Photo by Faye Thomas
Shubham Sharaf is a pal of mine from Uni who studied Economics. But he is also an actor, and you can read all his credits on his IMDB page above. Whilst studying I had the privilege of watching him play some of the most beautifully interpreted roles I had ever seen, and always with a simplicity and humour that became his trademark. His latest film ‘Honour’ is coming out on the 14th April 2014, and he’s currently training at L’École Philippe Gaulier in Paris.
When did you decide you wanted to be an actor?
Honestly, I do not know. I can always remember drama class being the only thing I looked forward to, and along with maths, the only thing I could do. Although if I’m really honest, I first really gave acting a shot because I wanted to be good friends with Tim Schneider, the boy I sat next to in class, because I had no friends. So I copied everything he did, and then fell in love with it. We’re good friends now.
Loads of actors seem to have decided they wanted to be actors when they were in the womb. If I’ve only just realised I want to be, do you think that matters?
No, not at all. I think that maybe you’re better off that way because you don’t have all those years of pressurising yourself with different techniques and ideas confusing your noggin.
How do you get the courage to think ‘this is what I want to do, let’s do this’?
There are many things that help you attain this courage, I feel. Money, parental support, validation from your peers, just to name a few. And many of these things really come down to luck. But even so, sometimes you falter. Sometimes you begin to ask yourself, “Hang on. Is this just all really stupid? Am I being really stupid?”. But I think that’s good, and people from all walks of life should keep questioning their careers anyway.
What is the deal with drama school training? Do I need it?
Ah. This is what I’ve been asking myself for the past two years. I am lucky enough to have an agent, and have worked in a few films, but I have no formal training. I’ve been debating whether to go to drama school or not for a while. I tend to very slightly dislike drama schools. The reason being that I’m generally predisposed to go against the grain, but also because I feel that traditional drama schools have recipes and ingredients that teach you how to act well. And I feel that there really is no recipe, and that each artist must find his/her own way to being beautiful. It means your art is really you and far more unique, and I feel that’s what the audiences of the world really want.
But all that said, I feel that if you want to continue acting all your life, you need to learn how to use your body like a musician can use their instrument. And that needs technical training, such as voice, posture, movement and breathing. And these are only well taught at drama schools. So I’d recommend going to drama school, but whilst there always take things with a handful of salt and always stick to your instincts.
Does it look better if I apply when I’m 18 or when I’m 23 or 35?
I don’t think it matters. I know people of all those ages who have got in.
Any idea how I can pay for it?
I’ve heard of many ways people have raised money for it. Some people do a sponsored run, some people do crowdfunding. My favourite method I’ve heard is writing. I know of an actress who just wrote to friends, family and actors she respected explaining her situation and asking for money. She even wrote to Mark Rylance and he replied with a hefty sum!
Will I pretend to be an apple for 3 years, in all its pathos and glory?
Maybe. But if you’re there and don’t think this is for you, have no fear in dropping out. I don’t understand all the prestige and worship drama schools seem to have. Many students seem to be ruled by them. I think it’s more the other way round: you decided to go there, you’re paying the money, it’s up to you to decide whether you’re getting your money’s worth.
Ok, I’ve been to drama school/decided it’s not for me. What now? Agents? Do I have to move to London?
If you’ve been to drama school hopefully you’ve got an agent. But if not, I’d say your best bet is to write to agencies and invite them to shows and send them some clips of you ‘acting’. Agents make it easier for you to bring bread on the table. But you do have less control over your artistic output, as you may have to do commercials etc. If that’s really not your thing, I have immense respect for those who make their own work. Although the two aren’t mutually exclusive. You don’t have to move to London, but all auditions are mainly in London, so you’ve got to be willing to travel.
Do you ever do unpaid jobs?
Yes. Most of the time. It’s usually the work I enjoy the most: with friends, working on a project we all have a personal attachment to.
Be brutally honest. What is the truth about acting as a career? What do you love about it and what do you hate about it? Why do you do it?
Someone made a comparison once which I quite liked: Asking why you want to be an actor is often like asking a labrador why he wants to be a dog. From my experience, acting as a career is all about failure. You’re failing and floundering, being an idiot, putting yourself out there and embarrassing yourself an awful lot. But you’ve got to really love being in the shit, because otherwise it’s really depressing, and it’s also when you come up with the best stuff. That’s what I love and hate about it: the constant, unending failure. (I mean that in an upbeat way)
Any other advice/words of wisdom (because you are very wise) to someone considering acting but feeling a bit lost?
Sometimes to me it feels like if I don’t pull off an audition, or a line in a certain way, or whatever, that it’s honestly the end of my world. That I have amounted to no worth as a human being. I always wish that I remember some perspective in those moments. Because in the end it is just acting. It’s just a play. It’s just a bloody film. There are far more important things going on in the world. This isn’t heart surgery. Remembering that makes it easier to take pleasure and find the game in your acting, and only then will the stuff be any good.