Wild View Wins Four Emmys

Posted in documentary narration, Emmy Awards on June 2nd, 2011 by Mary — 4 Comments
narrator and filmmaker of Emmy award-winning documentary Wild View

Wild View narrator Mary McKitrick with filmmaker Christian Munoz Donoso

 

On 14 May 2011 the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences New England chapter awarded four Emmys to Wild View, a documentary on New England natural history produced by Christian Munoz Donoso of Equilibrio Films and narrated by me.  The categories were Director/Post Production, Music Composition/Arrangement, Photographer-Program (Non-News), and Audio.

There are currently no award categories for voice-over/narration, so this is as close as I get!  I was thrilled to be a part of this project.  Wild View is beautifully filmed and I’m sure it will succeed in its goal of opening people’s eyes to the stunning natural history that is here in our own back yards.

Claim Your Google Local Business Center Listing

Posted in voice-over business, voice-over marketing on September 28th, 2010 by Mary — 4 Comments

Google places

Like Google Analytics (except totally different), a Google Local Business listing is a free tool you shouldn’t be doing without. 

When you search on Google for a product or type of business and add a location to your search, you’ll notice among the first listed are the “local business results” with a map showing the location of each.  In order to show up in that list, you must claim your Google local business listing.  That was how this tool was first presented to me – as something you need to “claim”, so that some unscrupulous competitor doesn’t grab your listing first and fill it with misleading information.  I’m not sure how that would happen, unless they gave an erroneous address, because Google needs to mail a postcard to you to complete the verification process.

 Using local business listings on Google and other search engines will make your business that much more accessible to anyone in your area that needs your services – and you’ll probably find that even place names that are farther away than the immediate vicinity will bring up your listing in a search.  Mine comes up even for towns 40 miles away.  Although your business may offer services that can be delivered anywhere in the world, such as web design or voiceover, many people like to hire local, so don’t neglect the opportunity to increase your access to those potential clients.

 For a convenient portal to the business listing registration process for other search engines, visit getlisted.org.

I Love Digikey

Posted in voice-over business, wonderful vendors on September 26th, 2010 by Mary — 2 Comments

The first time I called Digikey, purveyor of electronic components, it was to place an order for a little switch for our microwave oven.  You could have knocked me over with a feather when, after one ring, a guy out in Minnesota picked up the phone.  This fellow came complete with a Minnesota accent and a sense of humor.  He knew his merchandise too.  I was hooked, and was only sorry I didn’t need electronic stuff more often.

 Last week I needed some capacitors for my dead computer monitor and was delighted to discover what I needed at Digikey for 67 cents apiece.  Unfortunately it was late at night and that guy out in Minnesota was undoubtedly sound asleep, so I had to order without him, through their website.  That was easy enough, but I hope that next time I need something it will be during business hours so I can talk to that nice guy again (actually for all I know I could call at any hour but I really don’t want to risk waking him). 

When my capacitors arrived, I discovered another reason to love Digikey: the merchandise arrived in a slender box that was no bigger than it needed to be, and the packing material was this amazing piece of paper that seriously looks like snakeskin.  It has these elongated holes, which makes it all stretchy, and …. Oh heck.  I’m going to have to take a picture of it because there’s no way I can describe it adequately. 

Okay here it is:

Cool snakeskin paper from Digikey

Cool snakeskin paper from Digikey

It is obviously totally recyclable, which is a beautiful thing.

 So thank-you Digikey, for being an environmentally responsible company with wicked good merchandise that is reasonably priced and easily accessible with or without the help of wonderful people with Minnesota accents.  I will come back to you as often as I can.

 Love,

 Mary

 p.s. that computer monitor is up and running again.  2 capacitors at 67 cents each plus shipping and a bit of time and I’m back in business.  I thank you for that too, and my voiceover business thanks you as well.

You ARE using Google Analytics, right?

Posted in voice talent, voice-over marketing on September 23rd, 2010 by Mary — 3 Comments

If you’re a business owner who cares about getting new customers, you probably would like to know where the customers are coming from and how they find you.  A free tool that shows you that information and that helps you set goals and see how well you’re achieving them should be a tool in your entrepreneurial arsonal.  Google Analytics is that tool.  Of course, if you ever want to set up an Ad Words campaign, GA is your portal. 

All you need to start putting Google Analytics to work for you is the ability to put its code on the web pages you want to study.  If you are your own webmaster that’s a cinch.  If you aren’t, chances are your webmaster has already set up GA for you.  Within a day of adding the code, you should have interesting statistics to look at, such as the urls of the sites by which people are coming to your site, the geographic region they are in, the key words they’re searching to find you.  If one of your goals is to get people to visit your voice-over demo page, for example, you can easily set that up.  If you’re wondering if “female voice talent” is a search term that’s bringing people to your site, you can see how many hits your site is getting via that term.  You can see which search engines are bringing people in.  You can see how many visitors you get over any period of time. You can export data to a spreadsheet if you want to perform additional analyses or just save it for easy reference. 

