Kru Ngor: 5, 4, 3, 2, Action!
Female: Get up!
Male: Nah, don’t wanna.
Female: Up! get your foot off that! Now!
Kru Ngor: look at her, don’t look at the screen. Focus on her. OK. Action!
Male: I don’t smell anything that tells me it’s your territory. How do you know?
Over 20 years experience as an acting coach, not easy but it’s been super fun. Many people think that being an actor is to put on a show, to be someone else. Well, that’s a grave misunderstanding. Acting is to take off the mask you’ve been wearing.
So what inspired me to become an acting coach were the things that make humans different. What makes us think differently and takes us to where we are today. Looking at what life today differs from our past, and where it will take us requires more than “understanding”. We need “appreciation”.
What do I get from being an Acting Coach?
I’m Kru Ngor, Rossukon
Acting Coach and Human Skills Developer
Many have a misunderstanding about acting. For them, acting is pretending, faking, diverting from reality. In fact, it is simply to act. In the west, “performing” is not the same as “acting”. A performance is where dancers or entertainers come on stage. But acting is acting. In Thai, performing means the same as acting. So they get mixed up, by those who don’t understand what acting is.
Like when I want to express anger, we see this all the time, I bring it out through exaggerated facial expression. My face quivers tremendously. Get that? Now, in real life, Have you ever seen anyone like that? If you have, you should have run away. There’d be something wrong with the person.
In fact, those who are angry will try to suppress their anger. We see people who try to smile, [Trying to smile] and their faces tremble. They’ll struggle to control their breath. Their voices tremble too. “Why are you saying this, I don’t like it”. That person is trying to suppress anger, ready to explode on the inside. But he/she is trying to contain it.
Hence, if we don’t understand human nature, we will not be good actors/actresses. That’s why I love this profession. Because I can remove my mask and allow my students to remove their unhappy masks from their lives too.
Overcome Job Challenges
Each project / production differs in terms of difficulty. People think drama is difficult. For me, comedy is hard for those without humor. Someone with humor can be in a drama. We can prepare them with all the basics. Suffering is the foundation of humanity. Each piece has its own challenges.
Sometimes, I get to work with professionals. The challenge is how to make them listen. They have their own beliefs and ways. How I encourage them to be open-minded. When I work with newbies (or amateur actors), I need to make them feel at ease in front of cameras and people while getting the basics or tactics of acting.
Hence, each work has its own challenges.
The Role of Acting Coach
Before meeting an actor/actress, I will work with the director. I will infuse humanity into the screenplay. Sometimes, the screenwriter writes how they want the story to be. But it lacks the humanity. So I can identify what is lacking, what is too much.
The role of an acting coach is slightly different from an acting trainer. A trainer teaches everything from the basics, A B C. As an acting coach, I don’t deal with the basics but rather delve into particular roles.
For example, once I get hold of the script, I will read it with the director to have an understanding on what to convey. This guy is to be free like Jack Sparrow. This character is to be a little quirky. So this is when we “fine tune” the characters.
Then a read through with actors/actresses. They sit together in a circle. We will then go through a first reading. This is crucial because we will know how each person understands their character.
Then an acting coach will delve into the background of each character. We will work with actors/actresses. We guide them on the ‘beat’ of the story. This point is where you need to be active. Cannot go slow here. This is the run-up to a climax. This is when the audience will hold their breath. You need to act this way.
We divide the story into parts with them. Then we practice. And there are 2 parts of practice.
First is on the basics.
For those without a foundation in acting, we will break the ice and go through the basics, such as receiving, sending and listening. What the character wants. What do we want the characters to feel? They need to understand the basic principles.
Second is to go into the respective roles. Actors and actresses will build their characters. What their backgrounds are, what they want to achieve, issues they are facing, what interests them, what they value. That is the role of an acting coach; to help the director to add the human spirit in characters and scripts.[Kru Ngor demonstrates with 2 artists]
Kru Ngor: OK let’s do the first reading. You can read from the script. That’s fine. When doing a read through, don’t just read face down. You have to make contact to pass and receive your scripts and roles. How you want to pass it on. OK? Let’s try.
