Talents Get Tips How To Be Great Actors

Polly Kamukama of the 2013 Talent Press Durban reports from the acting lecture Doing It All: Actors on Crossing Media.

Jerry Mofokeng in MAX AND MONA

Three famous South African actors offered an inspirational lecture to Talent Campus participants at the ongoing 34th Durban International Film Festival (DIFF) last Monday 22th July. Dubbed Doing It All: Actors on Crossing Media, the forum was initially held to discuss how an actor can easily shuffle between stage and screen without necessary compromising his performance.

But the session, whose topic was born out of a long-known conflict between the two mediums of acting, turned out to be much more than what it was intended for. The panelists, all respected actors in South Africa and beyond, took the participants through personal journeys that shaped them into great actors.

"I used to be a clown in a small Joburg neighborhood before I broke into mainstream theatre. Back then it was extremely difficult for people like me to hit that transition," revealed veteran actor Jerry Mofokeng, who has since appeared in over 60 acclaimed stage plays and movies including the Oscar-winning film, TSOTSI. But instead of settling as a lowly comic, Mofokeng took to education to better his craft. He attended an acting school in New York, from where he acquired life-changing acting skills that have since shaped him into the iconic figure he is today. "I am a believer in education; you need to have those hands-on skills to be able to differentiate between stage and screen acting. You must also do your homework and try to reinvent yourself all the time," he advised as he demonstrated how to slip in and out of a character.

Patronella Tshuma, the star of the outlawed South African film, OF GOOD REPORT, could not agree more. "The training I received while living in England is the one which really turned me into a professional actor," said the 23-year-old who reckons she has been acting since she was seven. But it was never easy breaking through the South African industry once the young actress had returned from the UK four years ago – she had a baby to look after and hardly knew anyone in the industry. “I passed an intense audition for a reality TV show but was the first to be evicted. I was devastated,” recounts the youngster who then looked up to her troubled life and passion for inspiration.

Veteran screen queen Lillian Dube also shared her story. Having never been to university or film school, THE FORGOTTEN KINGDOM star believes an actor needs much more than an education to make it through. "You need to be ready to get out of your comfort zone and chase your dreams. You need to be prepared to surrender your personality to that of your character," she advised, adding that good directors make good actors. She also advised upcoming actors not to shy away from minor and low-paying roles for the sake of building experience.

And even if each of the three actors adopted a personal formula to help them prosper, they all seemed to share certain benchmarks including researching about their characters and fully understanding the dynamics of every medium of acting.