SAG-AFTRA Union Voice Actors Go On Strike against Video Game Companies

Yaks

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http://www.digitalspy.com/gaming/news/a811847/video-game-voice-actor-union-strike/

The relationship between professional unionised video game voice, stunt and motion capture actors and the companies that employ them has been frosty for a long time now.

Many veteran voice actors, including Tara Strong (Final Fantasy's Rikku, Batman: Arkham'sHarley Quinn and many more), Steve Blum (Wolverine in various X-Men games, every gruff voiced character ever) and many more have spoken out about the poor payment and treatment they receive, despite working as hard as actors (live action or vocal) in Hollywood.


Last year, the SAG-AFTRA union gave the go ahead for a potential strike, and now it is finally happening. [...]

Union's Flyer and FAQ regarding the strike that talks about issues beyond compensation that are being looked into. A message from Steve Blum sums it up pretty well.

Any game gone into production after Februrary 17, 2015 for the following studios will be affected:
Activision Publishing Inc.
Blindlight, LLC
Corps of Discovery Films
Disney Character Voices, Inc.
Electronic Arts Productions, Inc.
Formosa Interactive, LLC
Insomniac Games, Inc.
Interactive Associates, Inc.
Take 2 Interactive Software
VoiceWorks Productions, Inc.
WB Games, Inc.

Looking at some of the studio names I'm not entirely surprised. Apparently in some areas it was bad enough they're asking OSHA to investigate. A few titles I was looking forward to are likely to get their release date pushed back because of this as well.
 

Yaks

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This is soooo not going anywhere. The SAG-AFTRA barely represents 1/4 of video game VA's. Somehow I doubt replacing Steve Blum and Tara Strong will be very difficult.

It isn't just voice actors they represent, though. It's also stunt work for motion capture and a few other things. It's mostly the big companies listed that even use that technology. I'd like to know where that 25% figure comes from, because if they're including the hundreds of titles that don't utilize voice acting at all (many indie games) then that number is pretty skewed.
 

sasazuka

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Oh, no! If this SAG-AFTRA strike against Electronic Arts in particular drags on, EA just might be forced to stop cramming in extraneous "story" into Need for Speed games where it's not really needed.

Need for Speed games that are just driving without any cutscenes would be a travesty, I tell you. Or maybe they'd be exactly what I wanted all along. Except for cop chatter, I'd would honestly miss that. But I wouldn't miss the hackneyed, "I'm Mr. Drive Fast Guy, your puny traffic laws can't constrain me, DAD!" storylines.
 

Jewelsmakerguy

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Oh, no! If this SAG-AFTRA strike against Electronic Arts in particular drags on, EA just might be forced to stop cramming in extraneous "story" into Need for Speed games where it's not really needed.

Need for Speed games that are just driving without any cutscenes would be a travesty, I tell you. Or maybe they'd be exactly what I wanted all along. Except for cop chatter, I'd would honestly miss that. But I wouldn't miss the hackneyed, "I'm Mr. Drive Fast Guy, your puny traffic laws can't constrain me, DAD!" storylines.
Weren't a few of those done with Canadian actors?

That said, I'll state the same opinion as I did in the other VA topic: As long as it doesn't affect the other sectors of voice acting (Animation, ADR, etc.), or other countries take a look at this and go "You know, what those Americans are doing is not a half-bad idea". Then I don't care. If they do, either right away or gradually over time, then I will show no respect for anyone in support for the strike, voice actor and non-voice actor alike.
 

AnOminous

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Weren't a few of those done with Canadian actors?

That said, I'll state the same opinion as I did in the other VA topic: As long as it doesn't affect the other sectors of voice acting (Animation, ADR, etc.), or other countries take a look at this and go "You know, what those Americans are doing is not a half-bad idea". Then I don't care. If they do, either right away or gradually over time, then I will show no respect for anyone in support for the strike, voice actor and non-voice actor alike.

They should just take what a shithole of an industry gives them and shut up, not try to negotiate for better.
 

XYZpdq

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Oh wow with video game voice acting at stake there's dozens of dollars on the line here!
 

RJ MacReady

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I always think back to 2008 when Michael Hollick and Jason Zumwalt (Niko and Roman Bellic's voice actors from GTA IV, respectively) drew attention complaining about their pay. Hollick got paid roughly $100,000 over 15 months for voice work and motion capture and Zumwalt got (IIRC) about $40,000. Neither of them got royalties or residuals.

