these, the best approach was to just go for it. He must have already made several short films as a college student, so he would have some experience. If we talked, I should get a rough idea of his capabilities.

Although the film industry was cold to him, and he didn’t stand out, still….

I immediately headed for the Korea National University of Arts. That director would likely be immersed in his studies at that place – the film department at K-Arts.

(T/N: The Korea National University of Arts (or K-Arts) is a top-ranked university in South Korea that focuses on cultivating artists.)

***

Jong-woo Kim – a senior at the Korea National University Arts’ Film Department – heaved a sigh in the lounge room.

“Jerk-woo, why the long face?”

“Why do you think? Huh? Tell me. Huh? Why do you think, you punk!”

“Huh?”

“What.”

“…I thought you watched it since you kept saying ‘Huh?’. You haven’t?”

“What the hell are you talking about, man? Huh? As if I don’t have enough on my plate with assignments, competitions, and a bleak future!”

“You don’t know, huh? Try watching this video.”

“Video?”

It didn’t matter if it was sad, scary, heartwarming, or even risqué(?). If it was a decent video, you had to watch it at that very moment.

Sharing was caring, but only receiving would make you a selfish friend. At least in the film department, that was how it was. 

Jong-woo calmly waited as his classmate searched for something on his phone.

“Hey, check this out.”

“What? It’s a stream. Oh… She’s pretty. Very pretty.”

Jong-woo gave him a thumbs up, and his classmate vigorously nodded in agreement.

“That’s that, but it’s fun to watch.”

At his words, Jong-woo turned his focus to the video. As minutes passed and the video ended, Jong-woo’s face was melting away. 

“Her name is… Yoon-jung Hwang? But the comments said she’s in a girl group. I guess idols these days are good at gaming, too?”

“They flailed. Terribly.. It’s a long story, so you can go look into it yourself.”

“Yeah. Even if you didn’t tell me, I was planning on looking into her more.”

Yoon-jung Hwang, Yoon-jung Hwang, he muttered repeatedly. He thought her name was also quite pretty.

“Hey, Jerk-woo!”

A teaching assistant, who was also Jong-woo’s classmate, came looking for him in the lounge. 

“What do you want, you witch.”

“The president of K Management is looking for you.”

“K Management?”

Jong-woo and his classmate exchanged puzzled glances at the unfamiliar company name.

“JJerk-woo, didn’t your short films flop? Maybe someone did find them.”

“…You punk. You’re just saying what you want because you’re doing well, huh?”

“As if. I’ve still got a long way to go. If I was successful, I would already be at Cannes. Oh, right! You and I just have different standards in general.”

(T/N: Cannes is short for Cannes Film Festival, a prestigious internal film festival that is held yearly in Cannes, France.)

“What did you just say, you bastard!”

Listening to their usual banter, the teaching assistant chimed in.

“You guys don’t know either? I looked it up, and there’s this no-name girl group at the company. I think their name was Blue Sherbet?”

“…?!”

Jong-woo and his classmate’s eyes widened as they looked at each other.

“My dear friend,” his classmate said. 

“Yeah, buzz off.”

***

I waited in an empty classroom that the teaching assistant led me to. 

“Well, I did bring some materials but… sigh. I don’t remember well. When did he suddenly start focusing on idol music videos again?”

I hummed while thinking and pondered for a few minutes. Then, two young men entered the classroom. I shook hands with the one whose face looked familiar.

“Hello, my name is Hyuk Kang. I’m the President of K Management.”

However, both of them stared at my extended hand without shaking it. The young man I reached out to tilted his head.

“Are you not looking for Jong-woo?”

“…?”

He felt familiar, but he was not Jong-woo Kim. 

“I’m Jong-woo Kim. But… what is this about?”

This time, I asked them a question while looking at their puzzled expressions.

“And who is this gentleman?”

“I’m Jong-woo’s classmate. I came along to say hello because I’m a fan of Yoon-jung.”

“I apologize. I said no, but he kept insisting. Hey, she’s not here so just go. Didn’t I tell you? There’s no way she would come.”

“Ha… Ha… Sorry for the trouble,” the classmate laughed awkwardly and turned away with his face bowed. 

Meanwhile, I struggled to recall the young man from my memories before finally, it clicked.

“…!” 

