"STATELESS": Co-produced/created by Cate Blanchett
Part of my job as the Dialect Coach was coaching Yvonne Strahovski for her leading role as Sofie Werner. Yvonne and I have known each other for 20 years since I was her dialect tutor at drama school so it was an utter joy to work together again.
CHARACTER & DIALECT BACKGROUND
As some background, "Stateless" is based on true stories and Yvonne's character Sofie is inspired by the real-life story of Cornelia Rau. Rau was a German-born citizen and permanent Australian resident from early childhood who suffered . Her story came to the public eye when it was discovered she had been unlawfully detained in a detention centre after discharging herself from an Australian hospital and identifying herself as a German tourist who had lost her passport.
The role of Sofie echoes that story, showing her trying to escape from her struggles with mental health by running away from family and work pressures and the traumas of a cult she became involved with. Sofie is stopped for questioning and passes herself off as a German backpacker named Eva Hoffman who has lost her passport.
In pre-production, we had access to watch an investigation documentary into the detention centre system which featured footage of Rau. Her accent was inconsistent and went in and out of her 'put on German accent' and her real Australian voice, particularly when she became emotional and distressed.
Several people have asked me about Sofie/Eva's accent so this post is to help clarify those interests.
I hope this helps to clarify Yvonne’s dialect as Eva for those curious about it. It was designed both in coaching and performance to echo Sofie Werner’s true state ... that of an Australian woman with a mental illness who has German parents but does not speak the language fluently and has Australian vocal traits creep in when emotional and distressed. These echo the story and footage of Cornelia Rau.
J E N N I F E R W H I T E
In October 2018, I'd just wrapped ADR work on the animated film "Wonder Park" for Paramount Pictures, and I was asked by Goalpost Pictures if I would be the Dialect Coach on their film that was about to shoot in Sydney. As soon as I heard the synopsis, it was a heartfelt YES!
The film was "I Am Woman", directed by Unjoo Moon, and it's the story of Australian singer Helen Reddy.
In 1966, Helen landed in New York with her three-year-old daughter, a suitcase and $230 in her pocket. Within weeks she was broke.
"Jennifer White is the consummate professional in all areas of her work. She approaches her coaching with extreme detail and finesse and has an abundant knowledge of all things dialect coaching. I have known Jennifer for many, many years and absolutely trust her to take on any dialect and relay the information with precision and ease. I have been lucky enough to have both been taught by Jennifer in dialects at drama school at the start of my career and worked with her professionally in the industry, and I highly recommend working with her."
"When I was cast in Clint Eastwood's film "J. Edgar" as a German who'd spent eight years in the Bronx, I knew I'd need a pretty amazing dialect coach to help me pull it off! Jennifer came highly recommended and she did not disappoint. Not only does she make you feel completely at ease, but her attention to detail; her research; her ear for accents; her ability for not only hearing but speaking accents - are all second to none. Could not have done it without her."
"The first thing I do when I land a gig or a screen test is pick up the phone and dial the masterful Jennifer White. Jennifer has a gift, and that gift is genuine love and passion for artists and their lifelong journey discovering their craft. Be it a dialect session or discovering a character's voice, Jennifer brings an infectious joy and humility that cuts right through any self doubt, giving us the tools to be the best we can be ... and believe it!!!! I have grown as a man and as an actor since meeting this incredible woman and am honoured to call her a friend."
"I worked with Jennifer on creating an English accent for my character on 'A Place To Call Home'. I absolutely loved Jennifer's approach, which not only helped me to perfect the dialect, but was key in creating, developing and fully inhabiting the voice of my character. Because of her acting background, and her finely attuned intuition, Jennifer has an ability to organically guide you into the sounds, melody and feel of the dialect, so that it creeps up on you, until you suddenly find that you have it - no effort, no strain, almost by osmosis! I would highly recommend Jennifer and look forward to working with her again."
"I found her to be a very thorough and proficient teacher with a positive and friendly manner. She not only gives clear and constructive information and feedback, but also integrates the dialect with work on the character itself, which I found to be enormously helpful. Feedback from the production team was very positive. They thought the accent was flawless and perfectly suited to the character. As a dialect coach I can't recommend her highly enough, and have already done so to anyone who asks."
"Before working with Jennifer I had little confidence in taking on an accent. Within a few short sessions however, she had demystified the entire process whilst providing positive and supportive guidance every step of the way. This was fundamental. Each tiny step was encouraged. My confidence grew rapidly as we progressed. Jennifer not only assisted me with the accent, but with my character's speech patterns in general which lead to important cultural and thematic discoveries. By the time cameras rolled, I felt so confident in my preparation I barely realised I was employing an accent at all. I was simply "being" - and that is the mark of being prepared by a great coach. Thanks Jennifer!"
Dialect & Voice Coach
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