SAG-AFTRA Voice Actors Now on Strike Against a Number of Game Companies

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Callate:
Bluntly, I don't think this is going to work. Video games got by for decades on rounding up whoever was working late in the office to do a little VO-work. With the possible exception of movie- or television-based games (a small niche which frequently lives up to its mediocre reputation), most consumers rarely expect to see particular actors in particular games.

I recognize that there are actors in the industry with strong reputations, reputations which make ears perk up when they're cast in a role (Nolan North, Jennifer Hale, and Troy Baker, among others), and other games that have been enriched by notable actors voicing roles (many of Bethesda's and Rockstar's games come to mind.)

But there are countless games in which hiring out of the local community theater group would lead to a sizable improvement over expectations, and little would be missed, without opting into SAG-AFTRA's terms and setting a precedent they would probably regret.

The thing that gets me is that my reaction to a famous VA being cast is the opposite of a famous actor being cast in a film. If you tell me that there's a film coming out with Meryl Streep, Anthony Hopkins, Ian McKellen, and Winona Ryder, then you'll have my attention. If you tell me a game is coming out with Johnny Young Bosch, Jennifer Hale, and Nolan North, I'll probably groan. Maybe it's because the industry is saturated with and dominated by a very small talent pool, but it feels like there's much less variety. I appreciate the work they do, and I don't begrudge them success, but VA's are not a selling point in a video game. If the actor has no range, like Bosch, then I get downright sick of hearing them.

Most video games can get by without VA's. I can't say the same for film. I'm just curious how long the VA's will be willing to keep this up.

The major sticking points in the contract have little or nothing to do with *money*. They have to do with *working conditions*. An end to recording sessions of shouting and screaming for six hours straight. An end to voice actors having to do mo-cap stunt work without a stunt coordinator on hand to monitor for safety. That sort of thing. Voice actors are part of the draw for a game, and they are in just about every game now.

The money they're asking for is not the major thrust of the negotiations, as much as the video game company lawyers would have it be. And in any negotiation, you always ask for more than you're going to get to bargain away for what you really want.

A year ago, Wil Wheaton wrote this article a year ago when SAG-AFTRA was holding a vote on whether or not to give the union authority to strike.

Something seriously sketchy, besides the mo-cap work without a stunt coordinator: "Our employers want to be able to fine the union $50,000-$100,000 if your franchised agent doesn't send you out on certain auditions (like Atmospheric Voices or One Hour One Voice sessions)?"

Wanting to fine the union if agents don't send actors out to auditions.

"If your agent chooses not to submit you for certain auditions, our employers want to put into our contract language forcing SAG-AFTRA to revoke your agent's union franchise. This would mean that your agency would not be able to send you out on any union jobs, including those in animation, TV/film, commercials, etc."

Publishers wanting SAG to cut off agents and actors from all union jobs if they decline auditioning for certain parts? What the ever living fuck.

I can get behind most of what they're asking for, particularly in the case of stunt coordinators and health and safety. That publishers won't spruke for that while placing increasingly higher demands on actors is ridiculous and they should be taken to task for it.

The matter of residuals is a bit trickier; I'm mainly going by Steve Blum's narration on the website re: facts and a bonus for every 2 million copies capping at 8 sounds fair, but there are some issue with it. While I agree in principle that they should get paid more for higher profile gigs, the fact of the matter is that voice actors don't move sales like that. The sad truth of the matter is that live-action film and TV stars get to argue for residuals because they have a recognisable brand and can draw bums on seats. Whereas voice actors, even ones with a fan following, can be replaced with sound-alikes.

This reminds me of back when GTA IV came out and the guys who played Nico and Roman raised a bit of a stink over the lack of residuals, despite starring in what was the biggest entertainment release of that year. I can sort of sympathise; GTA IV came out around the same time as Iron Man, and there was a bit of buzz at the time that it might actually overshadow it. But the dude on the poster for Iron Man, Robert Downey Jr., made millions off it and kept making millions, while the dude on the poster for GTA IV, or rather his voice actor, was paid for his initial work (I imagine standard by-the-session rates) and then kind of faded into obscurity. With cases like that, it's no wonder voice actors would argue for more money.

A better solution, but one that's unfortunately too idealistic and open to interpretation for a union contract, is for companies to stop wasting money on celebrity voice acting and put that money toward a pay-rise for the dedicated voice actors who put the actual work in.

Anyone know the list of notable VAs taking part in this?

That what I was thinking as this was going on.

altnameJag:
A year ago, Wil Wheaton wrote this article a year ago when SAG-AFTRA was holding a vote on whether or not to give the union authority to strike.

Something seriously sketchy, besides the mo-cap work without a stunt coordinator: "Our employers want to be able to fine the union $50,000-$100,000 if your franchised agent doesn?t send you out on certain auditions (like Atmospheric Voices or One Hour One Voice sessions)?"

Wanting to fine the union if agents don't send actors out to auditions.

