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On the way out of Fei Huang Workspace, Pei Qian sneezed.
“Why do I suddenly have a bad feeling…?
“Did something go wrong with one of the businesses? Should I check?
For a split second, Pei Qian wanted to check on the various companies and see if anything had gone wrong. However, it was not long before he pushed the idea out of his mind.
He would not be able to detect any problems anyway! At the moment, Pei Qian had too many businesses to take care of. It would be extremely difficult to check on all of them. After some thought, Pei Qian decided that he had been overthinking. He decided to focus on the tasks on hand instead. It was then that he decided to call Zhang Zuting.
Zhang Zuting picked up almost immediately Both of them exchanged a couple of pleasantries; they were on quite good terms.
Although starring in Bloody Battle Song’s advertisement had brought Zhang Zuting many worries, it had also brought him considerable fame.
The success of Bloody Battle Song’s mobile game had quashed many people’s impression of the game being ‘filed with paywalls’, ‘a scam’, and ‘meant for stupid, rich folks’. At the same time, many people went from being haters of Zhang Zuting to his fans.
The once-outdated Zhang Zuting was now much more popular!
For that reason, Zhang Zuting still felt grateful towards Boss Pei.
“Mr. Zhang, are you available to film over the next few months? I am producing a movie that I would like to invite you to star in.
“We worked together before. You don’t have to worry about the remuneration. We won’t shortchange you for sure.”
Zhang Zuting was obviously stunned.
Star in a movie? Wasn’t Boss Pei’s company a games company? Why was he producing a movie?
Was he venturing into another industry?
Zhang Zuting did not ask too many questions. After all, many large companies were now looking to venture into the film industry. Even coal bosses and rich second-generation heirs were trying their hand at it. There was no need for Zhang Zuting to make a mountain out of a molehill.
Furthermore, Boss Pei was already managing a high-end restaurant; there was nothing strange about him wanting to produce a movie, right?
Zhang Zuting answered, “No problem, Boss Pei. Coincidentally, I’ll be free over the next few months. We’re quite familiar with each other’s working style, and we can negotiate further on the remuneration. I can quote you a good price since we’re friends, but could you let me read the script first?”
Pei Qian remained silent for a few seconds. “I’ll pass on the discount, but could you not ask me for the script?”
Again, Zhang Zuting was stunned. He laughed and said, “Boss Pei, you’re really humorous. Has the script not been completed? Let’s not talk about it for now, then. In any case, I’ll do this on your account. I’ll make the necessary arrangements and come down to Jingzhou soon.”
“Alright, I’ll give you the director’s contact details. You can liaise with him directly. Oh, there’s another thing. We need to look for a young, male actor to star as the male protagonist in this film. Do you have anyone to recommend?” Pei Qian asked.
Zhang Zuting pondered for a moment and said, “There are many young, male actors out there. Do you have any specific requests?” Without thinking, Pei Qian instantly replied, “The more expensive, the better.” Zhang Zuting scoffed. “Expensive? I don’t know any expensive actors. I’m just an outdated actor; how would I know the hot, young celebrities? Boss Pei, since that’s your only requirement and there aren’t many expensive young male actors in Jingzhou, you could just ask them one by one.”
Pei Qian nodded. “That’s true. I’ll look again, then.”
Coincidentally, just as Pei Qian hung up, he arrived at Tengda.
Pei Qian alighted from the car and returned to his own office. Then, he searched for young, male actors who were particularly popular at the moment on Qiandu.
Many things were different in this world. For instance, the development of smartphones and the mobile game industry was three or four years faster than Pei Qian remembered.
The filming industry was also different from his memory. As Pei Qian recalled, the first movie that depended purely on the cast’s fanbase and not their acting skills premiered in 2011. The trend started picking up in 2013 and reached its peak in 2014 or 2015. After that, they went downhill.
It was slightly different in this world. The trend had started earlier than Pei Qian remembered.
Pei Qian guessed that it was influenced by the earlier development of cell phones and information and communications technology (ICT).
All in all, such movies were already becoming increasingly popular at this time in this world. Many young and popular idols were asking for much higher pay. Their prices were becoming increasingly ridiculous. Of course, apart from those young idols, male superstars did not come cheap either.
Pei Qian felt conflicted.
Who should he hire to star as the male protagonist?
If he hired a relatively unknown actor, he would not be able to spend much.
What if he hired a male superstar? He would be able to spend much more, but the superstar’s acting skills would be guaranteed. Furthermore, the latter could influence large crowds that just wanted to watch him perform to buy tickets.
What if Pei Qian hired the younger, popular idols instead?
It would be better in many aspects, but Pei Qian was quite disgusted by such ‘idols’. He could spend the money through other means, and choosing younger, popular idols would be giving them an unfair advantage. Furthermore, he would be contributing to the culture of favoring looks over skills.
That did not make Pei Qian feel good.
As Pei Qian tried to suppress his fickle-mindedness, he continued searching the Internet for more resources, hoping that luck would allow him to find a suitable candidate.
All of a sudden, he spotted a key phrase.
Toxicity in the Box Office!’
This piqued Pei Qian’s interest at once. It was a hot post in one of the forums, which was titled ‘Lu Zhiyao is absolute toxicity in the box office!’
The post was quite popular. Many netizens had commented on it.
“Indeed! He could fail even with a cast like that. It’s f*cking ridiculous!”
“Even the strong Director Liu could not save him! He can’t be saved!” “The two female leads were already considered lucky charms for accompanying male actors, and yet he could still fail so miserably…”
“I was just going to ask why he’s still given so many jobs even though he has failed countless times.”
