Fake accents wins an award

What does The Matrix have to do with winning an award? Well, International law student Jamie Brown won the best speaker award at a competition on international humanitarian law in Portugal by pretending he was Agent Smith.

There were 150 participants in the Jean Pictet competition in Sintra, Portugal. Forty universities from across the world competed in the debating contest on humanitarian law. Therefore, the fact that Jamie Brown won one of the three best speaker awards is a big deal. His strong point? He’s an actor!

Why do you think you stood out?

‘I have done a lot of acting and improv comedy for the group Stranger Things Have Happened. They teach you how to adopt an appropriate role in all sorts of different situations. You can’t show the emotions that somebody would actually be feeling during a war, so I created a slightly alternative role.’

What is important in such a competition?

‘Winning the individual award didn’t hide the fact that we were always a team. Betina Bogdanoxa, Sake Padt and I had a lot of fun and practised teamwork by, for example, pretending to be pirate captains negotiating over treasure.’

Pretend to be Russians

What was the best role that you had to play during the competition?

‘At one point we had to interrogate a detained suspect and pretend to be Russians. We wore military camouflage trousers and black T-shirts and spoke with fake Russian accents. It was very funny. When we were role-playing as the security division of the military, we acted like Agent Smith of The Matrix, speaking slowly and with great authority, even if what we were saying wasn’t important.’

How do you keep a cool head in such a tough competition?

‘Film characters really helped to put my mind at ease. I kept thinking about being a charismatic courtroom lawyer, like Tom Cruise in A Few Good Men or Matthew McConaughey in A Time to Kill.

What is the most difficult thing about such a competition?

‘You have to be very careful about the words you use. If you get one word wrong when you’re talking about whether or not someone is going to be shot, that could have very serious consequences. Luckily our coach, Dr Panos Merkouris, is very strict about the right terminology.’

Mirror their actions

Do you use any unusual techniques in your performances?

‘I sometimes apply the “communication accommodation theory” – that is adapting your mannerisms to the person you are talking to, so that they will start to agree with you more. There was a judge from the US Air Force Academy, so I tried to sound more American. I also mirrored his actions slightly as a way of subconsciously building up a relationship.’

Do you have any tips for other law students?

‘Never be afraid to be ridiculous. Don’t be too concerned that people might judge you negatively. Focus on getting others to appreciate what you’re doing right instead.’

What is so special about law for you?

‘Law can very frustrating because it often doesn’t work. However, law is the consequence of what has happened in all our lives. It is the manifestation of the lessons we have learned and improves human interaction. Law is the civilizer of humanity. Your chance of being murdered or dying in a war right now is the lowest in history thanks, in part, to law and our justice system.’