 I’m always performing tweaks of various kinds on my site, trying to make it easier for search engines to find me and trying to make it easier for visitors once they’ve arrived.  Google Analytics helps me do that, as it gives me ideas about how people are finding me, what they do when they’re on the site and how much time they spend on each page.  You can get very sophisticated with this tool, or you can just spend a minute or two every day looking at the basic information.  Either way, you’re ahead.  So, you are using it, right?

Unclutter your space, unclutter your spirit

Posted in productivity, voice-over on September 15th, 2010 by Mary — Be the first to comment!

My treasured voice-over coach, Marice Tobias, has pointed out many times that whatever is going on in your life, you bring it with you into the voice-over booth.  You need to resolve it somehow, whether it’s by making an appointment with yourself to address it later and then putting it out of your mind until then, or by dealing with it up front.  I’ve observed this many times in myself and have various ways of resolving it.  For example, for some reason my confidence can be boosted with a change of footwear.  Many of my colleagues are proud that they can work in their pajamas, which is a sort of metaphor for the gratitude they feel about being able to work at home.  I could never work in pajamas, because I’m not able to feel professional unless I’m properly dressed with my shoes tied.  If I don’t feel professional, I won’t be able to do my best work in the recording booth.

 One of the things that most interferes with my work is clutter.  I abhor unnecessary stuff, and I dread Christmas for that reason.  For me the best gifts are ones that can be eaten (especially dark chocolate!) and that don’t come packed in plastic and styrofoam.  We have at least reduced the gift wrap component of the holiday mess by making enough festive cloth gift bags that we don’t have to use paper anymore. My battle against clutter is relentless and is made all the more challenging because certain members of my family are packrats and are unable to keep their accumulations organized.  If you can’t find it, you can’t use it, and if you can’t use it, you shouldn’t have it.  Right?

 Lately, I’ve kicked the battle into high gear because we’re renovating our basement and turning a large multi-purpose space into a rec room/music room.  The less stuff that room has, the easier it will be to do the remodel.  Some of the things I’ve done so far: 1) gone through all my four file cabinets, which have retained a lot of stuff from my days as a biologist, weeded out the things that are uninteresting and unnecessary and thereby emptied out an entire file cabinet, which is now posted for sale on Craigslist.  2) gone through the bookcase and weeded out books and notebooks (I don’t need the originals of all my drawings of bird muscles, for example, since the drawings are all published anyway).  Partly used spiral notebooks have been thinned and freecycled.  3) Unused furniture has been sold or freecycled.  4) knick-knacks of all kinds have been given away.

 I’ve gone around my house trying to really see each part of each room.  If something has been sitting around for a long time, you tend to stop seeing it.  And chances are that if you’ve stopped seeing it, it doesn’t have a place in your life and you should let somebody have it who could use it.  Goodwill, Freecycle and Craigslist have become good friends of mine.  An extraordinary amount of stuff has left my house in the last few weeks, most of it not as trash but as useful new parts of somebody else’s life.  And the less there is in my house, the easier it is to maintain order in what’s left, and the more likely it is that’s what’s left will be seen, valued, and used.

 My recording space has benefited from the new order as well.  I had some stuff stored in there that I was planning to get rid of.  That’s now gone.  I had some squares of acoustic foam that a friend had given me, which were stacked on the floor in there.  That has now been put on the walls where it belongs.  The space is now uncluttered and inviting, so of course I feel much better when I’m in there.  It feels like a place where a professional voice artist – ME – belongs.  My office space is also uncluttered, so I’m happy to be there, doing the work that needs to be done.  When my space is uncluttered, I feel that my mind is as well.  I think more clearly and I do better work.

 In addition to these spiritual benefits of reducing the amount of stuff that demands attention from the eye and the mind, I also feel that there is a financial benefit.  If you can’t find something you need, then you will go out and buy it again.  That’s nutty if there is actually already one of these things hiding in the chaos.  Furthermore, if you have reduced your accumulations and are enjoying the benefits, you’re more likely to keep new purchases to a minimum.

 If reducing clutter is one of your goals, and you need a little guidance, I highly recommend It’s All Too Much: An Easy Plan for Living a Richer Life with Less Stuff, by Peter Walsh.  Although I’ve always had a tendency to get rid of things, this book helped me approach the task a little more thoughtfully.  Oh, and I got the book out of the library, since I don’t like to acquire books either.

 If you’ve been through this process yourself, or are going through it now, I’d love to hear about your experiences.

The secret to successful marketing for independent professionals

Posted in marketing, voice-over marketing on September 7th, 2010 by Mary — Be the first to comment!

That’s an eye-catcher, isn’t it?  This tip came to me this morning via email from C. J. Hayden of Get Clients Now.  One of the things I like about C. J. Hayden’s e-newsletter is that it comes infrequently enough that I actually start wondering when I’m going to get one.  And when it does come, it’s full of very sensible stuff that brings me back to Earth and makes me feel like successful marketing really is attainable.  Whether you’re in business as a voice-over talent or in any other field, you’ll find something of value there. 

