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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“Buffoonery Acting Workshops” Goes To Victoria, B.C.

I’m excited to announce that Buffoonery is headed to Victoria! This workshop is primarily for actors or for people who would like to explore the acting profession.

Buffoonery Goes To Victoria BC
Buffoonery Goes To Victoria BC

I will be leading the 1 1/2 day workshop Saturday, February 12 and Sunday, February 13. The attractive Victoria location where the workshop will be held is The Church of Truth (I thought, very appropriate!) The hours are from 9:30-5:30 on Saturday, and from 1:30 to 5:30 on Sunday.

You will be taken through a series of exercises that will comfortably bring you to the bouffon work. At this point, we chase you out of your comfort zone and introduce you to YOU! .. Or, at least your own bouffon. Based on Jacques LeCoq‘s bouffon work, my workshop helps you develop a great tool for your rehearsals, auditions, and every day life!

Bouffon Class!

There will be an hour lunch break on Saturday, and you are welcome to bring a lunch or explore the restaurants in the area.

If you want to explore your creative self, have fun, and gain confidence, please join us! (class is limited to 15 participants) To book this workshop, click here . If you’d like to “meet” me, click here. Or, call.. 604-922-3744

Read more about “Buffoonery Acting Workshops

“Buffooning: taught by Trilby is one of the most innovative methods of layering any actor’s character. It is a must for any serious actor who wishes to further hone their craft and honour themselves as both a person and an actor. SOOOO MUCH FUN!” Charlene Luedke, Vancouver, Canada

Acting and The Physical Life…

Out of your head and into your body”.

When I heard American Acting Coach, Larry Moss emphatically state these words, during the recent Vancouver Acting School workshop, I felt a knowing thrill dash through my body. It’s the motto I constantly preach in my Buffoonery Acting Workshops – and it’s even imprinted on my business card!

Obviously, we still need our head but lately, the body seems to be a neglected tool in the practice of acting as was made evident during the workshop. Actor after actor was ordered by Larry Moss to commit more to the script and physicalize their process.

“Stamp your feet, and say your lines, stamp harder!”

“Do push-ups, feel your feet on the floor, ground your breath, pretend you’re a dog (isn’t your character dog-like?).

“Deliver your lines like a hyena.” “Sing your text!”

“Show me five ways you could sit in that chair.”

It was exciting and rewarding when actors dared to respond and venture into unfamiliar territory and frustrating if they resisted. You could see bodies awaken as they risked leaving their comfort zone (I call it the “safe zone”) and into brave action. Stories, scripts came to life.

It’s not about you! It’s about the story.” A simple gesture can illustrate an important story point. “It’s hot, really hot. Wipe your neck. Hike up your dress. Do something!” When the actor released her control and dove into the temperature of the play, more surprising moments naturally followed.

Larry Moss certainly affirmed the importance of connecting to the physical. “Watch Meryl Streep, Daniel Day Lewis, Dustin Hoffman without sound and watch how they tell a story through the physical.” “Find the physical that tells the story that the verbal doesn’t.

My goal when I teach my buffoonery acting workshops is to get the actor way out of their physical comfort zone and get them to know themselves. My Porsche analogy explains it well. Let’s say you drive a Porsche but you drive it only downtown. You know it can go really fast but you don’t really know what it feels like. One day you go to the desert where it is safe and you put “pedal to the metal”. You sit up straight, hold onto the wheel like never before and you grasp the power of your car. You return to the city and continue to drive your Porsche, but now, you are different. You are at one with your machine. You have an alternate, connected energy about you.

This is exactly what happens once you find your bouffon. You go to an extreme in play, and in text, and then return to your normal self, and “normal” acting. The great by-product of this process is discovering unexpected sub-text in the monologue/scene exercises, leaving the actor with a terrific audition or rehearsal tool.

Buffooning Romeo & Juliet... guess who's Juliet?
Buffooning Romeo & Juliet... guess who's Juliet?

Chapter ten in Larry Moss’s book “The Intent to Live” goes into more depth on the subject of the physical life. He gives us specific examples of the story taken to another level because of an actor’s physical choice. “When your body’s lost, look for a choice…this is your talent.”

The Intent to Live
The Intent to Live by Larry Moss

Once again I thank Larry Moss for getting things moving, and re-confirming the work I do with actors. When I excitedly chatted with him about his work and my relationship to it via “Le Bouffon” his eyes lit up and he said, “Bless you for doing this work.”

Merci, Monsieur Moss…. I am honoured…

Thank you again to Vancouver Acting School for bringing a Master among us!

Acting Coach Larry Moss Does Not Need a Buffoonery Workshop..

Okay… it’s a long title but it needs to be said.

