Acting and Accents

By January 28, 2016 July 14th, 2017 Acting, Article, Blog, Classes, Gaby Santinelli

Is The Accent You? Really You?

We all know the camera doesn’t lie. And in terms of acting these days, it also has zero tolerance for anything inauthentic.

And so does the casting director choosing you to move up to the next level of auditioning. They want to see your authentic essence at all times, not some put-on character.

For this reason, the work I do focuses on strengthening the actor’s authentic voice, for both accent work, and in terms of creating a believable character, all emanating from an internalised essence. Not a superficial slapped-on caricature.

So, is the voice you’re using you? The real you? If you close your eyes, and really feel the aural sensations your voice is producing, you’ll know the difference.  When you do an accent, does it feel like the real you you? Record yourself, in your own voice, and then with an accent: do your vocal tone, quality, pitch and placement skip around wildly, between one accent and the other?

Gaby’s Top Tip:  The main area non-Americans slip up on (and an easy way to peg an American Accent rookie), is when someone loses all vocal color, cadence and expression. Women tend to sound like sexy phone operators, and men sound like surfer-cowboy-gangsters, none of whom speak on their real voice. They go “off the voice” to sound deep or sincere, and tend to use “vocal fry” techniques to sound modern.

In the end, though, there are loads of little clues that someone is not a genuine American speaker. All those little clues add up to a casting director’s ear not feeling confident enough to send you up the line to the director, producers and executives.

And unfortunately, a CD “teaching” you an accent, without also working with a trained accent coach, is not going to highlight your particular challenges. Sometimes I hear people say “I’ve been practicing a lot with my CD in the car, and when I order food in a restaurant.” But if you’re practicing the wrong sounds, placement and shape, you’re just reinforcing wrong sounds, placement and shape. Don’t do it!

So it’s especially important to work with a qualified accent coach, who is a native speaker of that accent, to gain proficiency in the accent. That coach will pinpoint your specific set of challenges, how to practice effectively, and help you with your scripts for your auditions and your bookings.

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