Actor Training: Strategic Spending Without Cutting Corners

*Contributed by Accent & Dialect Coach, Paula Vanlandingham

I have been working as a professional dialect coach for 13 years now and have seen a shift in the acting industry regarding expectations on actors, notably in relation to ACCENT ability.

In the “old days,” i.e., pre-Recession Hollywood, studios were flush with cash, able to buy big name stars with big budgets. Streaming entertainment was no competition at that time; they could afford to cast an actor and then “train them up” with a dialect coach for the film, at studio expense.

When the Recession and the rise of streaming media (not to mention a pandemic) really pummeled the entertainment industry, budgets got cut. Dialect coaching support for actors (provided at studio expense) was one of the “luxuries” they cut first, demanding that actors already be “fluent” in order to book the job.

This shifted the expense of dialect & accent training onto the ACTOR, adding to the investment costs of trying to become a professional working artist.

So now, in the present day, an actor may have to invest in acting classes, voice classes, possibly dance or stunt training, and study to become proficient at numerous accents in order to book paid work.

There isn’t a week that goes by that I haven’t been requested to assist an actor with British, Spanish, or Eastern European accents.

When the pandemic pushed the entire audition system into nearly 100% self-tapes, with brutal timelines, not only was the accent demand very high, but this left VERY little time to rehearse and polish an accent for a self-tape.

I communicate to as many actors as possible how important and helpful it is to do accent training AHEAD of auditions, so that they are “ready to go” on short notice. The confidence that comes from being at that level reduces so much anxiety in the rush to tape an audition.  

But of course every actor trying to make ends meet has to map this all out strategically in order to stretch every dollar spent on one’s career.

Memberships in organizations, such as ActorPlaybook, that cluster training offerings under a fee “umbrella” have been one creative way to do this. For example, one-on-one private dialect coaching with me can run $60 per half hour. Not terrible, (considering that coaches in LA or NY may charge double or triple that amount) but it can still add up.

At ActorPlaybook you can attend two 60 minute classes a month AND access the replay library of all past classes. Great for practice and brushing up on specific accents!

For any one accent that is in high demand, it could take 4-6 sessions to get it down perfect (enough to book a job with it).  That could be a few hundred dollars of investment.

But accessing the base “pre-requisite” levels of that training in a group class can help you establish a baseline at far less cost. Combined with access to acting and filming training for one fee, the bargain shouldn’t be overlooked!

I invite you to come play and get your access skills up… never leave money on the table when this could open doors to more work!!

About Paula:

Paula studied acting at the University of Missouri, then at the Lee Strasberg Institute of New York.
She was trained in language acquisition methods by the Berlitz Institute in Rockefeller Center and has a Master’s degree in linguistic anthropology. Paula teaches 50 accents and speaks Spanish, German, Bosnian, Russian, French (plus a little Italian, Japanese and Arabic). 

She teaches bi-weekly at ActorPlaybook. Become a Studio Member and train with Paula today!

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