I have just spent three amazing days auditing, witnessing, observing, absorbing, laughing, crying, taking notes, processing, confirming, squirming, cheer-leading, supporting, holding my breath, thinking and agreeing at the Larry Moss Workshop by Vancouver Acting School.

Larry Moss workshop held at The Rio Theatre Vancouver
Larry Moss workshop held at The Rio Theatre Vancouver

No,  Larry Moss, well known American acting coach, does not need to find his inner bouffon. He has it well intact as he was brutally, and winkingly (a made up Trilby word) truthful, like a bouffon loves to be, with each and every actor who was brave enough to perform a scene for him to critique.

And, he did.

Mr. Moss did not let one person off the hook. And, it wasn’t because he prances around with an ego to show off his expertise and tremendous experience. No… he does it because he cares deeply, very deeply about actors and their unseen potential.

He pushed, prodded, swore, bullied, encouraged, inspired, threatened, and did whatever it took to break through an actor’s carefully placed mask to get to their raw truth.

“It’s all about the story!” “Fall in love with the writing!” “If the writer wrote it, we want to hear it!” “Grow up to the writer.” “It’s about telling the story, all about the story.” “Script analysis… good actors are good detectives!”

Held at the spacious Rio Theatre in Vancouver, actors were forced to find their theatre voice – a challenge for many since a minimalist style of film acting, “faux naturalism”,  has become a sad epidemic, according to Larry Moss. “Narcissism is killing our work as artists.” “You’re all being geared for TV and it will eat you alive.” “Be brilliant in the theatre and the films will find you.”

Actors were made to do push ups, stamp the stage, scream, and shout, dance, and hold their hands to their ribs while doing their lines in order to find a grounded voice. Over and over again we witnessed breakthroughs, after breakthroughs, and wonderful gems proving this type of work is necessary. (it also affirmed the work I do with my buffoonery acting students)

On the last day, I recognized a part of myself  in a certain actor, and took  his work he did with Larry to my heart. Very quickly I found myself in tears,  tugging down my hat, relating to his difficulty of letting go of control and trusting the idea, the text, and not being afraid of vulnerability.

Yet, if I look back at some recent work, I have let go. I have gone into the deep end, but I know I could go even deeper.

Much deeper.

Other actors shed tears, as well, after their work with Larry was over. “How do you feel?” “I’m lost.” “No, you’re not lost, you’re getting found.” He leans forward, “All tears are because you now know what you didn’t know.” “… a nervous breakTHROUGH…”

He looks out at us. “Isn’t it funny, acting helps us rip down our defenses and be more human.”

The three-day session equaled a roller coaster of emotions, confirmations, and inspiration. I have to thank Kirsten Clarkson from the Vancouver Acting School for giving the gift of Larry Moss to our acting community.

We needed it.

Larry Moss & Kirsten Clarkson
Larry Moss & Kirsten Clarkson

“Choose something beyond your wildest dreams… dare to be great.” Larry Moss.

(Subsequent posts will contain more about the workshop as there is much to discuss… stay tuned..)

Opening To The Alexander Technique…

A few weeks ago I decided it was time for me to try out the Alexander Technique, a unique body awareness practice that I had heard about for years. People I knew had followed it with positive effects. Still,  I really had no idea what it was, or how you “did it”, until now. (And, I am still in the beginning stages)

I found Alexander guide Gabriella Minnes Brandes in Vancouver through an actor friend, and started the process. It felt strange, subtle, and very awkward. I didn’t enjoy the feeling of sudden extreme self-consciousness.

However, even after just one session I walked outside feeling lighter, and I noticed my chronic neck pain was already easing.

In the second and subsequent sessions I felt less strange about focusing so intently on my own body posture.

I decided to rummage around online for more information  and through twitter I found Leland Vall in New York, and his informative blog “Free Your Neck”. He agreed to answer a few questions for my blog and help me demystify the Alexander experience.

TJ: “How did you discover the Alexander Technique, Leland?”

LV: “I discovered the Alexander Technique at a demonstration during my first year in college. The Alexander teacher came around the room briefly touching each person’s head. When he came to me he gently touched my head and moved it slightly. My head had always felt fine to me but suddenly it felt like it was in the “right” place, as if my head had never been there before. I felt like I was being reintroduced to my body.”

TJ: “How did it help you? How is it affecting your life now?”

LV: “The Alexander Technique is a simple idea with broad implications. On one hand it gives me options about my body that help me to stand taller, feel more open, lighter, more stable and stronger. But it also intrinsically promotes an optimistic way of looking at the world that always suggests there may be other options or situations may not be as they seem.”

TJ: “What did you find most challenging at the beginning, and also, now in your practice.”

