Casting directors can smell fear, desperation, lying and newbie-ness.
And one of the smelliest places on a resume is the Accents and Dialects area.
I shudder sometimes at what I see (and hear) – so let’s get that area squared away, and your resume nice and spiffy, shall we?
I can always tell when someone really knows their accents and dialects, not only by their obvious performance ability in demos, but simply by the way they describe them.
As an example, if someone says they do a Southern accent, or a New York accent, I’m immediately suspect. There are several broad Southern accents, each with their own particular oddities. And someone from a specific place in the South can tell immediately if you’re a local – or if you’re from some other Southern area. Same thing with the NY metro area.
A Texan from Dallas is going to sound different than someone from Georgia, or someone from the Carolinas.
Likewise, there is not just one Joe Pesci-like New York accent, but rather very clear differences between a Bronx, Brooklyn, and Long Island accent (among many others).
And our goal with accents and dialects is to be able to get as close to native as possible. Not only in performance, but in calling those dialects by accurate names. Believe me, when writers start writing in dialect, they are very specific about what they want.
Luckily, a whip-smart college professor, Robert Delaney from the CW Post Campus of Long Island University, has given us some manageable guidelines, and I suggest that you review his work, see if you’re really capable of being indistinguishable from a local, and then, most importantly, placing these very specific names of dialects on your resume.
[Click on the map to see it full size in a new window]
In addition to city-specific accents (Pittsburgh is a great example, as is the East Los Angeles Latino accent mentioned by Kat Negrete in the comments below), and the completely non-accented General American accent, here is a quick list of the dialects Delaney notes are most common, working our way across the map:
Northern New England
Eastern New England
(Boston) Central City Area
Western New England
New York City
Bonac (Long Island)
San Francisco Urban
Hawaii (not shown)
Louisiana: Cajun French
Louisiana: Cajun English
Louisiana: French Creole
Here’s the full article, called the Dialect Map of American English, on Robert’s site so you can really dig deep.
This is exactly why I exhort you in class to avoid accent reduction, to own your heritage, and use it to your advantage when acting on-camera or on-mic. Obviously, if you’re from a particular area, you’re going to have a distinct advantage in performing that dialect – but if you’re not, be aware that auditioning for dialects you really don’t know that well can be annoying at the least, and red-lining at worst for a VO casting director to endure.
So – ONLY PUT ON YOUR RESUME DIALECTS YOU REALLY KNOW AND PERFORM WELL. And be specific, not general, about those dialects’ names – even if the CD isn’t familiar with them. It gives you something to talk about.
Hope this helps.