Female: Get Up, Get Up! Didn’t you hear me? It’s mine!
Female: What are you doing? Are you crazy?
Male: No, just want to smell a piss marking territory since you said this place is yours.
Female: (rolls eyes)
Kru Ngor: (laughs) OK. Your face says “eww”.
The Difficulty of Being An Acting Coach
The most difficult part of being an acting coach is when you’re faced with a lack of human understanding, starting with the script itself. Such lack defies the logic of the audience. They will start making a wall. They say that even the best actors will fail with a bad script.
Second is a director who doesn’t get human nature. Sometimes, a director likes to visualise without caring about the background; what is making this person angry, for example, what the trigger is. There’s no such thing as over/underacting. There’s only real or unreal.
Like if there’s a fire and I scream “Help! Help!” or do you want to say “Help, help, the fire has got to my feet”? That’s not it right? It’s not reasonable. It isn’t the time to go minimal. It’s a fire! Thus, going big or small is not important. What’s crucial is whether the content matches the context, whether it’s reasonable.
And lastly, but most importantly, is an actor/actress who doesn’t understand human nature. Maybe because they lack life experience. They might have never faced any obstacles or issues. They simply have a rosy life. So they don’t understand what causes human suffering. It’s very difficult to make them “feel”. “Understanding” and “appreciation” are not the same.
Hence the most difficult and the most challenging aspect of being an acting coach is lacking of human understanding in each of the three contexts; the screenwriter, the director and the actors/actresses. Understanding humans is fundamental when working with human characters.
5 Keys for Everyone Who Wants to be An Acting Coach
If you want to be a good acting coach, and want to make acting coach your career, I will give you these 5 keys.
Love Acting as Life
First, you need to truly love acting. What does “truly love” mean? You will see acting all around you. Every moment is acting. What’s more important is to consume quality works. Watch good shows, read good novels; Thai and English. Read a lot because this will allow you to understand humans quickly.
Be Knowledgeable About Acting Techniques
Second is to be truly knowledgeable in terms of acting technique. Some say I can train after a few rounds of watching. But teaching from experience is not enough. To train someone, you need experience, principles, and techniques. So if you want to be top in the field, you need techniques.
Understand the Role by Playing it Yourself
The third key is to play the role yourself. Oh you have all the principles, you have learned everything, you want to do it now. And they told you to do this and that. But it doesn’t work in real life. Because you might not understand what the actor/actress is facing.
Hence, if you play and perform the role yourself, you’ll know what the problem is and you will be able to sort this with each of the actors and actresses. And what’s better is to try all the roles. The good, the bad, the weak. So you’ll know what to teach for each role, what the differences are. Only when you understand, can you pass on the knowledge.
Understand Humanity & Psychology
Fourth, you heard this many times already. Human Nature. You need to be curious about humans. Learn psychology. I learned hypnotherapy, and Neuro Linguistic Programming. I flew overseas to learn about human minds, how people think, why they think in a certain way. When we understand humans, we understand characters; why they are so evil, what they have gone through.
These will make us understand characters better. And while we are on our way to help others, this is the first person you will be able to help. You will learn about yourself most clearly. That’s when your human spirit emerges.
Be Passionate About Teaching
Last but not least is the fifth key. You have to be a good teacher. What being a teacher entails. A teacher is observant. You need to observe where the problem is and try to find a creative way out.
For example, Ann Thongprasom once told me that “I could act any role but when I was asked to train others, sometimes I couldn’t”. Not everyone can teach acting. If you want to teach, to be an acting coach, you’ll need the teaching skills. This is very important.
So try to develop these five keys if you want to be a successful acting coach, and build your career with these principles. Follow these five keys and you move closer to success.
CI Talks: Watch What Makes a Good Acting Coach (Kru Ngor Rossukon)