George Katt,recently asked a question on facebook that sparked a very informative discussion. George works with a fantastic acting group in NYC called The Indies Lab and has a pretty solid film and stage resume. You can check out the trailer for his upcoming film "Conquering the Rose" here:
George asked his facebook pals for some great resources pertaining to accents. Actors love to use them, but using them incorrectly can really destroy your performance. A few of the responses were VERY helpful and ideas I hadn't really though about.
My contribution to the discussion was to recommend the program "Accents and Dialects for Stage and Screen" by Paul Meier. It's part book/part 12 CD set that walks you through all kinds of accents, but it prices for about $100 on amazon. Definitely not the cheap route.
Mutual actor pal Holt Boggs, star of the first movie on my film a day series "The Prodigy", who is currently in development on a new project "The Wicked Garden" suggested using youtube videos of people speaking with real accents. This shaves a LOT of money off of your training and it helps you to focus on REAL accents vs. copying what you see on TV and movies (which are sometimes horrid to anyone in the know). You get to copy the real deal and focus on inflection, plus you even get some phrases and slang out of the deal.
Joseph Bartolotta. He suggested using a book by Jerry Blunt entitled "Stage Dialects". Joseph points out that learning the exaggerated accents and dialects is easier to leap into and that once you have down the more stereotypical speech, you can rein in the over-the-top nature to something more real.
Exploring this from all angles, you could use the program I suggested in conjunction with Blunt's books and then use the youtube avenue to help you bring out the "real" in the accent. On a shoestring budget, skip the CD program and just grab the book OR for tighter purse strings, surf youtube. Notice that NO ONE suggested copying films (though foreign films might work).