Singaporean acting coach Kamil Haque went to Los Angeles eight years ago hoping to achieve the Hollywood dream. But he had a hard time doing so because of his Middle-Eastern looks.
The 31-year-old Pakistani-Eurasian had hopes of being offered a vast array of acting opportunities but he kept receiving the “terrorist” role, among others, because he was not “Caucasian, blue-eyed and blonde”.
“I found out that this type [his appearance] was the Middle-Eastern terrorist, the Latino gangster or the taco salesman,” said the founder of Haque Centre for Acting and Creativity (HCAC), during a media event on 3 December at the centre, which is located on Dickson Road, tucked between Bugis and Little India.
Haque, who acted in many local short films like “Committed Services”, said during a Q&A segment, “I got to be a lot of terrorists and died in a million different ways… I got to be the face of Marlboro in Saudi Arabia and I don’t even smoke for crying out loud."
So he didn’t achieve the glitzy Hollywood dream and receive a star on the walk of fame, but the optimistic and amiable man found something else that some say is even more worthwhile.
“Sure I didn’t get the ‘star’ on the walk of fame. But what I found was far richer than any of those things could give me and that is this [HCAC]. It sounds cliché but it’s true, I get to share what I know,” said Haque, who will also be making his directorial debut in a non-traditional interactive theatre production called “The Inside Job”, which will premiere in March 2014.
Haque coached many aspiring actors during his time in Los Angeles. He was teaching at an Asian American theatre company called East West Players and was part of the actors organisation called The Actors Studio. Many of his former students are still in touch with him now.
“Every time I have an audition I would just practice my lines with him [Haque]. If he’s in LA I would do it face to face and if he’s not, in Singapore for example, I’ll just Skype with him. I got a few jobs because of that, like Gossip Girl…he is the best,” said a former male student.
“The great thing I love about Kamil is he would openly admit that he doesn’t have all the answers as he’s still learning himself,” said another.
The video was also filled with well wishes from his ex-students, which seemed to be a parting gift for Haque on his return to Singapore.
Haque returned in December 2012 and started HCAC six months later in June by himself.
Good for non-actors too?
One important thing to note about Haque’s acting classes is that they are not only about studying scripts or scenes.
He said that the method could also help "loosen up" a stressed out Singaporean pressured by work and the high cost of living in the fast-moving city. These individuals could have lost touch with a lot of things, including themselves, he added.
One of the exercises that took place during the media event was called “Begin/End” and it required participants to put on a jacket in the most efficient manner.
While doing so, participants needed to say the words “Begin” and “End” each time they start or finish a muscle movement. The exercise helps you become more aware of your body movement and the amount of effort it uses for one action.
One of the exercises that took place during the Haque Centre for Acting and Creativity media event was called “Begin/End” and it required participants to put on a jacket in the most efficient manner.
This reporter was surprised she had to say the words at least 30 times while putting on the jacket. This means that at least 30 muscle movements were needed for such a simple task.
For actors, the exercise helps them to be more aware of the specific movements needed in order to carry out a character and make the acting seem real.
Another exercise looked like a tug-of-war contest. It consists of two persons holding each other by the forearms and the person who pushes the other off balance wins.
This exercise requires more mental strength than physical strength as discovered by this reporter, who managed to win a battle against a former Kung Fu fighter. But all she needed was to relax, remain calm, focus and be aware of her opponent’s movements — it was not really a matter of who was physically stronger or more muscular.
According to HCAC, the method acting class also serves as an avenue for “emotional release” for the Singaporean who holds a job that does not allow for much free expression.
Personally for Haque, “It helped me establish what my sense of truth was and be authentic in everything that I say or do. It also helped me to care much more about myself and the people around me.”
His workshops costs $600 each. There are three core workshops that need to be signed up for each semester, which lasts for eight weeks.