LV: “Without a doubt, the most difficult thing about the Alexander Technique, for me and everyone else, has always been explaining what it is. Ask anyone who has ever had a lesson and you will see the struggle. People have been trying to write a useful definition of the Alexander Technique for over 100 years. To find out what it is, you have to experience an Alexander lesson yourself. But don’t try to explain it.”

TJ: “What is your practice?”

LV: “The Alexander Technique has no form or way of practice. It is an idea that helps you go about your life or whatever you are doing. You might find some Alexander activities or exercises (I even wrote a book that is nothing but one long exercise) but in those cases the activity (or maybe a non-activity like lying down) usually mimics regular life while the exercise is really about how you are thinking.”

TJ: “What kind of people come to you, why, and how did they know to try Alexander Technique?”

LV: “People who like the Alexander Technique are people who are looking for new choices and possibilities. If they have pain, they often come because they suspect that they are contributing to their pain and are ready to change their posture or the way they move. Athletes and performing artists come to break habits and improve performance. Some people come to look better, taller and thinner. Other people see Alexander as a life skill for personal growth and increasing awareness.”

TJ: “What do you love most about teaching it?”

LV: “What I love most about teaching Alexander is that the more I teach it, the better I understand it within myself and the more it benefits me. Every lesson I teach is also a lesson I give to myself.”

TJ: “Do you think that anyone can learn it?”

LV: “Anyone who is open to the pleasure of self-discovery can benefit from Alexander lessons. It is not dependent on age or physical ability.”

TJ: “How long does it usually take for someone to feel the results of the practice?”

LV: “Benefits of the Alexander Technique begin almost instantly, usually within the first few minutes of the lesson. Lasting benefits also begin with the first lesson and continue to grow as long as you remain interested in learning and discovering. Like learning to play a musical instrument, learning Alexander is not an all or nothing proposition. Like a music lesson, the first lesson can open a new world and, just from that lesson, you may make discoveries on your own, even if you never take another lesson.

After a course of lessons you might feel that you know enough, even though you suspect that there is more to learn. I find that five to ten lessons is a minimum number to gain a usable skill for most people. But people do benefit even from one lesson. I still remember and benefit from my first Alexander lesson, and that was 28 years ago.”

TJ: “Has it helped people with illnesses? Which ones?”

LV: “The Alexander Technique can help any illness or condition where you think that choices that you make affect how you feel. People use the Alexander Technique for pain, especially back and neck pain, for improving breathing, breaking habits, and for getting the most out of your body, even if you face physical challenges. The Alexander Technique offers the possibility of making new choices about your body that are often unexpected and quite liberating.”

TJ: “Have you taught actors and what has been the benefit to actors?”

LV: “I studied acting and directing in college and then at Trinity Rep Conservatory, so working with actors is a specialty. Alexander is the skill that brings all the actor’s training together. Specifically, it is the simple knowledge of how to stand tall, feel grounded, remain open, breathe easily and speak with a clear voice. Without any exercise or warm-up, it offers the actor the skill of greater stage presence and clarity of purpose. Finally, it gives the actor more room to fully express their training and ability. After all, the Alexander Technique has long been called, “The Actor’s Secret.””

TJ: “What are some reasons to take Alexander lessons?”

LV: “Here are at least twelve reasons:

1. Feel lighter and stronger.
2. Improve posture.
3. Reduce pain.
4. Reduce anxiety.
5. Improve movement and balance.
6. Improve breathing.
7. Transcend athletic plateaus.
8. Look younger.
9. Break harmful habits.
10. Improve vocal production.
11. Improve your response to challenging situations.
12. Renew your experience of yourself.

The Alexander Technique offers you nothing less than the power of transformation, every day. It is simple concept with profound implications.”

TJ: “Thank you, for this, Leland. And, I agree that the only way to truly understand is to try it. I highly encourage anyone to give your body this gift of realigning yourself so as to have a better quality life.”

If you are in New York, Leland’s next demonstration is Monday, July 19 from 8:00 pm to 9:00 pm. The address is 44 East 32nd St. 11th Fl (just west of Park).

Visit Leland’s website and blog for further information: www.freeyourneck.com

http://freeyourneck.com/blog/ and his facebook page is www.facebook.com/alexandertechnique

If you are in Vancouver, I highly recommend Gabriella Minnes Brandes, Suite 110-809 W. 41st Ave, Vancouver. Contact her at 604-737-2818

A Letter to Lynn Redgrave….

Dear Lynn,

Monday morning, May 3rd, I received a text message from a friend that said, “I thought of you this morning when I heard on the news about Lynn Redgrave.” News? What news? My heart instantly sank and I jumped on the Internet to confirm my worst fear. “Lynn Redgrave died peacefully in her home in Connecticut on Sunday night.”

