By Stephanie Ciccarelli
October 26, 2009
Have you seen this video?
A short time ago, I had the opportunity to chat with Amy Walker, the Seattle, Washington-based actress whose "21 Accents" video caught fire on YouTube and other sites.
VOX: Amy, thank you for taking my call today! When did you record the "21 Accents" video?
AMY WALKER: Thank You, Stephanie! I made the video about a year and a half ago.
VOX: There are a number of different accents in your video, and I was wondering why you chose to associate them not with the dialects they represent but with cities of origin. Did you find this to be difficult considering that there can be more than one accent in a given location?
AW: I thought it'd be fun to say I was born here, and then I was born there... keep people guessing. There are as many accents in a city as there are people, so I think of it as: this person could be from this city, rather than that one accent can represent an entire metropolis.
VOX: How did you learn the accents? Did you study them on site in the various places named in the video?
AW: Some of them I've been to: I studied acting and singing at the University of Wollongong in Australia, just south of Sydney. Then I moved to Wellington, NZ. They're all patterned after native speakers, but some I've had to take from films or wherever I could get them.
VOX: Why did you make the video?
AW: Initially, I thought it'd be great to be able to email a link to Casting Directors and say, "By the way, whatever accent the character has, no problem, I can learn it." I wanted it short and catchy. 21 Accents in 2 1/2 minutes had a ring to it.
VOX: But turned viral!
AW: Yeah, Crazy! I didn't even know what that meant at the time. I just woke up one morning to a crammed inbox and a lot of them were from people who'd seen it on Break.com, which I'd never heard of. Some guy posted it there and it got over 400,000 views in 24 hours. Now it's over 3 million on Break. And 2 million on YouTube! Crazy.
VOX: Congrats on the press! What has the response been like to your 21 Accents video?
AW: Tremendous. It comes in waves, but the most gratifying part is when people go from that to my other videos on YouTube. I have songs, monologues, original sketches, some pretty fun random stuff. I've received some really beautiful responses from people who've been inspired or touched by them. And it's great to get work from it, too, and the critical response has been so positive.
VOX: Yes, that's where I saw your video shared again. I had seen it previously but that was a long time ago. When I noticed it again through Facebook, I just knew that I had to look you up and get the inside story!
AW: Fun! I didn't know that it was circulating Facebook.
VOX: With no cuts, you're able to demonstrate your versatility and chameleon capabilities.
AW: Thank you. Yeah, that was the hardest part, the transitions, and doing it all in 1 take. Going from Irish to Scottish or Australian to NZ and back again...
VOX: Which accent would you say was the most difficult for you to master?
AW: The New Zealand accent is hard.
VOX: I agree! It is definitely unique. It's not Australian and isn't one that you'd find completely in line with dialects in the British Isles. Although it sounds at times like a blend of those types of accents, it really does stand alone.
VOX: Have there been any unexpected ways that your video has been of use to people?
AW: Yeah! Especially that teachers have wanted to use it in class, and other videos as well, the Hamlet one. All over the world! Even for ESL in Japan and China, Russia, Canada, colleges and classrooms in NZ, Australia, the US...
VOX: Whereabouts is the video most popular?
AW: I think Google shows the US and the UK, Canada, Australia, NZ, then probably Europe and Japan, then Russia, S. America, S. Africa...
VOX: One of the reasons why I think your video struck a chord is because the theme was so universal. Nearly everyone could relate, whether it was their accent or not, and even if they didn't identify with a particular accent, it got them talking. Any parting words on accents?
AW: We all use different subtleties of accents every day, depending on who we're talking to. We're different with our grandparents than we are with our close friends or with little kids. People want to know what my "real" accent is, or what a person's "really like", but the truth is, we're kaleidoscopic beings. We change constantly. Accents are an aspect of voice, which is an expression of Self, which is always changing and adjusting! It comes from a desire to truly communicate and connect to people as clearly as possible, and when people feel that a person is "like them", they feel understood, comfortable, they connect.
VOX: I heard you are working on a film. Can you tell us a bit more about that?
AW: Absolutely! It's a feature film called Connected, which follows a diverse and disconnected family as they struggle to love each other for who they are, in our new world of instant communication. Everyone in the family has very different ideas about how to use technology to stay in touch. And I agree with all of them! I wrote Connected with the help of my friend Marilee Jolin (Script Advisor).
Hopefully, it'll get people talking and thinking about how the internet and cell phones impact our lives, for better and worse. It's incredible how we're able to connect to people we'll never "meet", from the other side of the world -like we're doing now! But at the same time, it can make us feel more isolated, stuck in our little boxes while the beautiful world flows around us.
The really exciting thing about this film is that it's being funded by dollar donations by 1 million people all over the world at www.ConnectedFilm.com. People are uniting to make a film about Connecting! It's blowing my mind! And we have such a wonderful team working on it.
Amy Walker is an artist of many media. An actress/singer/songwriter since the highchair, she has played key roles in more than 70 theatrical shows and films in both global hemispheres, honing her linguistic skills with over 21 accents at the ready.
As a writer, Amy has created screenplays, short stories, and many memorable characters for YouTube and both incarnations of her one-woman show, Amy Walker: Inside Out.
As a teacher and director, she has tapped the truth in myriad actors and their characters in plays, camps, workshops and private coaching.
She is insatiably interested in the unique juice that fuels the human spirit, and dedicates her life to awakening the full potential within herself and others.
To learn more about Amy Walker, go to AmyWalkerOnline.com.
Looking forward to hearing from you!