Readers’ Choice for Favorite Dialect Coach: Pamela Vanderway
Finding a dialect coach to meet certain requirements lies almost entirely in the questions one asks before working with them, says Readers’ Choice winner Pamela Vanderway. The accomplished dialect coach has worked both in film and TV as well as founded dialectcoaches.com—a site designed to pair projects with the best coach possible.
“You shouldn’t judge a dialect coach by their website, and you shouldn’t judge a coach by YouTube videos,” she advises. “If someone recommends them, ask your friend as many questions as you can about that person…. You’re looking for someone who not only has the skills necessary to perform a specific dialect but has the experience to help an actor do so without stepping on their process.”
Any good coach will ask questions in return because to best teach a student, a clear and thorough knowledge of the project and their preferences is necessary for all parties involved.
In addition to the insight through her own coaching, Vanderway gained additional experience while vetting and recruiting dialect experts for her website. She knows what she’s looking for and has developed a series of over 40 interview questions to better understand coaching technique; she also watches prospective coaches interact with students firsthand.
“Dialect coaching is an interesting craft in that usually no one has observed [a coach’s] work except for the actor they’re working with,” Vanderway points out before noting that many coaches land jobs based on word of mouth rather than merit. “How people find their coaches for projects is mostly asking people, ‘Do you know a dialect coach?’ And the causal nature of that transaction has caused wonderful projects to have shortcomings in the area of dialect; it’s no one’s fault, but it’s a tradition that’s lacking.”
That said, Vanderway admits that matching a qualified coach to specific actors and productions is a challenge, as many on both sides of the camera don’t know what’s needed.
“[A good dialect coach is] a combination of specific education and experience,” she says. “We’re not magicians and there’s not a single one of us that has every skill to do with all accents, voices, and linguistics.” But Vanderway’s vast experience can put actors with professionals who have the traits for whichever project has come down the pipeline.
“You need a coach who’s fluent in German and in Spanish, and you need them this week? I probably have their number.”
Check out interviews with all of the 2015 Readers’ Choice winners, coming to you throughout the week!