Writer, actor and voice/dialect coach Kristina Reiersgard was in Savannah to produce a new independent film. To find extra work, she posted her credentials on the Savannah Regional Film Commission website and shortly thereafter was hired as a dialect coach for the limited series “The Underground Railroad.”
“I came to Savannah at just the right time,” says Kristina. “When I arrived, the city was exploding with productions and opportunities to work in the film industry. I was amazed by the number of shows in production.”
Kristina says working on the film was an incredible experience. For “The Underground Railroad,” Kristina needed to first teach herself an American Southern accent from the 1800s. She did this by listening to recordings from the 1940s of former slaves. She also used a speech and accent archive that catalogues dialects from around the world. Kristina then worked with the actors a few weeks before shooting and during production, including lead actress Thuso Mbedu who picked up the accent easily, Kristina says.
Kristina enjoys teaching the technical aspects of an accent but finds her inspiration in helping the performer “breathe through the accent.” She says an accent can overly control and limit a performance and through her work she tries to help them find freedom in their performance with an accent.
Originally from Seattle, Kristina’s family moved to Saudi Arabia when she was a child. Her family traveled across Asia, Africa and Europe during her family’s time in the Middle East. During these travels, Kristina picked up an ear for languages and accents.
It was her love for the sound of spoken language and her interest in acting that inspired her to earn an MA in Voice Studies from the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama in London after getting her bachelor’s degree in drama and speech pathology. Kristina says she wanted a marketable degree that would help her always find a job in the film and TV industry.
The degree has paid off. Kristina has been able to easily find clients for her private practice and plans to stay in Georgia. She says she loves the people here and finds Georgia to be a special place.
“Georgia is lovely, both the place and the people. Georgians have welcomed the film industry with open arms,” says Kristina. “You can feel their excitement for this industry. After living an itinerant life, I hope to stay for a long time.”