Who is Mark Thomas?
Deep question. On a day-to-day level I’m an Ex-Royal Navy Radio Operator and then an Ex-IT Manager. I’m currently a Voiceover Artist and Audiobook narrator based on the south coast of England wondering why I didn’t do this years ago.
I’m married to Jane-Anne and have two kids, James and Amelia; A Cockerpoo called Mishka and two cats, Fidget and Muffin.
I live in Waterlooville, just north of Portsmouth.
On a meta-physical level: who IS anyone anyway maaaan?
How did you get into Voiceover?
I’d always wanted to be an actor, but growing up in a little village in rural Bedfordshire there wasn’t much outlet for ‘that kind of thing’ - and besides I was probably too shy to actually do anything about it.
Part of my job being a Radio Operator in the Navy was reading and talking (over the airwaves mainly), so talking out loud wasn’t really something that phased me.
I left that career after thirteen years, and joined an IT company, staying there for 16 years and leaving as the companies IT Manager. Part of my role was doing the voiceovers for the various help desks we ran. As a lot of people who want to be voiceovers, I got the old chestnut of ‘oh you’ve got a great voice, you should do something with it!”
I’m just a little annoyed with myself that it took 16 years to do something about it…
I started doing volunteer reading for Librivox - they take out of copyright books and get them released as audiobooks. I regularly got good feedback about my efforts, and thought to myself, you know I could do this…
I decided in early 2015 to pursue it as a career. I bought a cheapish microphone, set myself up in my garage with a cobbled-together vocal booth. Honestly, that’s not under-statement. It was a six-panel folding room divider with a thick quilt stapled to it, plus walls covered in acoustic panels, but it worked, and pretty well considering its Heath Robinson appearance.
I met with Fenella Fudge at the studios of Big Fish Media so she could listen to me and advise if she thought that voiceover was something that I could do seriously, and she though it was. I then did a some training with Gary Terzza at Voiceover Masterclass who helped get me going and to whom I’m forever grateful.
I got my first proper VO job in October of that year where I voiced a short documentary on the island of Famagusta and the plight of its displaced residents. Listening back now though, it wasn’t that great. I was trying to hard to be voiceover man.
I left my job in IT in June 2017 to go full-time voiceover and I’ve not looked back. I had to go full-time anyway as my wife was starting to get… annoyed.. about losing her husband every night so he could talk to himself in a box.
That was the start, and it’s sky-rocketed since then. I’ve voiced ten audiobooks and have worked with hundreds of creative people from all over the world. I’ve got a map on my office wall with pins showing what countries I’ve worked with. It’s looking busy!
I run my own company, South Coast Voices. (www.southcoastvoices.co.uk)
What is one thing you wished you had known when you started?
Hmm. I’d probably say trying to do the voiceover man voice isn’t required. Honestly everyone has a unique voice and it should be celebrated and used to its fullest. My niche now is conversational, natural and guy next door kind of thing and it’s proving to be popular so who am I to argue!
Also - I wish I’d known how much of my job wouldn’t involve talking to myself. Honestly 20% voiceover, 70% selling myself, 10% watching funny videos on the internet.
What has been your favourite job and why?
I’d say my first TV commercial - for the luxury resort company Sandals - it was the first one where people said, wow, is that you? That’s great! - It’s a hell of a boost when you’re still stuck with a feeling of Imposter Syndrome at times.
Also a set of YouTube pre-rolls I did for Google. I mean almost everyone has heard of Google and it was a great feeling to be their mouthpiece, albeit briefly.
Who is your agent?
I’m represented by several agents in the UK. Emily Dean @ VoiceFox, DeVine Voices, Squawk Voices and Duygu Basara London.
However most of my work comes from my own hard work, but I think an agent is still a good thing to have, even just for the kudos of being able to say ‘Represented by…’
I’ve not got US representation yet. Call me yeah?
What is your home studio set up?
At the moment I am in a custom-built home booth in my garage/office, however I’ve just put a down-payment on a new Esmono booth which I’m giddily excited to get put in.
I use a Neumann TLM103 and Audient ID14 audio interface. I record in OcenAudio and edit in Adobe Audition on an iMac.
I also have two plants called George (lucky bamboo) and ‘The Dragon’ (a dragon tree).
What would your dream job be?
God, this is going to sound so trite, but every job is my dream job. I’ve worked very hard to get my business off the ground, and I consider every job as important as each other. (Even the ones where you look at the script and wonder if it was produced by someone tripping over with a bag of scrabble letters.)
If you really need an answer though, I’d say doing a documentary for TV - something either involving science, or natural history both of which I’m passionate about.
Do you have any hobbies outside of VO?
Well, as mentioned above, I love science and natural history in all its forms. I also love to listen to audiobooks, socialising and walking. (This sounds like an online dating profile!)
Talking of which I’m the voice on the front page of eHarmony, so there you go.
Advice that has worked for you that you would like to pass on?
SO. MUCH. ADVICE.
It’s going to be hard to pick something out of the amount of information that has been freely shared by the amazing members of this industry. Honestly I’ve never met such an open, helpful and friendly bunch of people.
To pick a couple…
Be easy to work with. Honestly, don’t be a pain.
Never use the first take of your opening sentence on any script if self-directing. You can do it better.
Pay it forward.
Originally published in The Buzz Magazine, Spring 2018 edition