NYFA Australia Acting for Film Alum Prem Sagar is an actor, dancer of various disciplines. Sagar studied at The Temple of Fine Arts in Johor Bahru and Kuala Lumpur. There, he learned and performed a variety of traditional dance forms, including Bharata Natyam, Odissi, Zapin, and many more. After completing his studies at The Temple of Fine Arts, he moved to Kuala Lumpur, where he developed a passion for the stage and began his theater training.
After several years of performing as a dancer and theater actor, Sagar decided to further his education at the New York Film Academy Australia.
While studying at NYFAA Sagar worked on Dome House Six, a film by NYFAA alum Stephen Osborne that screened at the Gold Coast Film Festival in 2022. Sagar spoke with NYFA about his passion for dancing and acting, the value of a theater background and what his studies have taught him.
New York Film Academy (NYFA): What brought you to the New York Film Academy?
Prem Sagar (PS): My journey has been such a weird journey. I always thought I was going to be a dancer because I was a classical Indian dancer for about 25 years. But I always felt like I was missing something. I got an opportunity back home in Malaysia to be an extra on a movie set and then I was bitten by the acting bug as they say. Everything I have done prior to that, I had trained for. I had knowledge in what I was doing but with acting I was like, I don’t know what I’m doing. It just so happened that NYFAA had an open day, I attended and then I immediately just signed on because I’ve always been a person who loves practical learning more than theoretical learning and NYFAA is very practical.
NYFA: What are some of your artistic inspirations, your favorite actors or your favorite era in cinema history?
PS: Malay actor Pram Lee is looked upon as one of the legends of cinema and TV back home in Malaysia. He brought a lot of change into the cinema world. Even today you can watch his films and they stand the test of time. Some other actors I loved watching when I was growing up and still do: Denzel Washington, Robert Sheehan, Michael Fassbender.
NYFA: What do you hope that people take with them after seeing your work in Dome House Six?
PS: I’ve always said, even when I used to play characters in stage plays and musicals, I want to be remembered as an actor that played a diverse range of characters and roles convincingly. I hope Micah makes them feel something emotionally and mentally as they are watching Dome House Six; and I hope they remember my performance in Dome House Six for many years to come.
NYFA: What did you like most about the script when you first read it and what stood out the most about your character?
PS: When I first read the script, it was so fresh and so unique. I was blown away. It’s so character driven and I don’t think I have read or watched something like it before. I was like, this is real because trying to find or do something fresh and original is difficult.There’s not so much originality left in the world. Whatever we do, it is basically something we’ve seen or heard from somewhere else but the script it was so fresh and unique for me.
My character Micah is a man of many, many layers, and I love characters like that. It gives you the opportunity to build and add so much of yourself and depth to the character. For example, Micah loves routine, loves to have everything in control and those qualities are very much alive in me: I love my routine, I love being in control of my outcome and everything.
NYFA: What was the audition process like?
PS: Stephen [Osborne] messaged me one day and said, ‘hey, do you want to come over for a read?’ He had written this script and he wanted to hear voices for his characters. So I said, ‘Yeah, cool, I’ll come over and help.’ And then when I got there, he said, ‘Oh, by the way, this is your audition, so no pressure.’ A week or two after that, he messaged me again and asked me to send him a self tape. I did that. A week after that, I had a chemistry read with two different actresses and then after the chemistry reading he reached out and said I got the role.
NYFA: And what was your experience making the film with another NYFAA alum?
PS: It was really just amazing. Stephen is a legend. I’ve known him for almost three years now and even before meeting him, I’ve only ever heard people say amazing things about him. On set, he was very thorough with his work. He gave each of us the space and time to get into character, he was very specific about what he wanted and he gently nudged us where we needed to be. It’s just been a dream to work with him. Look out for his name in the future is what I’m trying to say.
NYFA: What has been your favorite project so far?
PS: Definitely Dome House Six.
NYFA: What did you learn at NYFAA that you applied directly to this project or other projects that you’ve done?
PS: Well, I applied basically everything that I’ve been taught at NYFAA because I came into the acting world with zero knowledge about screen acting.
NYFA: What did NYFA help you understand about acting?
PS: I learned so much. It’s not just learning your lines and delivering it in front of the camera. It’s so much more. It’s building your character, building another human being with the essence of yourself.
NYFA: Anything else you have to say?
PS:I would say that if you’re doing this program, if you want to be an actor, get into theater as well because that has helped me so much. One of my teachers said, ‘it’s easier to bring down an actor that is giving too much. I find it easier to ask him to contain it a bit more; but if the actor is not giving anything at all, it’ll be more difficult to bring something out of them.’ I think theater training helps in that aspect a lot. It definitely gives you a step up one up over everyone else who doesn’t do theater.
The New York Film Academy is proud of Prem Sagar and all of his accomplishments! We look forward to seeing more of his work.