Prem Sagar Krishnan, 32, New York Film Academy Australia

As a youngster in Johor, the southernmost state of Malaysia, Prem always thought he would be a dancer when he grew up. “I was dancing all day every day,” he recalls. His mother taught him the basics before he studied the classic Indian dance form of Bharatanatyam under his esteemed aunt at the Temple of Fine Arts. At 19, he moved to Kuala Lumpur to further his dance studies. He later landed the lead role in MUD: The Story Of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia's first big scale stage musical, which ran for three years, with Prem also eventually becoming assistant director on the show. It was the start of a circuitous route that led to him making the biggest decision of his life, just before his 30th birthday, to move to the Gold Coast to study film acting.

Q. You have an accomplished career in dance and in musical theatre. Why the need to do further studies?

Because I was on stage every day [in MUD and many other musicals], I was in people’s eyes more and directors came and asked if I was interested in working with them. I got a small role on an Asian TV series where I played the lead’s brother. That was the first time I had been in front of a camera for screen work. I suddenly got a bit awkward because I had never been on a set before. Everything I had done I had been trained in, and this was something where I didn’t know what I was doing. So I looked on the internet when I got home and I found the New York Film Academy Australia (NYFA), and I was like, boy, I should study so I know what I am doing! And that brought me to the Gold Coast.

Q. Why study film acting on the Gold Coast and not in Kuala Lumpur?

The industry back home is kind of small. And for films, to get roles, they ask, “How many followers do you have on social media?”, that sort of thing. Being Indian, not a lot of stories were tailored for me. There was like a glass ceiling I couldn’t go above. I was always going to play either the sidekick roles or the stereotypical Indian guy in films.

Q. What did you study at NYFA Australia?

I just graduated from the NYFA Advanced Diploma of Screen and Media (Acting for Film) and I will start a Bachelor of Acting at Griffith University in November.

Q. What was your favourite learning experience?

There isn't one favourite learning experience but so many that I got to thoroughly enjoy during my two years at NYFA Australia. So many teachers went above and beyond to share their knowledge and make sure we were prepared for the real world of the industry. Most of them still keep in touch and push us to chase our dreams, and they've become some of our biggest supporters and cheerleaders.

Q. Has the Gold Coast lived up to your expectations?

I moved here on my 30th birthday. It was like the first time in my life that I was moving so far away from home, from family and friends, and for such a long time. It was like a whole new experience. Like turning 30 and taking on the world! I didn’t know what to expect. I did my research, but I was pleasantly surprised at the weather in the summer, and the rains, because it was so hot it reminded me of home. And the people here are so friendly and open. My Aussie friends say it is like that because of the sun in Queensland – the more you go down south it becomes colder and the people become colder as well [laughs]. I love going up to Springbrook National Park. We’ve gone there like four times now, particularly on early morning drives.

Q. What would you say to someone who is thinking about studying on the Gold Coast?

Don’t think about it, just come and do it! They say you need to move away from your comfort zone. I was feeling like I was starting to get stuck in my old ways of doing things. It was becoming so muddled I wasn’t looking outside of the box. The Gold Coast is like the perfect amalgamation of new people and new experiences.

Q. No regrets?

No regrets at all. It has been wonderful here, and I believe it was one of the best decisions in my life just to drop everything I’d done at home and come here to a new place.