Friday, October 21, 2016

AFTRA is on Strike for Voice Actors

So that voice actors strike that seemed like it would happen last year, quieted down, and then sped up this week has finally come to fruition. As of 12:01AM this morning, Pacific time, SAG-AFTRA has gone on strike against prominent video game companies. The deal proposed yesterday by the legal team for the gaming companies was not accepted by the group.

"On Thursday, the union refused to accept the other side’s proposal, describing the current compensation structure as a 'freeloader model.' "

The compensation was to increase pay by 9% immediately, versus 3% every year for 3 years, and an additional $950 for voice actors that needed to return for additional sessions outside of their contract. They also promised to look into safety concerns for motion capture, but didn't promise anything beyond that. Needless to say, the guild didn't appreciate the lack of care.

In all fairness, the way voice actors and motion capture actors are treated is very much a freeloader system. They are paid minimal for their work and reap none of the benefits if a game is successful. SAG-AFTRA is looking to not only improve working conditions, but ensure their actors are properly paid for the work they do, during and after the game's release. Voice actors are the one weird area where some get residuals and others do not. If you lend your voice to a movie, television show, or a video game, more often then not you don't see any more money after your recording sessions. Which is backwards when you think about it. A number of actors that you see on the screen will see residuals for decades after their show has finished production. Voice actors? Nada. Advertising is the one safety net for voice actors. It's all about the residuals there.

The TLDR version of it all is that voice actors have an outdated contract that needs to be modernized to fit with today's expectations that allow them to work in a safe environment and stay healthy.

Gaming companies claim that they can't maintain the same standards as Hollywood's contract with SAG. They need some more flexibility due to the development time it takes to create a game. The residuals that actors would receive could impact the team and the company.

It's a tricky situation to maneuver through right now. My personal opinion is that yes, actors should be properly compensated for their time. And they should be allowed to take vocal rests since they do a lot more strenuous work that could damage their voice over time. There needs to be a better standard for actors without harming the studio. When that deal will be reached? Only time will tell.

For those concerned about their games, this is only affecting products that were in production after February of 2015 and to the actors employed who are affiliated with SAG-AFTRA. The last deal ended in late 2014, and actors have been working under the defunct contract since then. Currently only 25% of the voice acting community is a member of SAG.

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