"If your agent chooses not to submit you for certain auditions, our employers want to put into our contract language forcing SAG-AFTRA to revoke your agent?s union franchise. This would mean that your agency would not be able to send you out on any union jobs, including those in animation, TV/film, commercials, etc."

Publishers wanting SAG to cut off agents and actors from all union jobs if they decline auditioning for certain parts? What the ever living fuck.

Yeah, that's pretty shitty and it really shows the inflated sense of worth the gaming industry had. That's essentially asking for the infamous Blacklist back in the early days of Hollywood which was a disgusting practice that is one of the most shameful things the film industry ever engaged in.

altnameJag:
A year ago, Wil Wheaton wrote this article a year ago when SAG-AFTRA was holding a vote on whether or not to give the union authority to strike.

Something seriously sketchy, besides the mo-cap work without a stunt coordinator: "Our employers want to be able to fine the union $50,000-$100,000 if your franchised agent doesn?t send you out on certain auditions (like Atmospheric Voices or One Hour One Voice sessions)?"

Wanting to fine the union if agents don't send actors out to auditions.

"If your agent chooses not to submit you for certain auditions, our employers want to put into our contract language forcing SAG-AFTRA to revoke your agent?s union franchise. This would mean that your agency would not be able to send you out on any union jobs, including those in animation, TV/film, commercials, etc."

Publishers wanting SAG to cut off agents and actors from all union jobs if they decline auditioning for certain parts? What the ever living fuck.

Yeah, that's pretty bad. Did he ever specify who the employer was? I wouldn't put it past EA and their ilk.

Kingjackl:

This reminds me of back when GTA IV came out and the guys who played Nico and Roman raised a bit of a stink over the lack of residuals, despite starring in what was the biggest entertainment release of that year. I can sort of sympathise; GTA IV came out around the same time as Iron Man, and there was a bit of buzz at the time that it might actually overshadow it. But the dude on the poster for Iron Man, Robert Downey Jr., made millions off it and kept making millions, while the dude on the poster for GTA IV, or rather his voice actor, was paid for his initial work (I imagine standard by-the-session rates) and then kind of faded into obscurity. With cases like that, it's no wonder voice actors would argue for more money.

If VA's want movie star money/fame then they are in the wrong business. The fact of the matter is that they are not an essential part of the process. Directors, authors, and big film stars get residuals in film because they have leverage.

Fox12:

altnameJag:
A year ago, Wil Wheaton wrote this article a year ago when SAG-AFTRA was holding a vote on whether or not to give the union authority to strike.

Something seriously sketchy, besides the mo-cap work without a stunt coordinator: "Our employers want to be able to fine the union $50,000-$100,000 if your franchised agent doesn?t send you out on certain auditions (like Atmospheric Voices or One Hour One Voice sessions)?"

Wanting to fine the union if agents don't send actors out to auditions.

"If your agent chooses not to submit you for certain auditions, our employers want to put into our contract language forcing SAG-AFTRA to revoke your agent?s union franchise. This would mean that your agency would not be able to send you out on any union jobs, including those in animation, TV/film, commercials, etc."

Publishers wanting SAG to cut off agents and actors from all union jobs if they decline auditioning for certain parts? What the ever living fuck.

Yeah, that's pretty bad. Did he ever specify who the employer was? I wouldn't put it past EA and their ilk.

Presumably the "coalition of Interactive Video Game Publishing Companies" whos statement on the strike was the only one linked to in the OP. The coalition presumably consists of the publishers and voice acting companies SAG-AFTRA is striking against, also listed in the OP.

Meiam:
Yeah... no. Pretty much everybody else on the development side deserves royalty before voice actor do. People play game for the gameplay, the story, the competition or the graphic. Very few people play because they heard the game had awesome voice acting, the only game I can think of that could sell itself with that is Bastion and that's a small indie title. VA can just go at the back of the queue, or not, if they strike they'll just be replaced by somebody else, since, again, there pretty expendable.

That is a pretty lousy position to stand on. As a developer, I can tell you: developers deserve royalties, true; but it is not their guild fight to defend the rights of every single person wronged in the development of a game, nor should they wait for every single injustice committed to every single party that might deserve it more is resolved before voicing their concerns. If developers want change to happen on their front, their guilt should be the one to push it (and then, maybe, the SAG could support them, but we can't expect others to start fighting for us).

If any kind of social change worked that way, people from the black suffrage would still be waiting for women suffrage to be resolved, who would still be waiting for the release of slaves...

this is the problem with unions if the bad members get paid less because they are well bad then the good ones have to be paid the same or they have to pay the bad ones as much as the good ones. Personally I think VA like Jennifer hale and David Hayter would do better without the union as they would be judged on theyre sole acting ability and as such get massive paydays. I honestly don't know if any of the good VA involved with this are truly wanting this as Union strikes tend to be because the low end of the pool is getting paid what theyre worth and don't like it. Oh well this just means well get new VA talent and the union will fold when its biggest members withdraw from it after their contracts with the union come up and they are making less money while being in the union.

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