by Sherif Awad
Benike Palfi by Kass Photography
This is Benike Palfi…
I’m a German-Hungarian born and raised in Namibia in Southern Africa. Since graduating from high school, though, I’ve been lucky enough to travel the world and have since lived in five different countries on three different continents. The entertainment world has always been in my blood.
There is no film industry to speak of in Namibia, but I was involved in all other aspects of performance, including theatre, dance, and art, since I was a young child. I can’t remember how or when I was first drawn to it; it’s been a part of my life for as long as I can remember.
I never had a role model per se but have always drawn inspiration from a range of talented performers, most notably Leonardo DiCaprio, Sir Anthony Hopkins, and Edward Norton.
I’ve also always been a big fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Sarah Michelle Gellar has had a huge influence on my life. If I were to pick one role model, it would probably be her.
Nowadays, I look up to all the other talented performers that get to call this industry their home. I learn from each and every one of them and find inspiration in all of their stories.
-I’ve often felt at loggerheads in my own soul as I am very academic but also very creative, and I don’t think the two match very well. Being an actor, a creator, it’s important to step away from the analytical part of your brain and simply become. Of course, character analysis and understanding story and human emotions is a massive part of that and that is something that can certainly be taught but the rest of it is almost a primal drive. I don’t think you can necessarily study and learn to become a creator. You’re simply born to be one. But, of course, you can always fine-tune your craft and learn from every source you can find – teachers, coaches, books, television, even YouTube!
-I’m very much a Type A personality, constantly striving to achieve the “next big thing”. When I was younger, I could only dream of the type of life I live now. Now that I’m living it, I’m looking ahead, searching for the next opportunity to crack. But it’s also important to stay happy and satisfied at the moment – gratitude for what you have counts for so much. So, yes, I am happy and grateful for what I have now but simultaneously looking ahead to greater success.
About gender challenges: Yes, I still think the world is largely patriarchal, and the film industry is no different. I think on a systemic level this will continue to play a part for the foreseeable future. But I have been lucky enough not to have faced any direct challenges myself.
-I’ve spent the majority of the last year in South Africa due to the Covid-19 pandemic, so I’ll take South Africa as my current country of residence. I truly believe that the creative industry in South Africa is world-class. We have so many insanely talented creatives that work so hard to get ahead and make their mark. We face challenges that people in other countries may not necessarily face – or at least not on the scale that we do here – but South Africans don’t give up. We fight obstacle after obstacle and continue striving for excellence, despite it all. It’s a constant beautiful adventure.
-Casting can be beautiful and challenging at the same time. I love the casting process because it gives me the chance to play a character, to live that character, and to find my truth in it, even if I never get beyond the initial round of auditions. It’s important to remember that casting – and the film industry as a whole – is still a business. While it’s easy to take casting decisions and rejection personally, it’s important to brush yourself off and keep at it. I always try to remember that I may not have got lucky on this job, but the next one may be it. You just never know.
-I’m generally pretty open to reading most scripts and am always keen to get involved in all kinds of creative projects. I do pay attention to the quality of the script, though, and there are some subject matters that I feel uncomfortable with and steer away from.
-I don’t think I can put an external value on artistic achievement. For me, it’s more of a personal, inner journey – that moment when you find the truth in a character, when you get so absorbed in a narrative that you lose yourself and truly become someone else. Finding that moment when I deep-dive into a character is the greatest achievement, every time.
-Other than acting, I’m also an avid writer. I’d still count this as the arts, of course, but it’s an entirely different course. I write regularly for my food blog, I Love Foodies, and a few other online companies. I’m also working on finalizing my first fiction book, which I’m very excited about.
-For newcomers, I say: Don’t give up. This industry will chew you up and spit you back out again. Stay at it. Work on your craft. Expand your skill sets. And never forget why you’re in it to begin with.
-Acting is life. I’m always working, studying, expanding – even if I’m sitting at the beach people-watching. Every second of life is an opportunity to learn and become a better performer. Everything feeds the arts.
-Covid-19 has really wreaked havoc with most of my plans, so at the moment I’m “waiting out the storm”. Not passively, though, and I’m using the downtime to expand my craft and work on my writing projects.
SAGA | Equity