Storyteller of Life: Erin Ovalle’s Journey from Student to Production Company Owner

Storyteller of Life: Erin Ovalle’s Journey from Student to Production Company Owner

The Tide Inn Beach Resort Hotel Goose Rocks Beach Kennebunkport, Maine

Erin Ovalle is a woman of many talents. She is mastering the art of being a business owner, entrepreneur, wife, and mother. Her career began shortly after graduating college and it is those experiences that have helped her create her company that highlights the story of the hardworking, beautiful people of Maine.   

Mary:
So, tell me about you. Now, you’re originally from Massachusetts and then moved to Maine?

Erin:
No, my journey is long. I grew up in Massachusetts until I was 10, and then my family moved to Hudson, New Hampshire. In my first year of college, I went to George Mason University, and then two weeks into my freshman year, 9/11 hit, so it was pretty difficult being in the DC area. I ended up transferring and graduating from Gordon College on the North Shore.

Mary: 

What was your journey after college like? 

Erin: 

The day after I graduated, I was on a plane to Charleston, Illinois. I was a paid intern for PBS at the time. They had this special program you could apply for, and I got in. You were the anchor, reporter, photographer and the director for that summer, so that’s how I kind of got my resume tape ready… Because I didn’t study broadcast journalism. I had interned at WMUR in New Hampshire because I was a communications major. One day they said, “You look like a news anchor,” and I was like, “Oh, cool. Really?” So, they had me read the news just for fun. They said I was really good, so I applied for that program in Illinois. Only  fifteen people were considered, and I got accepted. That was the beginning of my TV career. From there, I got a job, my first real TV job, in Traverse City, Michigan. I was a one-woman band doing my shooting, editing, and reporting. And about two years after that, I got a job in Pensacola, Florida, so I moved there.

Mary: 

You really had to commit to a continued journey of travel. 

Erin:
It was not easy.

Mary:
No, that’s very difficult.

The Tide Inn Beach Resort Hotel Goose Rocks Beach Kennebunkport, Maine

Erin:
For many reasons. I was a reporter, and then they promoted me to the weekend anchor job, which was awesome because they were a pretty big market. I think they were in the top sixty. I was twenty-four when I was a weekend anchor. I was just about to be promoted to the morning show, which was my dream, and my dad in Boston called. He had been given six months to live. He had tonsil cancer that had metastasized to his bones. He ended up passing almost six months to the day after that. But in an effort to get home closer to him, I just applied for every job near him. That was in 2008, going into 2009, and it was not the best time to be looking for a job.

Mary:
Right.

Erin: 

I saw an opening at Channel 13 in Portland, and it was the same parent company that I worked for. They hired me over the phone. I packed my U-Haul and I drove to Portland to be closer to my dad. He ended up dying three months after I moved to Portland, but at least I was there for that…Then I got promoted to the morning show on Channel 13. So that was the beginning of my forever journey in Maine.

Mary:
Wow. So, you did the morning show and now you have your own production company. 

Erin:
I do, yes. I was the morning anchor at 13, then I got a better offer at Channel 8. I was the morning anchor there for five years, and after that contract I started Maine Life Media in 2016.
Mary:
Okay. So in your production company, you do everything. You report it, you film it, and then you sell it to the different markets? Is that how it works?

Erin:
I sell it to sponsors and, yes, distribution partners. 

Mary:
Nice. Good for you. So, you’re an entrepreneur as well.

Erin: 

Well, it’s funny. My dad was, and I never thought of myself as one, obviously when you’re younger and you’re just climbing the ladder in the news world and then I just had his itch, I think.

Mary: 

It sounds like a true passion you have for the news. 

Erin:
Yeah. Well, the news, as you know, is not the most positive environment.

Mary:
No so much today

Erin:
I got burnt out.

Mary:
Then you met somebody and got married?

