Why you’ll hear the voice of Cambridgeshire’s Ben McAuley everywhere
You have probably heard Ben McAuley’s voice before, maybe on more than one occasion, but without realising it – that is the often ‘under the radar’ nature of the job the voice actor performs.
A full-time voice actor from Eltisley, Ben works from his home recording studio supplying voiceovers worldwide for a huge variety of projects including radio and television commercials, documentaries, corporate videos, eLearning programmes, audio guides, in-flight safety announcements, video games, theme park attractions, and toys and apps.
Evidently successful at what he does – not everyone in this game is able to do it on a full-time basis – Ben, 48, has been recognised at the SOVAS Voice Arts Awards, the ‘voiceover Oscars’, not once, not twice but thrice, in 2019, 2020 and again in 2021.
In 2019, he attended the red carpet ceremony in Hollywood, winning an award for an eLearning project he voiced. He then won in the same category again (Outstanding E-learning) the following year (in 2020 the ceremony took place online), and in December he flew to New York City to once again attend in-person and made it three wins in a row.
Ben’s winning narration this time around was for an audio guide he voiced for the Pochet du Courval glass factory, located in Guimerville in Normandy. Other notable winners at the Guggenheim Museum on the night included the cast of Disney Pixar’s Luca, Jamie Foxx and Laraine Newman.
“I always wanted to be an actor, ever since I can remember,” recalls Ben, explaining how he got to where he is now. “I went to drama school when I left school and I classically trained as an actor, and then I sort of, in a roundabout way, fell into a job at the BBC in Cambridge as a presenter and a reporter.
“So I was kind of doing voiceovers for that job... and I had an acting agent that would occasionally send me voiceover work and it just escalated from there. As the years have gone by, the technology has become a lot more accessible; it’s become easier to selfproduce my own voiceover recordings and send them all over the world.”
Although Ben does a lot of work for America, he says his work is “pretty much always in my own accent”, adding: “I get a few requests... I’m not actually that great at many accents, despite what I do, but it doesn’t hold me back - I think the Americans really appreciate the British accent.”
Ben, who grew up in Stapleford, says he has a few “character voices” that he occasionally brings out for video game roles, but notes that generally speaking clients tend to want a “natural” and a “friendly, down-to-earth” delivery. He adds: “When I first began, I wanted to do everything. I wanted to do video games and animations and commercials...
“But after a while I realised where I was getting the work, and predominantly it was eLearning, it was explainer videos, corporate work... and once I focused on those areas and realised that that’s probably my strength, that’s when the jobs started to roll in and haven’t stopped since.”
Ben, who occasionally heads to recording studios in London’s Soho, often for commercial jobs, used to also work as a corporate presenter. “It took me everywhere really – I filmed in Romania, Lanzarote, a lot in this country,” he says, “but the voiceovers keep me more than busy now. I still keep my foot in the [presenting] door but it’s predominantly voiceover work I do now.”
Where might we have heard Ben’s voice before? “All over the place,” he laughs. “I often say wherever you hear a recorded voice, there’s a chance that I’ve done a similar project. I’ve done a lot of TV commercials, often for financial products, insurance products... I did a Just Eat advert, a Coca-Cola advert, a Subway advert...
“I’ve done quite a few safety announcements for plane travel. KLM, for example, if the plane unfortunately is going down, the last voice that people will hear is mine telling them to brace! And I’ve done a few theme park attractions; I did a job for Madame Tussauds – their big showcase when you come in, I’m doing something there – I’ve done some virtual reality things for various zoos.
“I did an African safari exhibit at North Carolina Zoo, which I think is the biggest zoo in the world. I was kind of showing safari-goers around the savannah so that was pretty cool.” Television-wise, at the present time Ben is working on a series of documentaries for the PGA Golf Tour channel. “I summarise various competitions and seasons,” he explains.
Ben, who notes that one of the strangest jobs he’s ever had to do was voicing the instruction manual for how to use the toilet on board an Air Ethiopia aeroplane, adds: “I do a lot of Amazon commercials, and a lot of commercials get played on Alexa and devices like that – and Spotify as well.”
So what makes a good voice actor? “It’s a real challenge when you’re given a script and you’re asked to deliver it in a certain way, but you’ve got to take on everything,” says Ben. “You’ve got to understand the audience that you’re speaking to, and I think that once you get hold of the message in the script, the meaning, and the audience that you’re talking to – if you can combine those skills – then you’re getting there.
“Then of course you’ve got the practical side of it where you have to pronounce properly, you have to make sure you don’t trip over your words... and you’ve got to often give a natural performance when actually it’s far from a natural thing you’re doing, because you’re trying to put all the instructions together in your head while delivering a comfortable and natural read.
“It’s a real challenge. I’ve had friends say to me before, ‘How difficult is it, you’re just reading a script?’ but it’s far from it – it’s really about getting the client’s message across and that people understand it.”
For more information on Ben, visit benmcauley.co.uk.