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Right Time, Right Place, Right Attitude – Five Singaporean Actors With No Formal Training8 min read

2 March 2020 6 min read


Right Time, Right Place, Right Attitude – Five Singaporean Actors With No Formal Training8 min read

Reading Time: 6 minutes

In an age where everyone chases after certification to validate themselves and their knowledge, how necessary is formal training when it comes to the film and television industry? I don’t mean a one-day workshop or a series of YouTube videos. I mean formal, long-form education with certification. For everyone that is clueless how to break into the industry, here are five actors with unconventional beginnings and no formal training, who have successfully established a footing in their respective industries.

Malene T, 29

(Malene T/Image courtesy: Malene’s Instagram)

Malene is a full-time actress that has predominantly appeared on Vasantham since 2015. She has done over 20 Tamil language dramas and short films. Her most recent works are Romeo & Juliet on Vasantham and 128 Circle on Channel 5.

Having completed her Bachelor’s of Science in Finance at the University of Dublin in 2013, she went on to be an Accounts Executive at a large FMCG company. While she always had a passion for acting, she did not receive any formal training before making her acting debut in Ragasiyam in 2015. 

Sometimes, passion takes a backseat in the race for financial stability. In Singapore, it is often necessary to take a pragmatic approach to life. However, that does not equate to forgoing your passions altogether. 

Taking a hiatus may be a good way to gather resources before fully dedicating and immersing yourself into your craft. More often than not, that gives you the freedom to completely focus. After all, passion and talent do not have expiration dates.

Where you might recognise her:
128 Circle
Kalaba Kadhala
– Vettai 4
– A Dream I Did Not Dream

Fauzie Laily, 35

(Fauzie Laily/Image courtesy: Kulit On The Go)

Fauzie began his journey in 2005 on Suria’s Anugerah, a Malay language singing competition, going on to win second runner-up. He then recorded several singles that topped the local Malay music charts. 

With a deep passion for singing, Anugerah was his entry into the media world. In 2006, he made his acting debut in Teman Anugerahku. After his acting debut, Fauzie hosted Anugerah in 2007, which marked his hosting debut. Fauzie is currently working on the Code of Law franchise, with its fifth season airing later in 2020.

This all-rounder has no formal training and learnt entirely on the job, becoming one of the most versatile personalities on local TV. Nailing the hattrick of singing, acting and hosting, Fauzie is a force of talent and hard work. 

Drawing on Fauzie’s experience, those looking to break into the industry should grab any visible opportunity. While you may start at a certain point, you never know where the journey may take you. Fauzie may have entered Anugerah purely to showcase his singing. However, he constantly worked hard to learn other skills, making him as versatile as he is today. Flexibility and the ability to adapt quickly is a fundamental skill in this industry.

Where you might recognise him:
Tanglin 1/2/3
Code of Law

Koh Jia Ler, 20

(Film still of Koh Jia Ler and co-star Yeo Yann Yann in ‘Wet Season’ / Image courtesy: Giraffe Pictures)

Making his film debut at the tender age of 13, Jia Ler went on to be nominated at the Golden Horse Awards for Best New Performer in 2013 for his performance in Ilo Ilo. Interestingly, he was not amongst the 150 students shortlisted for the workshop in preparation for the part. He spontaneously went up to the crew and asked to be part of it – the rest is history.

Jia Ler’s second film opportunity came in 2019 – this time for Wet Season. The director spotted an all grown up Jia Ler on Instagram and casted him. This time, Jia Ler was no longer a kid and had to lose 8kg for the role. He even stayed at the director’s house and was heavily supervised throughout filming – landing him a second Golden Horse Nomination, this time for Best Supporting Actor.

In the media industry, age old tales of stars aligning and someone being suddenly discovered is not scarce. As seen in Jia Ler’s case, some people just get lucky. However, luck favours the brave and hardworking. 

Sometimes, we have to create our own luck and never stop hustling, even when we get lucky. While Jia Ler may have been initially lucky, his undeniable hard work and dedication is what continued lifting him. 

Where you might recognise him:
Ilo Ilo
Wet Season
Life – Fear Not

Michelle Goh, 47

(Film still of Michelle Goh in ‘Mee Pok Man’ / Image credit: Zhao Wei Films)

Imagine dancing at a club and being picked up for a movie. Sounds too good to be true, right? It usually is. However, in the case of Michelle Goh, she was legitimately scouted to star in Mee Pok Man that way. The film is hailed as one of the local films that revived a lull period in the local industry. 

Michelle will always be recognised as the “Mee Pok Girl” and that is a brand in itself. She even went on to bag a role in Smallville, which may not have been possible without the humble start she had in Mee Pok Man.

While Michelle has since left the industry, she was at the top of her game when it mattered most – the revival period of local films. She has revealed that she did not actually have any interest in acting when she was scouted. However, she took up the opportunity anyway.

Michelle’s start in the industry may have been purely luck. However, it was her foresight and intelligence that probed her to accept a role that changed her life. With no formal training, this opportunistic leap of faith made Michelle the actor that continues to hailed for her performance even today, more than 20 years after the film’s original release.

While we are unable to control luck, we are able to control which opportunities we seize and which we don’t. Foresight and good judgement calls are skills that will take you far in this industry.

Where you might recognise her:
Mee Pok Man
Dark Angel
The Immortal

Honorary Mention – Jet Li, 57

(Jet Li/Image courtesy: Getty Images)

Jet is a prime example of milking what you are good at. He started off excelling in Wushu and ended up one of the most successful Asian actors of all time. There is little difference between real and reel life because movies take after real life skills and professions. Who better to play those roles than someone who actually has that skill?

Jet started practising the art of Wushu at the tender age of eight. Hailing from an extremely impoverished family, he went on to win 15 gold medals in the Chinese Wushu Championships. He retired from Wushu at 17 and made his film debut with Shaolin Temple in 1982, which went on to become a cult classic that has massive appeal till today. In 1998, Jet landed his first English-language role, playing a bad guy in Lethal Weapon 4.

Although Jet was born in China, he has since become a Singapore citizen and we take pride in celebrating him as our own. Jet had a proven aptitude for Wushu, as seen by his numerous accolades. However, he had no formal training to be an actor. 

Many aspiring actors neglect other skills in the pursuit of becoming an actor. Remember that thousands of people are auditioning for the same part as you. Even a small additional skill will help to set you apart from the rest!

Where you might recognise him:
The Expendables 2
The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor

All the above five actors are well-loved amongst their respective audiences. While the type of roles they take on can be very different, they all have three things in common – right time, right place and right attitude. It is important to grab an opportunity at the right time, present yourself at the right place to the right people and lastly, to have the right attitude should the stars align. While there are many factors for success, some of which are out of our control, there are many within our control. Regardless of era, generation or changes in the industry, hard work and perseverance are timeless qualities that never go out of style.

Stacy is a self-proclaimed wordsmith who tries to see the good in the world.
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