I have written about nearly every facet of showreel creation over the years, but have written very little about accents. What to do with accents is very difficult for actors – some want to hide their accent, some want to show they can do many accents, and some can’t do any accent apart from their own. In this short article I will do my best to answer these concerns as I focus on the important question, ‘should actors use different accents on their showreels?‘
This is a common question.
It’s a tricky one because, yes, you want to show you can do many different things – you don’t want to miss out on opportunities.
But accents on a showreel can misfire in many different ways.
The camera doesn’t lie. If you’re not 100% spot on with your accent, it will show. If there’s a chance you’ll spend your showreel shoot worried inside your own head saying ‘do I sound right? Is this definitely how New Yorkers say the word ‘coffee’?’ – then you’re not in the moment, you’re not giving your best to the scene.
Even if your accents on the filming day are perfect – you really need to think about what you’re saying to the person watching your material.
If you have three scenes on your showreel and you portray three different accents; English, American and Australian – the person viewing is going to have no idea which one is actually yours – you dilute your chances of being cast in roles using your own natural accent.
If they’re casting an Australian, they’re more likely to trust an actor whose voice is consistent throughout, rather than an English actor who tried to ‘show variety’ by making their third scene Australian.
When we watch showreels, we are looking for clues about who the actor is, how they might be right for our project. If you try too hard with different accents, it won’t feel authentic.
If you absolutely definitely must use an accent different to your own on your reel, approach it cautiously. I think regional accents make sense. For example, if you work mostly in London, but you grew up in Manchester, but your Mum and Dad are from Yorkshire – it’s highly likely you could do those different accents and maybe you might want to explore that in some way.
But if you do a British accent, an American accent and a French accent just because you think it might get you work, I doubt it will have the impact you are hoping for. My personal instinct is that you should focus on your own accent when filming a showreel from scratch. Maybe there are slight variations based on who the character is – but you can show your range through character choices rather than accents.
The only actors I know personally who get consistent work through showing multiple accents are international actors. If you’re Lithuanian, but people always think you’re Polish – and you happen to be fluent in German; maybe it helps you to be able to shape shift into different accents and languages.
But for the majority of actors – the less variation the better. If you absolutely feel you must show you can do a different accent, do it one time – but if you have three or four different accents, you’ll likely miss out on more work than you gain.
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