Dialect Coaching: recommendations for actors & filmmakers…

A few weeks ago I asked a question on twitter regarding challenges you encounter surrounding your work and what a good situation would be.  I had some interesting answers but one in particular was impassioned.

Pamela Vanderway is a dialect coach and obviously has great avidity for her chosen work. I asked her if I could post her valuable response on my blog, and she agreed.

Voila:

“Trilby, you had asked me what the ideal scenario is for film projects when it comes to requiring actors to work in a dialect other than their own.  Each project will have special requirements, but in general here’s what really works well:

The ideal scenario re: employing a dialect coach  (aka dialect consultant) for film is to hire a supervising dialect consultant at the same time all of the department heads are hired — well ahead of actual production.

This consultant analyzes the script, alerting the director of dialect and language challenges (which can occur even when the script is written so as to require a General American dialect for each character since many box office sweethearts don’t naturally sport a General American dialect.)

The supervising coach (working with the director and sometimes the film’s star and/or even that star’s personal dialect coach) assembles custom recorded dialect materials that actors can emulate in order to enhance the story being told.

During this process special attention is paid to the many factors that influence the dialects of every character that will be seen on screen (such as place of birth, education, religion, affluence, family groupings, physical impediments etc.).

The supervising coach then assists the casting director during the casting process by attending auditions and helping the CD and producers determine which actors will most likely be able to deliver an accurate, consistent and integrated dialect in time for the shoot. The idea here is to cast actors who don’t need much or any coaching on set, as usually by the time the production gets around to casting the secondary and tertiary characters the shooting schedule is looming large!

The high profile actors who have been attached from the beginning of the project tend to succeed best when given 6 to 8 weeks to master and integrate a dialect. Because they are typically cast early on, they usually have that time available if everyone is ‘on it’ and gets them the materials and daily coaching they need. (The actors you tend to see winning awards prepare this early even when the production companies don’t follow an ideal course of action.)

Depending on the size of the cast, the number of locations and the preference of the director and the high profile actors involved, the supervising coach either coaches all the actors themselves (being present basically wherever/whenever the director is present for dialogue shots and in actor trailers/make-up trailers etc. working with actors in between). Or instead this supervising coach may coordinate a crew of coaches, keeping everyone on the same page in order to best serve the director’s vision and the story.

The supervising coach (and any coaches they supervise) also may provide detailed notes of dialect mismatches for editors to keep in mind as they edit, or the coach may be asked to watch a rough cut and indicate where ADR (looping) may be required due to dialect mismatches. The goal of course is zero dialect-generated ADR.”

Thank you, Pamela for discussing the importance of dialect coaching within the context of film production. As we have witnessed, as actors, and filmmakers, the better prepared we are prior to shooting the better quality the final project. If we are rushed on set, and ill-prepared, the important details, such as a dialect, will suffer and therefore decrease the credibility of the performance. As a result, the audience will not believe or empathize with the characters. Not a good situation!

Enjoy browsing through Pamela’s website for more tips and information regarding dialect coaching.

And… a little tidbit of my favourite actress (Meryl Streep) with all her dialects!

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