GOING SOLO: Artist Interview with Oz Malik

This week in our fifth GOING SOLO session, we are joined by Oz Malik, an actor, artist and program curator.

Oz, our only performing artist in the series, talks to Rachael Evans about how he got into acting, success, and his upcoming GOING SOLO session this Thursday. His GOING SOLO session will focus on finding confidence as an actor, and the steps that aspiring actors and actresses can take to get their foot in the door of an industry that is notoriously hard to break into.

Watch Oz’s interview with CAS volunteer Rachael here.

If you would like to hear more from Oz, make sure you register for GOING SOLO via our Google Form.

Rachael: How would you describe yourself as an artist or an actor?

Oz: I guess I would describe myself as someone who is a student of art. I’m constantly learning. I never have it all together and there is always something to learn. I see myself as a student of art and I draw inspiration from a lot of places. Even though I love film and cinema, I’m a student of dance, I’m a student of visual arts, I’m a student of painting. There’s so many places I get inspiration from. I would describe myself as a student but also in terms of my acting style, I’m really inspired by films that were crafted in the 70s and 80s. Especially when cinema was going through this change and you saw more psychological acting and this different style where it was more realistic rather than theatrical. I like to bring that real element from the day-to-day world and bring that to the screen. I’m less of a stage actor and more of an actor that asks what would a real person do in this situation?

Rachael: What does success as either an artist or an actor look like to you?

Oz: I see it in two ways. There is success which is admiration from other people. If people genuinely connect with your work and admire what you are doing. I think any of the accolades that come from that, I see as successful, because other people appreciate what you’re doing and the work that you’re doing. Success in that sense for an actor would be creating a standard of quality of work where it’s recognised at a high-level. Especially as an actor, you want to be recognised by the industry and people that take acting seriously.

But then I think another part of success, which I think is way more important, is the success of being able to tell a story and represent yourself and your art. I’m really big on telling stories, especially to do with multicultural communities and people of colour, and more positive representation around stories that are actually happening rather than a stereotype or something that’s exoticised. I think that success is bringing people’s voices to a platform where they normally don’t have it. That for me is more successful. Can we get people in acting who are not normally seen on screen? Or not normally seen on stage? People in acting who have a story to tell but don’t have a platform to really tell it. The awards and the recognition from the industry stuff is cool, but I think real success is community building, getting people’s stories out there, and telling real stories so people gain empathy for one another through art and cinema. 

With acting also it’s not a one man show. To be a good actor you have such a big team around you who actually get you on stage or on screen. The people that write, the people that do make up, or the people who have done the set design, editing, sound. All those little cogs in the machine are super vital and so important. You’re only as good as the people around you with acting. I’ve realised that lighting and sound make a huge difference. It doesn’t matter if you’re Leonardo DiCaprio and you’ve got a huge budget. I think success in acting comes down to a huge number of factors. The actor is just one part of that. 

Rachael: How does acting enrich your life?

Oz: There’s so many ways. My earliest memories with acting or cinema or film were always quite positive. It was almost like a place to escape, but also seeing the effect it had on people around me, especially my parents. Like I wasn’t really connected with my parents, but then I would see them watching a film and they would be happy, or I would see a different side to them and different emotions. Even friends or people that you don’t know, when you go to the movie or the cinema, everyone’s in that together. It’s a whole experience. You kind of forget about the past or the future and you’re just there experiencing art. I always admired how art could do that. It was almost like a religion in a sense. It’s very spiritual, that people are all coming for the same thing. Whether it was a film or movie or exhibition. I found that it constantly helps me imagine and empathise with the world. I think that when art is celebrated it gives you a different lens on life. I’ve always been into other things as well like sport, but I found that when I started getting more into art, I became more creative and more empathetic. I saw the world differently and and gained more humility. It’s a really good tool for shaping the world in a more peaceful way. Art is at the centre of a lot of good things. In a lot of political activism and advocacy, artists are at the forefront of telling the stories. Not only has it made me more creative and spiritual, but also more keen on activism and learning how to speak up for marginalised groups.

Rachael: It’s been quite a journey for you, and acting is a notoriously hard industry to break into. How did you get into acting?

Oz: I got into acting, basically, because I was really desperate to get into acting. I was very keen to get into acting from a very young age, but obviously access and even opportunities were few and far between, and I really didn’t know how one gets into acting. Also my parents were a bit hesitant with acting. They didn’t see it as a good career choice. It wasn’t until I finished high school where I would save up money, any money that I had, and go to acting school. I knew I wanted to do acting but I kind of had to do it on my own. My family wasn’t born into acting, or anything like that. It was just an idea that I would just sit on, and then I tried it out and I really enjoyed it. What inspired me to be an actor is what I saw it did to people. Like my father and friends, would get really connected with a movie, and I loved seeing that. These people where sometimes you don’t really see their emotion, but they love a particular movie. I was really connected to that idea. I’ve been acting for five years now and it’s going pretty good.

Rachael: Can you tell the audience a little bit about your going solo session?

Oz: I’m going to be talking about how an actor, especially in the south-east suburbs, especially as a person of colour. I’ll be talking about the challenges of being an actor, how I got into the industry, and how one can do similar things or different things to what I did. It’s really about my experience getting into acting but also how other people can get into it, and the things they need to look out for. What are the mistakes that I made that they shouldn’t make and that stuff. It’s really about a localised perspective: how does a kid from the suburbs get into acting?

Rachael: When it comes to acting, reflecting on where you came from and where you are now, what advice would you give your younger self?

Oz: Do you know what? I probably wouldn’t give my younger self advice, I would ask my younger self to give me advice. I think that inner child or the child has so much wisdom without even knowing it. This clear understanding of reality, whereas now a lot of the things that I understand are quite clouded. I would love to see what I would think and say when I was 10. Almost this childlike innocence and excitement about what to do. I personally wouldn’t give my younger self advice, I would want to get advice from my younger self.

But to answer your questions directly, I think it would just be a comforting voice, telling myself that whatever you’re doing, it’s okay. I would just be reassuring and say: just keep going on your journey – you are going to make mistakes and you are going to face challenges, and that’s going to continue to happen, but you’ll overcome it. It’s like a wave. You brace for it but eventually it leaves. I would emphasise to any young person that hard things and difficult things happen. It never goes away. It doesn’t matter who you are, you’re always going to go through challenges in life, but they don’t last forever.

GOING SOLO is a free, six-part online conversation series designed to prepare new and emerging artist from their first solo exhibition. Read more and register for the series here.

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