Killer Assumptions

Assumptions are necessary for human survival. For instance, we all assume that gravity will be there to keep us from floating away. (So far so good on that one!) If we were forced to double check every single detail of our lives, we might go mad trying.

Some assumptions however, can be problematic. Below are a few that I run into regularly in my work that I thought you might like to know about. All of these assumptions have cost people time, money and career opportunities. I hope that by listing them here, you’ll be able to avoid this fate!

Some Actors assume that their college actor training program adequately prepared them to use dialects in a professional acting setting.

(This is almost always not the case.)

Some Agents and Managers assume that actors can deliver on the dialect promises listed on their resumes.

(What they aren’t aware of is that the actor may have placed certain dialect skills on their resume because they took dialect classes while in college…(see above) or are otherwise misinformed about their proficiency.)

Some Casting Directors, Agents, Directors and Producers assume that asking an actor for a ‘light’ version of a dialect is doing them a favor because it will be less work for them.

(Bottom line: A dialect is a dialect. The same basic amount of work goes into preparing one for performance.)

Some Directors, Casting Directors,  and Producers assume that acting in a dialect is ‘just talking’ so actors should be able to switch dialects at a moment’s notice.

(The truth is that actors (all actors — even ones with shiny gold statues on their mantels) need time to prepare. It’s the same kind of time actors would need to learn to twirl a gun on their finger, accurately shoot a target, slam their gun into a holster,  jump on a horse and ride bareback across the plain all in a single take while acting their hearts out delivering the film’s climactic dialogue. In my opinion, dialect work is stunt work. It’s stunt work that the actor must do him/herself and it’s stunt work that can’t be faked well using current technology. Only rarely can ADR begin to save an uneven dialect performance, and when it can, the budget takes a hit.)

Some Casting directors, Agents, Directors, and Producers assume that if a person can speak a particular language (Other than English) fluently, then they must also be able to speak and act in English using a dialect influenced by that language.

(Not neccessarily true — They’re related but separate skills.)

Some Actors, Casting Directors, Agents, Directors and Producers assume that certain dialects are ‘easier’ than others.

(In truth, every individual will have their own list of which dialects are more or less difficult for them.)

Some Actors assume that Producers and Directors understand the complexity and demands of acting while using a dialect other than the actor’s own and so will properly support the actor’s process.

(For many reasons (too many to go into within this post) this is sadly, very seldom true. Working actors are often faced with shouldering the burden of performing without proper preparation — even Oscar winning actors attached to potentially Oscar winning screenplays often must push to get the proper prep time and adequate dialect support staff on board.)

Do any of these assumptions look familiar to you? 

Have you ever fallen victim to one of these killer assumptions?

Are there other assumptions about dialect that you’ve encountered you’d like to share?  

I’d love to hear from you on this subject.

Joy to you,

Pamela Vanderway


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