This post is the first of what I hope to be a significant number of interviews with people I think you need to meet, and who have valuable and important advice and comments.
I’m starting with Mary C. McKitrick because (as may be true of you), she’s not been at this business for a tremendously long time. And because, while she has a lovely voice (you can listen to her demos here to see what I mean), it’s her approach to the voiceover business I most admire.
My first question for Mary: What was it about doing voiceover work that attracted you?
Mary: When I started out, I saw voiceover as a way to develop an interest in accents that goes way back to childhood. I didnâ€™t know that that is a small part of the average voice actorâ€™s work. My first field research in my previous life as an ornithologist was on song and dialects in birds, so I liked the way the new career could tie into the old. Thanks to very targeted marketing, I get to use and develop accents much more than I could even a few months ago.
My second question for Mary: Were you afraid, as you launched out in this new direction?
Mary: If I was, I donâ€™t remember. When it comes to careers, Iâ€™ve always been very goal-focused and tend not to pay much attention to what the obstacles might be. I mean, I worry, of course, but I hope itâ€™s productive worrying.
My third question: How have your life experiences, professional and otherwise, influenced your approach to voiceover work?
Mary: In a big way! I come from a science background and was a museum curator for years, so Iâ€™ve chosen to specialize in medical narration as well as narration for museum exhibits â€“ along with the character voices and accents which as I mentioned are a long-held interest. Iâ€™ve always loved languages and would like to be able to do voice-over in German, French and Spanish too â€“ weâ€™ll see!
My fourth question: How do you deal with all of the rejection?
Mary: What rejection???
But seriously. I know my voice is not right for every, or even most voice-over jobs. But the people who like it, like it a lot. And they are frequently very interesting people who are a joy to work with. So that, plus the fact that itâ€™s fun, keep me going. When times are slow, I know that before long theyâ€™ll be busy again, because thatâ€™s what has always happened so far.
My fifth question: How do you measure success? Or, how will you know that you’ve “made it” as a voiceover talent?
Mary: I am successful now, because I set out to do voice-over professionally and Iâ€™m doing it. I refine my marketing approach all the time, with increasingly positive results. I would like to be making more money, and doing higher profile gigs, but even the â€œbig guysâ€ worry about where their next gig is coming from. As a VO friend of mine put it, as soon as you switch off the mic, youâ€™re unemployed. I try to do all the stuff I need to do to â€œmake itâ€ in this business, and keep the big picture in sight, but also take it one day at a time so I donâ€™t stress too much.
A follow-up question, prompted by her comment about how she will â€œrefine [her] marketing approach all the timeâ€: Can you be more specific about how you refine your marketing? Not so much the details of what you do, but more how you evaluate what to change, how you filter your results so you know which to pursue and which to leave alone?
Mary: One example is in the wording of the emails I send out. Iâ€™ve refined my introductory emails a lot since starting out nearly 2 years ago â€“ to emphasize my specialties. The first follow-up email has also changed to make it clear what Iâ€™m asking or not asking of the contact. Also I used to contact any production company and any ad agency that did broadcast; now I just focus on my specialties.
My sixth question: Since voiceover work represents a career change for you, do you see this as the likely path for the rest of your life? Or, can you imagine changing directions again?
Mary: I canâ€™t imagine giving up VO, but I can well imagine going in new directions at the same time, since that is actually happening right now. Last summer I had an idea for a documentary and suggested it to a contact of mine who was geographically well situated to develop it. He liked it and suggested we collaborate â€“ this was somebody I had never met and I wasnâ€™t even thinking that I would be involved, it was just an idea I had based on a writing project I was working on a few years ago, and which I offered to him because of his location. The project is one that would require a somewhat elaborate permission process but after many months of working on that, I secured the final permissions last week. So, I am now script-writer and producer for this documentary as well as narrator. Thatâ€™s something I never imagined would happen and Iâ€™m really excited about it and think the subject is one that will be well received. Not saying any more about it right nowâ€¦
Iâ€™m still trying to find more ways for science and education to remain a part of my life, somehow, whether through formal academic teaching or some other avenue. Maybe it will be film-making. I once had a neighbor who was on his third career. Not job â€“ career. All of these had been meaningful and satisfying for him. That really impressed me. Life is short, but for many of us lucky ones it is long enough to enjoy a lot of very interesting experiences. I think itâ€™s important to stay open to that If you have an interest â€“ develop it. You might not ever get to BE an expert on nemertean worms, for example, but maybe youâ€™ll play one on TVïŠ
My thanks to Mary C. McKitrick for taking time out of her busy day to answer these questions. There’s a link to Mary’s main web site above (and to the left, in my Voiceover blogroll). Here is where you can read Mary’s voiceover blog.
(this post has been updated to correct typos)