Dialect Coaching on Skype
Posted by Jim Johnson on November 26, 2012 0 Comments
In the last year, I finally added the option of Skype dialect coaching due to inquiries from enough customers. Through that, you're able to work directly with me or with Carolyn Johnson for dialect coaching or for recording your lines in an accent.
Skype for Dialect Coaching
Skype is a free online software that allows you to make video calls for free to any other Skype user. In addition, you can call from Skype to phones for a reasonable rate, even for overseas calls, and they've even come up with versions of Skype that work on many smartphones, so the video-calls of the future are happening right now!
I've used Skype video calls to coach individuals on an accent for an audition, and I've been retained to do pre-production dialect coaching for films via Skype. I've helped facilitate auditions via Skype, and I've even auditioned for work via Skype myself. I've yet to coach an entire production from a distance, but I anticipate that this will come in time...
The downside of Skype is that you can still suffer from delays and from poor internet connections. It's still not as good as working with someone in person, but if you have no other option because of where you live or if the market is so expensive that you can't afford a coach there, Skype can be a key element in making the impossible possible.
The upside is that it still allows me to see what an actor is doing and it allows me to physically demonstrate a concept. Adding a visual element when I'm trying to help an actor to understand the drag in the intonation or the mouth position for a specific sound shift can save five minutes of misunderstandings that might happen over the phone.
Skype is becoming more useful for expanding what is available to you. I've worked with a language coach in Colombia as I've been working on my own Spanish speaking. I've done countless dialect recordings with people overseas by calling their phone from Skype and recording the sound onto my computer. It's an amazing tool that's constantly improving.
Pre-Recording Dialogue in an Accent
Only on rare occasions have I recorded an actor's lines for a production that I'm coaching. Generally, accents are not about telling the actor "this is the way to say it" because there are variations within accents that allow for differences from one person to another. Part of that variation can be due to which words the actor chooses to stress. There are also inherent vocal qualities that an actor may bring to a role that may not match my initial instincts.
Oftentimes, however, a recording of the actual lines can be a useful guide for freeing the actor to make choices as they become comfortable with the accent in context. This is part of why I'm currently expanding the AccentHelp downloads to include bonus tracks that teach an accent through an original monologue written specifically for this purpose.
I usually find it helpful to hear a recording of the actor that I'll be recording the lines for or actually speaking wit the actor on the phone for even a couple of minutes. From that, I can usually pick up on the tone they're going for and can bring that into the recordings I make for them. I had actors use this for auditions and for film and theatre productions. Hopefully the recordings don't hem them into the idea that there is only one way to say the line; rather it gives them the confidence to bring their character to life within the accent.
Digital Dialect Coaching
Some people still curse the changes technology has brought about, but technology is also opening up the world. I'm currently reading the book Abundance: The Future Is Better Than You Think. It comes from one of the creators of the X Prize, which resulted in the first privately funded space flights. The book shares insight on the opportunities that technologies offer, especially to those who would otherwise not have those same options.
Dialect coaching via Skype opens up a world of possibilities to actors who previously could only work in isolation. This is especially challenging with first accents, since learning accents is a skill that builds over time. That direct feedback from a dialect coach through Skype can bring certainty to the rehearsal process, allowing an actor the freedom to focus on the acting as the fear is stripped away.