- Shaun Baines
Liz Drury, Voice Over Artist
Liz is one of those people who has done so much in so little time, it makes you want to up your game. She is a Renaissance woman, carving three different careers in one lifetime. Most of us would be happy with one. Liz excels as a voice-over artist.
I'm so pleased she let me bother her with some questions.
Before we get to your work as a voice-over artist, you're also a doctor in Archaeological Science. Can you tell us what got you interested in 'prehistoric chewing gum’?
The title of my thesis was ‘Characterisation of Natural Products from the Mesolithic of Northern Europe’. In plain speak I chemically analysed things like tars and resins that had been used as glues and waterproofing materials 5,000 - 10,000 years ago in Scandinavia (where they have boggy sites that preserve this sort of material). During the course of my research I came across references to prehistoric ‘chewing gums.' Why were people chewing this stuff?!
It lead to me writing an article about prehistoric chewing gum for the magazine ‘British Archaeology’ which in turn lead to my being in demand by the press for a couple of weeks because it captured the public imagination too. My work was reported on the front pages of The Times and the Telegraph (it even merited one of those cartoons usually reserved for political witticisms) , I was interviewed on radio 1, radio 4, radio 5, and countless regional stations, plus foreign stations (I did an early morning interview with a station in South Africa), and I was the first person in the history of the university (Bradford) to be mentioned in the Chinese press! Must have been a slow news week…. Anyway, the upshot was that I spent a lot of time in the university PR department, recording interviews in their ISDN studio, and I got to know the staff quite well. I was asked to write for university publications, and represented the university at the Tomorrow’s World Live exhibition. All of this sparked my interest in the media. From there you worked in television as a presenter. What sort of things did you cover? I worked for a local cable TV channel and I presented a magazine programme called Community Express which went out live twice a week. I would interview guests in the studio, and then during the rest of the week we would go out and about in North and North East Lincs filming video inserts for the show. It was a community programme so we tried to show the good things that were happening locally and I would visit all sorts of community groups to report on what they were doing. I would also interview the local MPs (Austin ‘Haddock’ Mitchell and Shona McIsaac at the time), representatives from the council, schools, charities etc. My most famous interviewee was Patricia Hodge, and one of my favourite interviews was with the crew of the in-shore Humber lifeboat - out in the middle of the Humber while they did a man-overboard exercise! How did you become a voice-over artist? I did some voiceover work during my time at Channel Seven, but I never had any formal training in it. At the end of 2011 my husband’s job was re-located temporarily to the USA and we moved to Maryland for two and a half years. My husband was at work all day, my kids were at school, so I had a choice - I could either sit at home and be bored and miserable, or get out and find something to do! The kind of visa I had meant that I wasn’t able to work initially - I had to live there for a while before I could apply for a work permit. So, I enrolled at the Community College of Baltimore County and I took acting courses and singing lessons which I absolutely loved. I also signed up for an evening class called ‘Acting for the Camera’ as I was excited by the thought of being in front of a camera again!
Only 4 people signed up for this course, so the tutor asked us to tell her what we were interested in. She put me in touch with a friend of hers who runs a recording studio. He produces a lot of corporate work - e-learning and that kind of thing, and sometimes he needs British accents. I did a couple of jobs for him (indeed I still work for him sometimes and I’m in the middle of a job for him right now!). She also told me about some websites for freelance voiceover artists where you can have a profile and clients will post jobs - I signed up to a couple and began to get a bit of work. I realised that I would only get more and better work if I had a professionally produced demo - not something I could do for myself. I looked for a company to produce my demos and came across Edge Studio, a very well respected trainer of voiceover artists. They are based largely in New York, but have a satellite studio in Washington DC which was about 40 minutes from where I was living. What I really liked about them was they assess everyone first before they decide whether it’s worth your money and their time to train you. There are plenty of people who will take your money and leave you with a poor quality demo, but I didn’t find a single bad review about these guys. I spent about 6 months training with Edge’s coaches - in person with those in DC, and via Skype with those in New York, and at the end of this time I recorded three showreels - a commercial demo, a narration demo and an audiobook demo. Can you tell us who you've worked for in this capacity? Some of the well-known brands that have used my voice include Bulgari, Prada, Audi, BMW, VW, Hilton Garden Inn, Holiday Inn Express, Kwik Fit, and Hampton Inn. I’ve worked with multinational firms such as Roche and Accenture, and many smaller national, regional and local companies. How can your services as a voice-over artist help other businesses?
I can make them sound amazing! I provide voiceover for: Corporate videos - this could be to go on their website, or to take to an exhibition, or used as part of a pitch or presentation Animated explainer videos for company websites explaining businesses' products or services Voicemail prompts and on-hold sales messages. You never get a second chance to make a first impression, so why not have a professional voice on your telephone system? E-learning and training packages Voiceover to embed in PowerPoint presentations What's the trick to being good at your job? You obviously need a pleasant sounding and clear voice, but that’s only part of the story. Training is very important, and I am constantly updating my skills. You need a good, sound-treated space to record in, and the vocal booth I have is ideal. As well as being able to speak well, you also need to be able to listen well. Most of the work I do is self-directed so I need to be able to hear if something isn’t quite right, and correct it. Most of the time I have to record myself, so I have to be able to use recording and editing software. You also need to be good at taking direction from producers or clients - and not interpreting it as criticism! The bottom line is you need to give clients what they want, you need to be responsive to their needs, and be someone who is professional, efficient and pleasant to deal with. Does living in a rural area help or hinder your career? I live in a quiet village with is perfect from the point of view of recording. With super fast broadband it really doesn’t matter where you’re located - I can work for clients all over the world without leaving my house. Most of my work tends to be corporate rather than commercial so I can live anywhere. The big commercial jobs still tend to recorded in London but there’s plenty of other work out there. What do you do when you're not working? I am a member of a couple of amateur theatre companies and I’m nearly always rehearsing for something. I also lead the Barton Ghost Walk. I sing with a ladies a Capella choir, and I play the violin with the North Lincs Fiddle Club. You were involved in the Small Biz 100. Would you recommend other small business do the same? How do they do that? I would thoroughly recommend it. It gave me a huge boost in terms of my PR and social media visibility, and I got to go behind the door of 10 Downing Street - what a fabulous privilege! The best way to keep up with what’s going on, and to find out when applications open is to follow Small Business Saturday on social media.