“Honestly, his acting skills are quite alright. He’s also hardworking and easy to work with. I haven’t heard of any scandals involving him thus far. He’s quite good-looking, too. Yet, for some reason, nobody wants to see him on the screen…”
“That’s right. Every time I see his name in a movie, my first instinct is not to watch it.”
“I think there are several reasons. One, he does not have an affinity with the audience. Two, he looks too handsome. It’s often hard to believe that he’s the character he’s playing. He shouldn’t act in serious films like that. He should star in movies that appeal more to his fanbase instead.”
“It’s too bad he entered the market too early. He’s way too old to be referred to as ‘fresh meat’ now. What’s more, he’s quite a dreamer and doesn’t take on cheap work. He only stars in films with good scripts, so that he can work on his acting skills.”
“I’m begging you! Stop harming films with good scripts!”
“If he fails again, I don’t think any director would want to hire him anymore. He’s expensive, and he doesn’t sell tickets. The price-quality ratio is horrible.”
After reading everyone’s comments, Pei Qian’s eyes lit up.
This brother, Lu Zhiyao, seemed to fit his requirements perfectly!
Pei Qian quickly looked through his past works.
He realized that Lu Zhiyao was currently among the top five most popular stars. He was quite famous and had starred in some pretty good films. When he just started, he starred in films that had gone for quality over quantity. Although those films didn’t sell well, his performance had been quite outstanding. That was why the audience had had high hopes for him.
However, the more movies he starred in, the more things went awry.
Lu Zhiyao’s acting skills did not deteriorate. In fact, he was gradually improving. He was also a nice, hardworking man. Yet, his films were becoming lousier and lousier as time went by!
At first, his fans had thought that the films were dragging him down. They felt indignant on his behalf. That was why his pay continued to increase. However, everyone slowly realized that the man was not being dragged down by the movies he was starring in.
Other good actors could single-handedly sell tickets for films they starred in. Yet, not only was Lu Zhiyao failing to sell tickets, but he was turning people away from his films!
The most recent movie he starred in also featured a well-known movie king and two actresses with pretty good audience appeal. In the end, the movie still failed—and miserably at that!
Thus, more and more people were beginning to think that Lu Zhiyao was a ‘toxicity in the box office’.
Pei Qian researched a bit more and found that Lu Zhiyao had retained high grades when he was in school. He guessed that the latter’s English would not be bad.
That was when Boss Pei made up his mind. He was it!
He was the perfect candidate!
Pei Qian sent Lu Zhiyao’s name to Zhu Xiaoce. “Get into contact with him. He’s the perfect male protagonist in my eyes!”
The next day…
Not long after Pei Qian woke up, he received a call from Zhu Xiaoce.
“Boss Pei, I have two matters to report. “I’ve already contacted Zhang Zuting. He’ll arrive in Jingzhou in a few days. We’re currently preparing his accommodations. You don’t have to worry about that.
“As for Lu Zhiyao, whom you mentioned yesterday… I’ve contacted his manager and spoken to him as well. However, he’s been feeling quite depressed. Thus, he turned us down. He said he would not be starring in any movies for now.”
Pei Qian paused. “Did you offer him more money?”
Zhu Xiaoce was speechless. “Er… I thought he sounded quite low, and I felt bad being too blunt. I only hinted that I could pay him more. He didn’t catch my drift, and I gave up asking any further.” Pei Qian could not help but shake his head in silence.
Ai, it took talent to spend money properly.
People like Director Zhu Xiaoce could spend such a long time observing Boss Pei and yet learn nothing about how to spend money.
Offering more money was the trump card for all problems. It was simple to employ this method-one had to be straightforward!
No matter what kind of excuses the other party came up with, offering more money would do the trick. One had to state a clear figure and not speak in vague or ambiguous terms.
However, it would be insincere to do it over the phone. Meeting face-to-face was always the best.
Pei Qian pondered for a while and said, “How about this? Send Lu Zhiyao an invitation on behalf of Tengda, asking him to take a break in Jingzhou. We can sponsor his entire trip. Once he arrives, chat with him and offer him more money face-to-face!”
Zhu Xiaoce answered, “Alright, Boss Pei.”
Pei Qian was insistent on hiring this Lu Zhiyao. Since he was toxicity in the box office, Pei Qian had to make sure he starred in his own film!
Of course, his dear friend had had a hard time recently. His new movie failed, and he must have been in low spirits. He could undoubtedly fit the male protagonist’s role!
Considering how toxic the script was, Pei Qian thought it was reasonable to offer him a higher pay in order to make up for the mental damage he was bound to suffer.
After about half an hour, just as Pei Qian’s Fish-Catching Take-Out was about to arrive, he received another call from Zhu Xiaoce.
“Boss Pei, it’s settled. Lu Zhiyao has agreed to come to Jingzhou!”
Pei Qian nodded. “Alright, I’ll arrange for someone to host him. Continue preparing for filming. Leave Lu Zhiyao to me.” Pei Qian guessed that Lu Zhiyao was still feeling depressed about his movie’s failure. Naturally, he would not feel interested in doing anything
Naturally, he would not accept a role in a film that a company he had not even heard of was producing
Now that Pei Qian had invited him to Jingzhou to clear his mind, he could chat with him and persuade him face-to-face. That would be much easier!
Pei Qian did not believe that Lu Zhiyao—the ‘toxicity in the box office’-would still be able to turn him down after having a meal at Ming Yun Private Kitchen and being offered a crazy amount of money!
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