Countless alarm bells went off in my head. From being an up-and-coming filmmaker during college, making a low-budget sleeper hit that grossed 2 million, and eventually attracting 10 million viewers with another film – this genius director had done it all. 

Eun-chul Lee.

The snobby director who was known for his high standards and strictness was saying what? He’s Yoon-jung’s fan? 

“Huh?” An involuntary exclamation escaped my lips.

Two voices followed suit.

“Huh?”

“Huh?”

It was Yoon-jung’s trendy catchphrase. 

As I was taken aback at this particular reaction, their faces turned bright red. It seemed to slip out automatically. My mind raced.

If this were the future, it would have been unimaginable. But if it was the present – and if it was with Yoon-jung’s fan – it felt possible. 

“If it’s not too much trouble, can I ask the two of you to direct a music video?” I asked vaguely, leaving out the name ‘Hee-yeon.’

“Of course!”

“Same here!”

The two directors shouted their agreement to the request with no questions asked. What was this lineup? It felt too good to be true.

The doubts I felt just moments ago completely vanished. Although today’s Eun-chul and Jong-woo may not be at their best, having these two talented individuals work together would change things.

No matter what the result was, there was something I was certain about. Even if the result wasn’t a masterpiece, it certainly wouldn’t be a failure. Their fees would be reasonable, and in this situation, there was no better choice.

‘I should still introduce them to Yoon-jung, at least once.’

Since it was Hee-yeon’s music video, having her on set to observe and cheer on everyone wouldn’t be strange at all. 

“Shall we have a brief meeting, then?”

As the explanation continued, their faces fell in disappointment and I saw that Eun-chul was quietly backing out. However, he quickly changed his stance after I asked for their ‘understanding’ when the other members came to the set to show their support.

After showing them the materials related to Hee-yeon, their eyes began to reflect genuine passion.

‘At this rate, aren’t they going to become a fan of all the members?’

I hoped so. If they did well, maybe Hee-yeon could appear in a film directed by Eun-chul. 

‘If anyone’s going to be the leading protagonist of a movie grossing 10 million, it should be Hee-yeon.’

That day, our meeting went on for hours and continued for several days. The two directors had an overwhelming amount of energy. Despite the limited budget, their ideas were limitless.

They decided on the shooting equipment, location, concept, costumes, and any additional props. Both took every aspect of this seriously.  

Why wouldn’t they? Although it was for short films, they both had experience and had lots of learned experience. Besides, their enthusiasm was overwhelming, seeing as how this was their first project for a music video.

Although I had some concerns, their talents complemented each other. Their synergy filled in each other’s gaps and enhanced their strengths.

Thanks to them, I was growing more and more exhausted by the day. 

“Ugh, I’m tired.”

“President Kang.”

“Huh? Are you done?”

Hee-yeon’s vocal training finished today. Given her voice and versatility, adjusting her training to match the lyrics didn’t take long.

“Are you tired?”

“Ah, did you hear? It’s just me being dramatic. People always complain how their back hurts, their shoulder hurts, they’re tired, it’s hard – you know, that sort of thing.”

Hee-yeon’s expression did not falter.

“No, you seem tired. Please don’t push yourself. It’s important to take care of your health,” she said. 

With every word she said, I felt better. Her sincerity felt too real to be empty words.

“Okay, thank you,” I smiled gently and patted her head. “Let’s rest today and start recording tomorrow.”

“Okay.”

The long-awaited day of recording was tomorrow.

***

At some point, the atmosphere in the dorm had changed. It was brimming with hope. Jin-ah could feel it. 

Hee-yeon was busy preparing for her solo, so it would take forever to explain all of that. Yoon-jung was facing an explosion in popularity with her streaming. Yumi was focusing on arranging music and was making steady progress.

Everyone was finding their talents and working hard to improve.

‘Why isn’t he asking me to do anything?’

While everyone else was given something to work on based on their talents, she was just told to keep practicing ‘like usual.’

Do I not have talent? Am I hindering the group? She sometimes fell into these depressing thoughts but always managed to pull herself together to pour her energy into working hard.

After all, she was a talent brought in by ‘that’ Manager Kang. She remembered how envious the other trainees she trained with her were. On top of that, wasn’t she being told every day that she was doing well?

“Yeah. Let’s just keep going like this. Without overdoing it, giving it my best.” 

