By Kim Tae-jong
Im Hae-kwang, 22, is a sophomore majoring in computer engineering at Sogang University in Seoul. When entering college, he chose one of the most sought-after majors, one that all but assures him a job in the IT-powerhouse Korean economy. But he suddenly didn't want to study any more.
He wanted to do something easy but fancy, something that could bring him fame. He wanted to be on screen or onstage.
"I wanted to be a singer or actor because they look so fantastic. I didn't have a plan nor did I prepare. I just went to several management agencies to beg them to `raise' me as a superstar", Im said.
After being rebuffed several times, he realized that he needed to put more effort into his new pursuit. He enrolled in an acting class at a private school and began going to auditions. He took a leave from university, as well.
"As I learned more about acting, I became more fascinated by it. Now I want to be a `real' actor, rather than an entertainer, no matter how small or trivial my role is", Im said.
On Sunday Im went to an audition at Actone Academy acting school in southern Seoul. He was not alone. Im was among some 80 people between the ages of 18 to 33 from diverse backgrounds who were selected out of 400 applicants to audition. The audition was co-organized by the acting school, film production company Tube Pictures and its sister talent management firms.
At the audition, they were given script excerpts from such films as "No. 3"
, "Christmas in August
" and "A Moment to Remember
". They were given an hour to memorize the script and practice.
When they entered a large room, they were met by seven judges from a film production company and management agencies. A camera was rolling, and their performance was screened on a television.
After the performing the script, they were given time to show their specialties. They had five minutes.
"I was so nervous today. I think I could've done better", said Heo Boo-yeong, 25, right after her turn. "But I think this is also part of training".
A senior who is majoring in acting at Sejong University in Seoul, Hur practices many other skills to realize her dream of becoming a star. She sang "pansori", or traditional Korean song, as her specialty. She had practiced for two years.
Hur believes a good actor should be able to do everything. And that everything included plastic surgery. Already a pretty girl, Hur said that a plastic surgery was more than just about gaining a prettier face.
"A camera sometimes falsifies one's features, and I think plastic surgery can improve how you appear on camera", Heo said.
The successful candidates from the audition will be invited to a second audition. Those in the final list are given a chance to star in movies by Tube Pictures and work with the management agencies of some of the judges.
How do the judges detect the potential of the next Yonsama or Jiwoo Hime from the nervous faces the applicants in such a short time?
"It's hard to pick up people with talent and potential in acting by watching them for five minutes", said Lee Sang-hyun, president of talent agency company Tokkaebi Tu Mari Entertainment, who also served as a judge. "But as an expert, the most important factor we look at is their passion, as well as their appearance".
Without passion, many people tend to give up if the going gets tougher than they expect. But those that have the will can be helped to develop their skills, Lee said.
"Nowadays, we also see if the these applicants have international appeal, as Korean dramas and films have been sold to other countries", Lee said.
The audition was held as part of a project to form an assembly line system of star making and management _ actors are trained at an academy, managed in talent agencies and have a chance to star in a movie by affiliated production companies.
"We believe a star is something we make. You should invest money, time and effort for that", Choi Sang-kook, a manager of Actone Academy, said. "A handsome face doesn't guarantee a good actor. Actors need to be fully qualified through training and proper management".