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Wednesday, June 03, 2009

About non-actors & making real indie movies, and Oscar winning non-professional actor Haing S. Ngor

Trained actors are easier to work with in some ways (they may show up on time, may be able to memorize a lot of dialogue, may be able to deliver a performance of a certain intensity time after time/take after take), and difficult to work with in other ways when making real indie movies (they have a complex process to go through when creating characters, may need lots of guidance/explanations/instructions for performing relatively simple actions/are interested in the meanings behind things, may worry too much about camera placement & lighting & other technical issues). There is also a healthy tradition on non-actors/untrained actors/people who do not typically think of themselves as actors being able to do a good job in movies of all kinds (indie, hollywood, foreign, etc.): I thought Sasha Grey did a good job in The Girlfriend Experience (no, acting in porn does not count as acting experience related to regular movies, and TGE is definitely a regular movie - mostly a dialogue driven drama about financial uncertainty), Robert Bresson's movies (see a clip here), and dozens of first or second time & or low budget indies. Also, since non-actors are most likely not traveling on a Hollywood/Indiewood/the film biz/Festwood inspired career trajectory (meaning, they most likely have regular/non-industry related jobs & if they get a chance to act in a movie they might approach that opportunity without career ambitions/with enthusiasm), they may be more interesting to work with & perhaps easier to work with for real indie/off-Hollywood/non-Hollywood/non-Indiewood filmmakers. So, as I am getting ready to film again (this summer, second half of Brooklyn Fantastic), I've been doing some research on instances where non-actors and good movies have successfully crossed each other's paths. That led me to finding out about Haing S. Ngor. And now I have to see The Killing Fields, to check out Ngor's work.

About Ngor, from this site:

"Dr. Haing S. Ngor was born in Samrong Young, Cambodia March 22nd, 1940. He was a highly skilled surgeon and gynecologist, practicing in Phnom Penh Cambodia, when in 1975 he was ordered out of the city, along with two million other residents, as part of the Khmer Rouge takeover. After four years in a "concentration camp", he and his niece Sophia Ngor took refuge in Thailand, and subsequently the United States. Although Dr. Ngor had no acting experience, he was chosen for the role of a journalist's assistant trapped in the killing fields of Cambodia. Haing Ngor's real life experience in Cambodia's killing fields enabled him to deliver a performance that was so realistic and moving, that it earned him an Academy Award in 1985 for "Best Supporting Actor". Dr. Ngor's Oscar winning performance in "The Killing Fields" was followed with roles in 16 other feature films, as well as numerous television appearances."

Read more about Ngor here (Haing S. Ngor Foundation site).

And now, a clip from The Killing Fields, featuring Ngor (the hugging scene is apparently true to life, see last clip re: that):



And a short piece with Dith Pran, the real person portrayed by Ngor in The Killing Fields:



 

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2 comments:

Nicole/MadlabPost said...

You saw The Girlfriend Experience? Sweet!!! I plan on checking it out this weekend after reading some interviews with Soderbergh and Sasha in Filmmaker Magazine....granted that it's still playing in the one theater that is showing it in my whole city. Why it's only playing at one theater in a city that has more than 7 movie theaters is beyond me!

Nicole/MadlabPost said...

I use to enjoy working with non-actors but after some not-so-fun experiences, I now prefer to exclusively work with professional actors, mostly because of reasons you mentioned here (they show up on time, etc.) but also because they usually understand how this indie filmmaking thing actually works and it takes less time to coach them into doing things.

Professional actors save a lot of time in my opinion. They also come with less drama. I've known many filmmakers to utilize a mixture of the two and I think it's great for filmmakers to find what works for them. Non-actors do not work for me and for my current and future projects, I plan to work exclusively with real actors unless a non-actor brings advantages to a project in terms of marketing.

So, while I wouldn't want to work with non-actors....EVER...I would make an exception for say....Tiger Woods, Ivanka Trump, Ross "The Intern" Mathews, American Idol cast-offs...you get the drift! LOL

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