Monday, August 9, 2010

Understanding the craft

Live The Moment by DAWN JEREMIAH (The Star)

Eye-opening experience in acting class by popular actor Nam Ron

IF someone had told me that I was going to be acting on television and film five years ago, I would have laughed.

Of course, we all dreamt of gracing the silver screen, winning an Oscar and strutting down the red carpet at one point of our lives.

I wanted to become an actress when I was six years old and was excited when I got called to be in my first television commercial.

I thought it was going to be all fun and games, but once I got on set, it was all about heavy makeup, intoxicating hairspray, super hot lights, adults fussing over everything you did, ate and wore, wires that made me trip, production crew barking instructions all over the place, everyone wanting you to act cute 24/7 (if only I had learnt to roll my eyes then) and long hours that went past midnight (which was unheard of when you’re in kindergarten). I felt miserable and begged to go home.

My so-called dream ended right there, lasting a whole two weeks.

So I went on with life and pursued what I had set out for — a “real” career in the broadcast media.

I still did TV commercials, because they proved to be much easier to handle once you’re no longer a kid.

Plus, most of the commercials I did, did not require much skill and they were more modelling than acting.

Yet there I was, in late 2007, on the set of Sadiq & Co., the first television series I appeared in.

I was excited, but I wasn’t ready – as I was the sort of person who needed to learn something thoroughly before taking a leap and if I were to be hired as an actor, I wanted to make sure I acquired the proper acting skills to do the job well.

However, every actor I spoke to said none of them were ever prepared anyway and our industry is such where most of the top actors here today never took a single acting class in their lives. They told me the best way was to learn through experience.

Then came the next series, and a film, and another series, and another movie, and another, and another.

As the months and years passed, I still felt as though something was missing, and I knew that deep down, not only do I need to improve my Bahasa Melayu, I still needed to understand the actor’s craft and the ability to create a character.

So when actor Riz Ainuddin (Arjuna, Putera Pura) told me about an acting class that Nam Ron (Shahili Abdan) was planning to have under RAT (Rumah Anak Teater), I jumped at the opportunity.

For the uninformed, Nam Ron happens to be one of the most accomplished theatre and film actors locally today, having acted in Gubra, Paloh and Histeria among many more. With a fondness for visual symbolism and interest in social politics, he also made several short films, tele-movies and one independently-funded movie, Gadoh. I first heard of him when I watched the theatre production Aircon and was wholly impressed.

Now back to my class. Not only was Nam Ron going to teach everyone himself, the workshop also had my co-stars from the film Hooperz, such as Riz and Fikhree Bakar (Puteri Gunung Malaya, Arjuna) and was held during weekends.

We learnt many basic things, such as breathing and limb exercises to loosen the body and relax our minds.

Those skills sound extremely simple and are normally taken for granted, but they are imperative as they allow our performances to remain fresh.

I found out that apparently, I wasn’t breathing right for acting and within two seconds, he could see that my mind was hardly relaxed.

Nam Ron taught us the art of eye contact, voice projection, posture, walking and the differences in using them for theatre and film. I also found out that my eyes tend to get shifty if I’m unsure about a certain situation. He also taught us how to act with props, to hold and visually display our relationship with that particular prop without having to say anything.

One of the most challenging lessons to-date was learning how to channel feelings from our hearts that could be reflected through our eyes. We were not allowed to move a single muscle on our faces (because if I smiled, then obviously I’m feeling happy, right?).

So yes, after having trained some of the biggest newcomers in local television, Nam Ron wasn’t letting us off the hook that easily.

We first had to guess what each other was feeling and then reply with eye contact in response to whatever our partner was feeling.

We’re only halfway through our class, but I must say, it has been an eye-opening experience for me. Now everything makes sense and I sure hope whatever we learnt will translate smoothly on camera.

Our future classes will have elements of the Stanislavski Method and the Meisner techniques, well-known methods practised by both film and theatre actors around the world. I can’t wait!

*Penangite Dawn Jeremiah has always been inquisitive about her surroundings. Armed with a passion for television and journalism, she is a senior marketing executive at a high definition lifestyle channel. An actress part-time, this 1st runner up in the Miss Malaysia World 2007 pageant can be seen in the coming-of-age television series K.I.T.A., every Monday at 8pm on Astro Ria.