Today’s newsletter can be summed up in this pithy concluding passage:

“The secret to successful marketing for independent professionals is choosing a set of simple, effective things to do, and doing them consistently. The secret behind this secret is finding ways to make the process easier. And the secret behind THAT secret is to stop looking for another secret and get to work on implementing the first one.”

Avian bloopers: My Cousin Vinny

Posted in avian bloopers, bird song, birds on August 27th, 2010 by Mary — 2 Comments
Last night I was in the middle of a complicated dream when I was awakened by one of my favorite voices, that of the Eastern Screech Owl (Otus/Megascops asio).  It’s a beautiful, haunting call, thrilling to wake up to, even if it means never knowing the ending of your dream.

 The people responsible for sound tracks in films do not always give this small owl proper voice-over credit.  A serious blooper of this kind occurred in My Cousin Vinny.  Vinny had been sleep deprived ever since his arrival down South, where the noises of the small Alabama town would not let him get a good night’s rest.  Finally a stay in a woodland cabin offered the potential for a peaceful 8 hours, until the piercing voice of a screech owl made Vinny jump awake in wide-eyed consternation.

 Except the voice we hear in the film is not that of a screech owl.  It’s a barn owl!  The owl in the film was induced to open its mouth with bits of beef, and the voice was dubbed in later.  Apparently the sound editors just went to their collection of owl noises, found one that sounded screechy and threw it in.  

You can see the film clip in question here, listen to a screech owl here and a barn owl here.

Live video chat this Sunday with the voice of Goofy

Posted in cartoon voice-over, video chat on August 18th, 2010 by Mary — Be the first to comment!

Kevin Delaney writes that he will be hosting a free, live video chat with Bill Farmer, the voice of Disney’s Goofy, this Sunday 28 August 2010.  It’s at 7 pm Pacific time (10 pm Eastern).

For details and to RSVP, go to voninja.com.

Thanks Kevin!

The Social Contract

Posted in networking, social media on July 29th, 2010 by Mary — 5 Comments

I’m not terribly social media-savvy and find all the talk about it exhausting.  I do try to keep up on at least the basics, along with the related gadgetry, but I feel like I’m drowning when I ignore Mashable for a couple of days and all of a sudden I have nearly 200 articles piled up in my feed reader.  Is it that I don’t have a staff whose job it is to be experts?  Can I use that as an excuse, please? But even if I’m ignorant, I can still have thoughts about it, and I might as well unload them on the internet, so here goes.

 I like Facebook, and the more I use it the more I like it.  It’s remarkable that it can serve so many different needs, both personal and business.  I’ve had an account for several years but just recently added a couple of business pages – one for my voiceover business and one for the karate school where I’m both a student and an instructor.  There are a few features Facebook lacks that I hope we’ll see in the near future.  One is that there is currently no way to post to other business pages using the name of one’s own business page, unless one opens a different Facebook account using that name.  Another is that when somebody posts something on your business page, there is no notification of that activity.  You just have to keep checking to make sure you’re staying on top of things and fulfilling your obligations which, in my mind, include responding when somebody comments.

 Most of the shortcomings of Facebook and other social media platforms, however, at least for business purposes, are actually those of the users and not the platform. I’ve “liked” the pages of many businesses related to my field, and when I see an update that interests me and I have something of substance to say about it, I leave a comment.  Ideally, the page administrator would respond and there would be a conversation of sorts – an interaction – which can help to start or enhance a business relationship.  Some of the page administrators get that, and it’s pleasant and satisfying.  It can be as simple as “liking” my comment.  Just a little acknowledgement that, yes, you matter to me.  Many other administrators don’t get it, and their pages are a one-way street, potentially kinetic but in fact, essentially static.   Maybe, after all, it’s a question of just not being able to keep up.  There is so much information coming at all of us – everybody is trying to stay up to date, AND get noticed, but they have so many Friends or Fans or whatever and nobody really has time to pay attention to anybody else.

 So, let me know if I’m missing the point.  I promise I’ll respond to you 🙂  By the way Daniel Koontz has a swell post about blogging and commenting over at Casual Kitchen.  Check it out.

Giving your work away

Earlier in the Holocene Epoch, when I made my living as a biologist, I didn’t get many opportunities to give back to the community using my vocational skills.  I can’t remember a single time I was asked to do a free bird dissection or donate a phylogenetic analysis to charity.  As a voice talent it’s a much more common occurrence to get requests for pro bono work.

The last time I was asked, I was happy to agree.  A local alum of my alma mater asked if I could narrate a promotional video for Junior Achievement of Western Massachusetts. I certainly didn’t expect anything in return, except maybe lunch (and when you talk to yourself in a padded cell for a living, getting out to have lunch with a friend is a pretty great incentive). As it turns out, the producer on the JAWM project, who was also working pro bono, kept my contact information and called me for a well-paying job just a couple of months later.  It looks like we will have more opportunities to work together as well. Nice.