When they all went to practice in the morning and she ended up practicing alone into the night, it was hard to not feel down. She couldn’t help herself from feeling down about it, but she never stopped working hard.

As the days went on with Jin-ah working hard, Hee-yeon’s solo recording was approaching the next day.

She was sprawled out on the dorm bed when she heard the front door open.

‘Is that Hee-yeon?’

“I brought fried chicken!” It was President Kang’s voice.

Jin-ah sprang up and flung her room door open.

“Wow! Fried chicken!”

“Are you happier to see the chicken than me? You do see me, right?”

“Wow, great thinking… Two servings for how many here? No wonder you don’t have a girlfriend.”

“…What a nice thing to say.”

Jin-ah cackled. Hyuk cackled, too.

“Did practice go well today?”

“Hey! Say it twice and it’s called nagging. I’m known for my practice fever,” Jin-ah smiled mischievously. 

“Always bluffing,” Hyuk chuckled along with her.

As all the members took their seats, Hyuk handed a chicken wing to Jin-ah.

“Good job on practicing hard. Keep it up. Don’t overdo it, but don’t slack off when no one’s looking. Alright?”

“Wow! Chicken wing! Wow, why doesn’t the boss have a girlfriend? He’s so cool.”

“President Kang, I also worked hard today, too.”

“Me, too.”

Yoon-jung and Yumi grumbled, and they pouted their lips. 

“Hey, now! Don’t you know about ‘respecting your elders’? Korea is a Confucian country,” said Jin-ah.

“I don’t know about Yumi, but I’m the same age as you,” said Yoon-jung.

“Yoon-jung, you earned enough today to buy dozens of chickens, and you’re fussing over a wing? Buy your own with that money. This is a reward for my efforts today. Got it? It was given to me by President Kang himself. Not just anyone can get this. Only pretty people like me can,” Jin-ah responded.

“What are you talking about? Speak properly. Better yet, don’t talk at all. Ugh! Gross! Don’t talk with your mouth full!”

Jin-ah indulged in her fried chicken and fell into bliss. At that time, Hyuk received a call.

“Hi, Jung-han.”

It was a call from Manager Jung-han. 

“When you go to the studio tomorrow, take good care of LOAN. Just pick him up from his house and give him a ride. Hee-yeon and I will take a taxi. Okay. We need to maintain a good relationship. There’s a lot we’ll be requesting from him for Jin-ah’s solo and the group songs next time. Yeah.”

The conversation continued, but Jin-ah didn’t listen to the rest. She froze in place, chicken in one hand.

“My solo song…?”

Wondering if she had heard wrong, she looked at the other members. They were all looking back at her. Hyuk ended the call.

“Hm? What are you all doing? Aren’t you going to eat the chicken?”

“President Kang, is Jin-ah doing a solo song?” Yumi asked.

Hyuk nodded easily as if he was stating an obvious fact. 

“Yep. I told you to keep practicing as usual. When your skills improve, you’ll do a solo with dancing and singing. But the timing is still being worked out. The group comeback could come first or Jin-ah’s solo could come first.”

“That’s… what you meant when you said… practice as usual?”

“You didn’t know?”

“How was I supposed to know!” Jin-ah shouted.

Hyuk stood his ground.

“You should! I told you you’re doing well. Why would I keep making you practice alone if I didn’t think you could succeed as a solo artist? I would have made you do the things you were good at, like going on the radio or doing variety shows!”

“…Wow. Seriously.” Jin-ah was speechless. She was very annoyed but also filled with joy. It felt too unfair if she cried, so she held back her tears.

“How can you… be so sure that I’m good at… radio or variety shows… Have you seen it?”

“Talking to your boss like that…! Huh…? Jin-ah, are you crying?”

Her tears didn’t listen to her. 

“W-Who’s crying!”

Hee-yeon, Yoon-jung, and Yumi’s eyes lit up. This was the time for their long-awaited revenge. It was payback for Jin-ah’s usual teasing. They exchanged glances and grinned at Jin-ah.

“Jin-ah, are you crying?”

“Hey, are you crying?”

“Jin-ah, you’re not crying, are you?”

“I’m not crying! Why would I cry!”

Jin-ah ran to her room and locked the door. Everyone burst into laughter. Inside her room, the corners of her mouth twitched into a smile even as her tears fell. 

“Of course, it’s me we’re talking about. I should have that much talent to be Jin-ah Choi.”

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