Brad Venable: She is a noted Los Angeles casting director and voice talent. Tonight, the Voice Actors Studio welcomes Mary Lynn Wissner.
How did you get started in the voiceover industry?
Mary Lynn Wissner: Right after I graduated from college, I became an assistant voiceover agent to Don Pitts, who at the time, was the #1 VO agent in LA after two-and-a-half years got into VO casting and have been doing it ever since.
How is the industry different now than when you started?
The internet changed everything. When I started, in the 80’s, we FedExed auditions, recorded on 1/4” and cassette tapes…everything was done on the phone.
What’s the most valuable piece of advice you got when starting out, and does that apply today?
Stay true to yourself…no one else gives a more authentic reading than YOU.
If you were starting out today, would you be doing things differently?
No Obviously I would be on the computer more today than back then, but I think that because I was always on the phone, as an agent, then casting director, I made some wonderful relationships by talking and getting to know my clients. I have producers and ad agencies that have been loyal to me for 20 years!
Let’s talk about workshops and classes for a moment; what kinds of VO education do you offer?
I do all levels, beginning, intermediate, and working pros. I also do a kids class twice a year.
And when *you* take classes, if geography and logistics meant nothing, whose class would you attend?
Classes and LA and NY only because that’s where the major players are.
Which is exactly why I created Superhero University…
Right! So Dallas would be on that list, too!
Many people don’t know the exact role of a casting director in the industry. For you, what is the process of casting a project?
I get hired by ad agencies, production companies, game producers, animation houses, basically anyone looking to find a voice for their production. I work with the producer or copywriter or director on what their project is, what the tone of the project is, where it plays and what is the kind of voice or voices they want.
Depending on if it’s union or non-union, I go through my data base of talent I know. Now, these talent are from all over the country…people I’ve met in workshops, through submissions or have worked with before, that don’t have representation. I also call agents and tell them who I would like to see from their agency. Sometimes the talent will come to my studio for the audition, sometimes I will send them or their agent the specs and copy to have them then send me an mp3 audition.
As a casting director, what are the best traits in a talent?
Being professional. On time, rehearsed and ready to go.
Now, you aren’t *just* an “L.A. Casting Director,” are you?
Well, I am also a talent too! I have been a v/o talent for the last 15 years I am represented by William Morris/Endeavor here in LA and have been fortunate enough to have voiced some great campaigns (Walmart, Blue Cross and Hallmark) as well numerous industrials. And of course, I am a voice over coach, which I LOVE! I have enjoyed teaching workshops and privates for years. I have nurtured some of today’s most successful v/o pros and it really is quite rewarding.
How much has the ‘online game’ changed the industry, and is it a good or bad thing?
Tough question….it’s good and bad, I think. Good in that it’s a speedy delivery tool, and bad in that there is no personal connection anymore. However, it is a really good thing in that so many more people, across the country and world, can now participate in calls that used to be just limited to major market (LA,NY) talent before.
What is your relationship with the unions? Do you cast both union and non-union talent?
I have a great relationship with the agents. As a casting director, I am not affiliated with any union and I can cast union or non union…and I cast both!
Have you ever been forced to cast yourself for projects?
No, I am never forced to cast myself. I will only put myself on a project if a producer asks me to, otherwise I feel like it’s a conflict of interest.
So, do you voice from home, and if not, do you have a studio at VoicesVoicecasting?
I have a home studio and a studio at Voices Voicecasting.
What’s the most memorable project you’ve worked on as a casting director? As a talent?
As a casting director,there are many but probably the most proud,hmmmmm. I am very proud and won awards for the “talking cars” campaign for CHEVRON. I have also done some casting for History Channel and am especially proud of a series I did a few years ago called, The Color of War’. It was a 13-part series where I had to cast about 30-50 voices per episode. It turned out beautifully and being the daughter of a WWII vet, it meant a lot to me. I also cast quite a few voices for “Shrek” and that was a ton of fun.
As a talent, probably the work I’ve voiced for Walmart. Not only have I done a lot of their commercials but I have also voiced the point of purchase commercials for their stores. I have also done quite a bit of looping on various films which is really cool.
On Bob Bergen’s panel at VOICE, you said that “everything is acting in voiceover.” Do you still stand by that? Is everything in voiceover some form of acting?
Absolutely! You can have the most amazing voice but if you can’t act, it’s just an amazing voice. You have to be able to make the copy your own. Everything in voiceover is acting…making the words come to life.
And so we begin our classroom with the questionnaire invented by the great Bernard Pivot, and used by the incomparable James Lipton at the Actor’s Studio…What is your favorite word?
Love that you’re doing this as I love that show!! Okay, favorite word: Booked!
What is your least favorite word?
The “cun..” word…so nasty!
What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?
What turns you off creatively, spiritually or emotionally?
What sound or noise do you love?
Nothing better than kids giggling.
What sound or noise do you hate?
The blower machines gardeners use.
I think I share that one with you. What is your favorite curse word?
What profession, other than your own, would you like to attempt?
Writer and Broadway superstar.
What profession would you not like to do?
If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?
"Hi Mary Lynn, I’m so proud of you! Your family is waiting for you."
Mary Lynn, thank you so much for your time. Any parting words of wisdom to the talent out there?
Believe in yourself, get out of your way and trust your instincts. Peace!
Mary Lynn will be in Dallas, Texas this July 23rd for her workshop, “Book It!” To join us there, call Mary Lynn at (818) 716-8865 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org for registration information. Goodnight!