ACTOR’S CALLING: The ‘Why’ And ‘How’ Of Good Theatre & Film

The legendary director, Peter Brook, once said: “The work of a director can be summed up in two very simple words. Why and How.”

Why is this story important to hear? Why should the audience care? Why does the actor/character do what they do and say what they say? How does the director assist everyone involved in a creative pursuit to find meaning in what they do and then make it meaningful?

It starts first in the casting room where I’m continually persuaded by the adage of “attitude over talent.” In fact a 2015 article in The Guardian suggested that talent only counts for 7% of the casting process.

It does work both ways though, the attitude of the director to his/her cast, the director to his/her crew and vice versa. As an actor, I have had the good fortune of working with directors of various backgrounds and experiences across several mediums. The ones I naturally want to work with again are the ones I felt believed in me, gave me freedom to try things, where there was a healthy amount of mutual respect, where we listened to each other and most important of all, where we knew how to talk to each other. You would think that last quality is a no-brainer; yet it’s quite easily the most underrated. Neither the director or actor (for the most part) goes out of their way to sabotage a project. Yet, with a simple failure to communicate, the director and the actor can quite easily mess up the “Why” and “How”. The audience suffers and the work (if it does get produced at all) is insufferable.

Last month, I was delighted to host a workshop for the National Youth Film Awards titled “Mastering the Art of Directing Actors”.

Mastering the Art of Directing Actors 1

Mastering the Art of Directing Actors 2

Mastering the Art of Directing Actors 3

This is a follow up on the first directors-actors roundtable I facilitated a few months ago between NTU ADM and HCAC. Additionally, HCAC will sponsor prizes for NYFA including workshops for the Best Performance and Best Director. If Singapore aspires to have its arts and entertainment industry flourish, she needs trained actors and directors. She needs actors and directors with a specific point of view. She needs actors and directors who can and want to communicate (and perhaps with a shared language too?).

Later this year, HCAC will begin a new series called D.A.R.T. (Directors-Actors Roundtable) with each of the film schools. This will begin to allow for the sharing of best practices, establishing mutual and transparent industry expectations, and serve as a means to engender more conversation, cooperation and collaboration.

Speaking of conversation, a few weeks ago, I attended a screening and post-show QnA of Apprentice, directed by Boo Junfeng, courtesy of the fine folks of the Singapore Film Society. I was quite taken by how Junfeng spoke about the creation, casting and production of the film.

The Apprentice

Whilst I have yet to work with him, many who have all speak highly of the quiet, personalized and intimate way in which he teases performances out of his actors. To this I say, BRAVO! Go catch a screening of Apprentice and watch the chemistry between the two male leads. From a local perspective, I would love to have more directors like that in the trenches with actors. Till that day comes, the work never stops.

With Hope Towards The Future,
Kamil Haque

Actor’s Calling is a series of articles written personally by Kamil Haque, founder of the Haque Centre for Acting & Creativity. In this series, Kamil hopes to share his personal journey. He explores his vision for the school, growth as an actor and experiences as a teacher. The series also seeks to dispel some of the common misunderstandings about Actors and Method Acting.

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