By Grant Moyo
Going to film school can help aspiring filmmakers and performing artists gain technical experience.
It is great for building a team of industry contacts from a professional environment engaged with passionate film making intellects, but it is by no means a requirement to becoming successful in the industry, says high flying 22-year-old Zimbabwean international actor and filmmaker Daniel Lasker.
Best known for playing the character Furfur on Sir Ridley Scott’s American Sci-Fi television series Raised By Wolves (the biggest budget show ever to film on the African continent), which is broadcast on HBO Max, Lasker was offered a scholarship to go and study acting at the esteemed New York Film Academy, which he profusely turned down. He wanted to start working in the industry rather than spend years in a classroom.
Poised to elevate his career, Lasker’s choice is unmistakably paying off. He is thrilled to have joined the cast of the latterly filmed alternate reality fiction Noughts & Crosses season 2 (BBC One), an adaptation of Malorie Blackman’s bestselling novel series.
The international actor, who plays the role of Merrick, says none of the television and film productions on which he has been hired on for all his work thus far, have asked about his qualifications. He is glad to be experiencing the exact life he dreamed of decades back as a young boy who was often lured by the visual perception of reels.
Lasker was born and raised in Bulawayo, and learned at Whitestone Primary School before proceeding to Petra College (formerly Petra High School). His film credits include Vagrant Queen, an American science fiction television series on SyFy Network where he portrays the persona Lazaro, ‘The Telling Room’, ‘Our Girl’, ‘The Unexpectables’, ‘Boy On Dreams’, ‘What Lies Beneath’, ‘American Monster’, ‘The Lives And Deaths Of Sonny Liston’ and most recently ‘Lincoln’ (History Channel).
Although primarily an actor, Lasker is also fiercely passionate about telling stories behind the lens. Growing up in Zimbabwe with not much of an active film industry at the time, he taught himself how to make films.
Over the years the filmmaker heightened and fostered his production skills as a director, writer, cinematographer, editor and producer on flicks like The Way It Is (2016), Red Maraiah (2018) and Hidden Within (2020), to mention but a few.
Lasker’s productions were well accepted by the local community and various foreign film festivals, resulting in the nomination of his film work at the 2017 edition of the National Arts and Merit Awards (Namas).
His short films The Walk and The Man garnered gongs for Outstanding Film and Outstanding Director at the Roil Bulawayo Arts Awards in 2018 and 2019.
Both films obtained international credit, The Walk won Best Adventure Film at the New York Indie Film Awards and The Man got an accolade for Best Cinematography at the Four Rivers Film Festival in Croatia.
“I knew I wanted to be an actor at the age of nine. I was captivated by movies and the worlds they created, so I wanted to be a part of them,” Lasker said.
“But at the time, there was no film industry in Bulawayo. I found my love for directing when I began creating my own films as a teenager.
“I wanted to start getting as much practical experience as I could, so my ‘own’ film school consisted of me shooting experiential short movies and projects as often as I could.
“In high school, I never had much of a budget to work with, so I learned how to be frugal and make my limited resources look good and ‘expensive’ on screen.
“That’s where the skill of filmmaking came in, I realised that film makers don’t require fancy expensive equipment to tell stories and make shots look beautiful.
“Sure, the fancy equipment can helpbut ultimatelythe skill of the filmmaker will make all the difference.”
The self-taught filmmaker noted that films have an omnipotent determining factor and impingement on how the society’s emotional intelligence shapes and evolves. They are outlets for people to often undergo deep cerebral catharsis and learn more about human behaviour and the world around them.
Lasker acknowledges film as a temporary safe haven where one can seek refuge from their troubles and stresses.
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He said storytelling is in the DNA of mankind, it is a very significant part of the world. People have been telling each other stories since the beginning of the human adventure. Back then, they wouldconverse while crouching around a fire in a cave.
Lasker, who is on the threshold of wrapping up the post-production of ‘The Telling Room’, a fantasy feature film which was mostly shot in Harare and partly filmed in Bulawayo, noted that there will always be challenges faced by anyone who embarks on the miraculous adventure of storytelling and motion-picture show.
The actor and filmmaker, who is also the lead character known as the ‘Magician’ in the local film directed by Duncan Frost, accented that film making is certainly not an easy path. It requires creatives and performing artists to be fearless and bold. If fellow film makers work harder and do film for the right reasons, it can certainly be a fulfilling and rewarding career.
“The knowledge of the craft will and should be evident in the work a person creates and offers.The most important thing is having an abundance of fiery passion for the work. ‘The Telling Room’ was shot from 2017 to 2018, and it has been in post production for a long time due to its extensive amount of visual effects shots and world building, which on an independent budget, takes a long time to pull off beautifully. Whenever I am looking for a new person to add to my filmmaking team, the first thing I look at, before their experience, is how much fire and determination they have in their eyes,” Lasker said.
Shedding light on the essence of great performances, Lasker pointed out that when actors and actresses are auditioning for specific roles, the depth of the quality in their manner of utterance, emotion, movement and action matters the most. More so, what performers can offer to the production team as proficient artists, determines if they will book their next project. Lasker stressed that great work ethicsproven on set during a shoot are much more important than a qualification and knowing that an actor, actress or filmmaker studied the line of work.
“Sometimes as actors and actresses we can really be thrown into the deep end on set. We have to show up for work and be prepared for anything to happen, at a moment’s notice. When plans change on the spot and the director decides to take the scene in a certain direction, we have to be flexible and graceful enough to be able to mould our performances to best fit the unfolding situation in the moment. We’re required to do this usually in front of a large group of crew members and two or more big flashy cameras that will be pointed directly into our faces, watching our every move to the millimetre. The more comfortable we are in our craft, the easier and less daunting it becomes,” he said.
As the premiering of ‘Raised By Wolves’season 2 on HBO Max nears, Lasker admits to have grown and experienced so much just by being on the epic high pressured Sci-Fi series’ set. Authentically rife in his onward motion, the international actor will also be seen next playing the United States President Abraham Lincoln’s son, ‘Robert Lincoln’, on a television series for the History Channel called ‘Lincoln’, primed for an early next year release.
- Follow Grant Moyo on Twitter: @TotemGrant