Clifford Despenser - Voice and Dialect Coach

recent activities

Filming Emperor
2014 Tyrant (TV Series)
2014 Hercules
2013 47 Ronin
2013 Spies of Warsaw (TV Series)

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June-September 2011: The Borgias: Season Two...filming in Budapest

January-April 2011: 47 Ronin...filming In Budapest and at Shepperton Studios

August-October 2010: X Men: First Class...filming at Pinewood Studios

January-April 2010: The Devil's Double...filming in Malta

April-August 2009: Clash of the Titans... filming in London, Wales and Tenerife

March-June 2008: Ninja Assassin... filming in Berlin

September-November 2007: The International.....filming Istanbul, Berlin, Milan, New York.

May-September 2007: Speed Racer...based on the 60s Japanese animation - filming in Berlin.

Feb-May 2007: The Dark is Rising...based on the book by Susan Cooper - filming in Romania.

Jan-Feb 2007: Arn - A Knight Templar...Back in Morocco for the first time since The Four Feathers in 2000. This is an adaptation of the Swedish trilogy by Jan Guillou.


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Clifford Despenser - Voice and Dialect Coach

What I Do

Depending on the specific job, which may range from a single two-hour session with an actor to prepare them for a role, to several months in studio or on location working with a large cast perhaps on several different accents or languages, I may appear in the credits as any one of the following: Voice or Speech Coach, Dialect or Accent Coach, Language (or French or German) Coach or Dialogue Coach. Different countries have different conventions for crew listing.

Voice or Speech: usually refers either to work with actors on a stage play or where the role has unusual vocal demands on the actor, requiring stronger or more demanding delivery than he is accustomed to, or perhaps some kind of characterisation involving age, physical illness, gender change or acute mental state …for some, this would be an extension of what happens at drama school, or a steep learning curve for actors used only to television studios. It could also mean coaching a newcomer to acting. Anything involving singing, which I also do, would normally be described as Vocal or Singing Coach.

Dialect or Accent: refers to the many ways the English language is spoken and pronounced in different parts of the UK and the rest of the English-speaking world (eg USA, Canada, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, India, the West Indies…). It also includes any ‘’period’’ or foreign accent. Sometimes, for example, a German actor will be cast to play a Pole or Serb, or a French actor a Spaniard, and so must learn a different accent in English! A well-known French actor works a great deal in American films, but speaking English like a native, has often to assume a French accent which is not natural to him!!

Language Coach: can sometimes be referred to as Dialogue Coach, depending what language the film dialogue is in and whether the actors are native speakers. When I was working in Paris coaching French actors in English or American films, I was known as a Dialogue Coach (there is no other category in France); in the UK, when I coach an American actor to speak lines in German, or a British actor to speak Italian, I may be called a Language (or, specifically, French, German or Italian) Coach unless I am also coaching other accents on the film. There is a big difference for an actor between learning to say a few words in a foreign language which his character is not supposed to speak perfectly, and performing a lead role in a foreign language, possibly to be dubbed later by a native-speaking actor, possibly not! This happens in many multi-national co-productions, and TV commercials. Here, what is known as lip-synchronisation is more important for future dubbing, than the actual sounds an actor makes. For an actor to be able to re-voice himself later, he needs to aim for accuracy. When the actor is working into English from a foreign language, then my job may be termed:

Dialogue Coach: the goal here is to improve the actor’s fluency and pronunciation in English, making sure also that any ad libs are consistent with the period and style of the dialogue. It is not unusual for me to be the only native English-speaker on a set! The accent known in Dialect circles as Received Pronunciation (RP), or BBC or neutral English (as described phonetically in a dictionary), is not native to most people in the UK, but it is the accent used by upper class and most upper middle class people in this country and is considered to be the ‘’correct’’ way to speak English especially in any film set in a period context where perhaps the original language was other than English. Hence, actors who do not normally speak RP but are playing members of the professions or gentry, or historical personages, will often be required to modify their accents towards a more standard or ''prestige'' form in order to match the social register of their character.

In the last year alone, I have coached French, Czech, Hungarian, Dutch, Japanese, Polish, Russian and Chinese actors into English, English actors into French language and accent, American and Canadian actors into French, German and Spanish language and British RP, British actors into General American, contemporary RP and ‘’posh’’ RP from the 1950s, Cockney, Italian, German, Arabic and Danish accents, and an RP-speaking Anglo-Indian actor into French language with a Hindi accent!!!

When it comes to accent coaching, my job is to listen to the actor’s attempt and compare it with my inner voice; just like a singing teacher or violin teacher – there is an ideal sound in the tutor’s head, which it is his job to elicit, eventually, from the student, by dint of careful description and practice. The tutor leads by example, but not too much so as to intimidate. The phonetic alphabet can be a great teaching tool for those familiar with it, especially where distinctions between two sounds are proving difficult to discern. When it comes to RP, I will gladly record myself reading the lines. When it involves a foreign language or accent, or regional accent of English, or a more advanced or conservative variant of RP, then I feel a recording by a native speaker is preferable, so that we do not get the inevitable loss of accuracy with a copy of a copy. I have a wide and much-used network of language and accent contacts for most of the jobs that come my way. Restaurants and building sites are great sources for accents!