Thing is, while Zumwalt was angry that he didn't get more despite the game selling millions of copies, Hollick actually didn't blame R* - he blamed SAG-AFTRA for not establishing contract standards with the game industry that would've (among other things) ensured higher-profile VAs got royalties and residuals.

SAG-AFTRA only represents a questionable amount of VAs in the game industry precisely because non-union talent know it's a piece of shit that does nothing for them and locks its members out of non-union work. That's a huge blow to an aspiring VA's career opportunities because these days the majority of voice/motion capture work in the gaming industry isn't from the large, established publishers where celebrity VAs like Tara Strong and Steve Blum can get all of their work.

This wouldn't be happening if SAG-AFTRA had actually looked after its members. Strong, competent representation attracts more members and in any industry high levels of unionisation lead to higher work and pay standards across the board because employers have to compete with the advantages of unionisation when hiring non-union labour and services.

All that said, I'm of the view that voice acting is inherently less valuable than screen acting. The labour commitment of voice acting and motion capture is extremely low compared to screen acting. Voiceover work is usually an afternoon's work for small titles and a few weeks for AAA titles. It's very rare for a VA to be hired into a leading role in an enormous title like GTA IV that demands months of labour.

Compare this to screen acting for major motion pictures, which regularly demands months of rehearsal, learning necessary skills and physical training (usually entailing serious weight cutting and toning) to prepare the actor for several weeks of brutal principal photography around the globe followed by potentially being called back during post-production for pick-up shots and dubbing. The production of The Hunger Games, for example, required Jennifer Lawrence to learn things like archery, martial arts and rock climbing and overall consumed nearly an entire year of her life from beginning to end.

Now all of that notwithstanding, the majority of the multimillion-dollar premium paid to A-list actors is to licence their likeness. Big name actors and star-studded casts are every Hollywood film's most important marketing draw. On the other hand, only a few voice actors will ever have the benefit of being inextricably tied to their role (e.g. David Hayter as Snake). Forrest Gump will always be Tom Hanks, but your average video game character can be anyone.
 
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AnOminous

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All that said, I'm of the view that voice acting is inherently less valuable than screen acting. The labour commitment of voice acting and motion capture is extremely low compared to screen acting. Voiceover work is usually an afternoon's work for small titles and a few weeks for AAA titles. It's very rare for a VA to be hired into a leading role in an enormous title like GTA IV that demands months of labour.

Pretty much agreed on that. Vidya or not, I think most people who aren't somehow obsessed with the industry would find it hard to name any voice actors at all, and if they did, it would be one of the names who also has a career somewhere else. Many of those seem to have acting careers of some sort, either before (usually) or after (usually some huge role). For instance, Trevor's VA Steven Ogg is now on The Walking Dead (as Negan's right hand man).

If this union really doesn't represent a substantial part of the voice acting pool in this field, they're unlikely to have much leverage with a strike, even if they do represent some of the bigger names in the field.
 

RJ MacReady

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Pretty much agreed on that. Vidya or not, I think most people who aren't somehow obsessed with the industry would find it hard to name any voice actors at all, and if they did, it would be one of the names who also has a career somewhere else. Many of those seem to have acting careers of some sort, either before (usually) or after (usually some huge role). For instance, Trevor's VA Steven Ogg is now on The Walking Dead (as Negan's right hand man).

If this union really doesn't represent a substantial part of the voice acting pool in this field, they're unlikely to have much leverage with a strike, even if they do represent some of the bigger names in the field.

Even being a member of SAG-AFTRA, the other big reason Michael Hollick contained his antipathy towards R* is because in the acting game you cannot afford to burn bridges. The probable effect of Zumwalt's shenanigans on his acting career validates that reticence. After GTA IV he's reduced back to minor, mostly unnamed roles and turns his focus back to shitty writing. Hollick meanwhile scored a few more decent roles in major titles and TV and went back to stage acting.

Collective bargaining or no, career voice actors will always be held back by the abundance and inherently lower value of their services. These strikers need to bear in mind that despite the scarcity of talented screen actors, even iconic and influential A-listers are reluctant to play hardball for big money; Pierce Brosnan got his flabby ass kicked to the curb by MGM for demanding $40 million to continue playing Bond despite being in his 50s. Anyone who's worked in Hollywood knows there comes a point where actors accept payment in shots at an Oscar, not money. So what's the most they can hope to demand, really?
 

Mike "Bubbles" Smith

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Working in game development is shitty across the board, whether you're a programmer or a voice actor. I think SAG-AFTRA should team up with some other unions and demand better treatment for everyone.