No…

All day I couldn’t do anything else but sit at my computer and read stories about you, and the many sad reactions, (I hope you realize what an impact you had on so many people) and gently start on my own journey of reminiscing.

When I first met you during a costume fitting for the Canadian feature film, “Touched“,  shot in the mysterious Similkameen Valley, I felt a bit intimidated, but you soon fixed that with your humour and openess!

I was working as the assistant costume designer to designer Crystine Booth, and once in production, the costume set supervisor. I was beyond thrilled to be working near you, a “Redgrave”, and the actor in me was ready to absorb and learn from a master.

I loved watching you work, before a scene, during a scene, and even afterward. I gradually learned to recognize when you needed your walkman and would sneak your headphones on your ears just before your request!

In between scenes on “Touched”

I was honoured when you quietly started sharing your thoughts about your work on the film, and in that process, I knew you were also acknowledging my acting experience.

We became friends.

Much later, after many personal trials and tribulations for both of us in our separate lives, you invited me to New York. You opened up your life to me, and I got to experience your generosity, and affection.

Spring in Connecticut…me & Lynn

You made a dream of mine come true. You offered to coach me. In exchange, I had to help you learn lines of your next play.

Later, I thought to myself, “What was I thinking? Now I have to perform in front of Lynn Redgrave! Am I nuts?” I didn’t tell you my fear :).

When I finally nailed my Shakespeare monologue in your living room, you leapt off the couch and into the air saying, “You were f—-g great!”… Wow… I was in heaven.

I still cannot believe you are gone. I knew cancer was a part of your life but you were so strong that I never imagined it taking you. I remember how we joked about you being an Amazonian Woman Warrior after your mastectomy, and how well you suited the title, especially when you told me to “clear off” in your strongest British accent, when I tried to stop you from carrying my luggage. You insisted because I was still walking with my cane as a result of my back operation.

Gassing up with class!!

Lynn, I wish I could have said goodbye, and I guess this is my way of doing it. I know you would understand as you liked the web, and you were a storyteller. And, you encouraged me to be one, too.

I will, Lynn – in your honour.

My condolences go to your family. Your presence will be hugely missed. If any of them read this blog post, I hope they will realize how touched I was by you, Lynn, and that I’m just one of many.

As a last gesture, in celebration of your life, and with a fond memory of all of us belting out this song with the band at an impromptu party in Keremeos, I leave you with “Mustang Sally”… What fun we had.

With lots of love,

Trilby

(p.s. I hope you don’t mind if I still talk to you now and then about my work?)

World Theatre Day…and more!

Today marks World Theatre Day, and it also marks exactly one year since I started this blog. Despite being here a year, I still feel like a newbie who desires to write more frequently, and explore more (hopefully that feeling will last forever).

In the meantime, I would like to wish you all a very Happy World Theatre Day.  I wish this day had the same buzz as the Olympics, but, unfortunately we live in a world where sport accomplishments seem to rise to the top, long before artistic ones. I guess it’s a number game.

However, I didn’t show up to my blog today to rant. I came here to celebrate theatre, and honour the spectacle, the liveness, the unexpected, the truth, the mistakes, the improvisation, the courage of the story, of the actors, and of the support behind the scenes.

Theatre has been in my life since I was 17 when I first got involved with costumes at the Charlottetown Festival in Prince Edward Island. I eventually became a dresser and the joke was always that “one of the performers had fallen” and “Trilby had to go on”. In my imagination, I would burst out of my dowdy pinafore and conveniently have a sequined outfit underneath. I was READY!

That scenario didn’t happen, but I did end up taking the place of one of the clowns in the children’s clown show where I was also doing the lights and audio. And, I loved it. The performing seed was planted.

My journey was seriously launched at Le Conservatoire d’Art Dramatique, in Quebec City, where I studied acting, en Francais, for three years.

Outside le théâtre du Conservatoire
Outside le théâtre du Conservatoire

Since graduation (many moons ago), I have played with lots of actors, told lots of stories in both languages, had funny things happen (remember your mustache drifting off your face, Dan?), had scary moments (oh..it’s awful to have a blank on opening night!), and had a lot of fun.

Earlier this year I was fortunate to have directed “The Memory of Water” by Shelagh Stephenson and I truly enjoyed the creative adventure. This evening, appropriately, the cast and crew are celebrating our journey together.

Cast & Crew of "The Memory of Water"
Cast & Crew of "The Memory of Water"

So, today, I dedicate World Theatre Day to them, our experience, and to all those who continue to dare to write plays, mount plays, act in plays, tour with plays, renovate old theatres, and to the audiences who continue to appreciate witnessing live theatre.

Merci, et, célébronskeep celebrating theatre! Vive Le Théâtre!