The Tide Inn Beach Resort Hotel Goose Rocks Beach Kennebunkport, Maine

Erin:
Yes, I’m married. I got married almost two years ago. Both of us are in our mid to late thirties. So that is really what I would say probably kept me in Maine, I think. I didn’t really know where my life was going to be. Maine Life Media was becoming successful. I could have moved back to New Hampshire or Boston and still produced a bunch of my shows, but I’m very thankful that my Maine life is happening. It’s coming full circle.

Mary:
Oh, isn’t that wonderful. So, you met your husband in Maine?

Erin:
Yes. He’s from Brewer, Maine.

Mary:
Now, how are you able to take care of a nine-month-old, plus run this company? How do you do all that?

Erin:
My in-laws are awesome. They just retired the month before COVID hit. Mine is the only grandchild in Maine, so they just adore coming down and helping out when I’m filming. I’m so grateful for that. I try to take Fridays to be available for him because last night, for instance, I filmed until 9:00 and I didn’t see him all day. So, I try to make up for that on Fridays and the weekends.

 

Mary:
Wonderful. Now what kind of stories do you look for? What has been your most interesting, would you say?

Erin: 
Oh, my most interesting story, that’s such a hard question because every time I think I meet somebody that’s the most interesting, I say, “This is going to be the best show.” And then a week or two later, I meet another. For instance, a few weeks ago we were on Jo-mary Island in the middle of the north Maine woods, not a soul in sight for miles. And here I am just like, “Okay now, who knew this was here? Right before that I was interviewing the Wabanaki tribe. My job takes me everywhere. Maine is just full of interesting people. 

Mary:
What do you see the future for you?

Erin:
Oh boy. There’s a lot going on right now, which is exciting. I recently had a conversation with a network in Boston who saw my shows.

Mary: 

You must have been very pleased all your work was being recognized. 

Erin:
I grew up watching them. To get a phone call from them, saying they like my lifestyle content. I say I’m a lifestyle storyteller. I focus on lodging, dining activities, business, real estate, craft brewing and distilling. I think there aren’t a lot of independent producers like me who can have the flexibility and freedom to go out and tell the stories that aren’t dictated by the news station. It’s hard to do this, there aren’t a lot of us.

Mary:
Right, that’s not easy to do and you need the right equipment. You need all the tools to make it happen.

The Tide Inn Beach Resort Hotel Goose Rocks Beach Kennebunkport, Maine

Erin:
I’d say my biggest partnership right now is with WCSH. They are a wonderful partner because they have such a loyal following. For many years Bill Green had the time slot that I’m currently in and he really built such a captive audience. I really do credit him for being such an anchor in the lifestyle storytelling space, just because people have grown to expect that kind of content. I’m very different than Bill, but it’s still my perspective on Maine and introducing viewers to Mainers. So that’s my anchor, really, is WCSH. And then from there I’ve been able to expand to New England Sports Network and I’ll be working with a woman in the Coastal Carolinas to do some series down there.

Mary:
Good for you. That is just wonderful. And you never know, you’ll be going national before you know it.
  

Erin:
I’m working on it.

Mary:
So let me ask you, you strike me as extraordinarily ambitious. Are you going to go across the country, do these stories and sell them to the different stations?

Erin: 

I’m currently working with another Maine partner, Rory Strunk he owns O’Maine Studios. He and I are currently working on figuring out the logistics for our partnership, the legality of it. We are pitching four different TV shows to the national regional networks as well.

Mary:
Good to hear.

Erin:
I  have something else up my sleeve, I can’t talk about yet, but it’s just another thing that came about. This is a really cool place to be in. We are trying to expand whether they’re all Maine shows or whether I take my travel show on the road, everything’s kind of on the table right now.

Mary:
It’s truly sounds like your on a path to national recognition

Erin:
Thanks.

Mary:
Entrepreneurs are a special breed.  Your path seems laid before you..

Erin:
You know it’s a hustle.

Mary:
It is. It sounds so rewarding, to have your own thing and create it, it’s like a great artwork that you put together. I’m so proud of you, girl, I really am.

Erin:
Thank you. 

 

 

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MFB
Mary Frances Barstow

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