In part one of my interview with dialect coach Pamela Vanderway, she shared her background and her path to becoming a dialect coach, is there a difference between dialect and accent, and what level of determination is necessary to learn a dialect. Here in part 2, we’ll hear more about the dialect acquisition process, her dream clients, and what gets her up in the morning.
I have referred to you as a “fountain of ideas.” What drives you and inspires you?
What drives me and inspires me? I’ve got to say that would be two things– curiosity and the tick-tick-ticking of the clock! This world is so full of fascinating things, ideas and experiences, yet in our lifetimes each of us is given so little time to explore. I realize that no one of us will get to learn everything there is to learn on Earth, but if I have my way I’m certainly going to die trying!
Is there an actor or public speaker you would love to work with?
In the category of high-profile actors I haven’t collaborated with yet but who would be good matches for my teaching style, Jackie Chan and Steve Martin top the list. Why Chan and Martin? Because these two actors are detail oriented, have an incredible work ethic and already possess excellent body awareness. Add to that the fact that neither is known for their dialect work — yet– and you have a challenge that I would take on in a heartbeat.
Give me a general idea of what a working session with you would be like
That’s a tough one, as every situation is a little bit different. I can start by saying that I work with new clients for a minimum of 12 1-hour sessions. I also offer ‘shadowing’ where I am available to the client every single day, up to 10 hours a day for anywhere from a few days to a month or more. I realize this is not the norm for most dialect coaches, but I want to guarantee that the actor has what they need to absolutely succeed in the illusion they are attempting. For clients I have a longstanding relationship with on the other hand, I routinely do individual one hour sessions — usually to brush up on a particular skill, or to coach them on particular text. In any given dialect session, a client and I might be working at a table listening, analyzing and practicing sound samples, or looking in a mirror to get visual feedback about how we are creating certain sounds, or then again we might be running around the room throwing soft pillows that are sewn in the shapes of the International Phonetic Alphabet. Yes, you read that right. Pillows. Shaped like phonetic symbols. I know it sounds a little ‘out there’, but used properly these lighthearted tools can really speed an actor’s learning.
Do you have a success story with an actor you feel defines and validates what you do?
I have been very fortunate to work with some wonderful actors so far in my journey. The kind of clients I tend to attract are focused, imaginative explorers who continually work to improve their craft so for me every single one of my clients has not only contributed to validating my work, each of them has taught me something in return.
I want to thank Pamela for taking the time out of her busy schedule to answer these questions and share a bit about her vision and her work. Follow her on Twitter and check out the Dialect 411 website and blog for more about dialect acquisition and how to treat your voice.