Think voice acting would be a cake job? You just need to show up and say a few lines and you are good to go? Well that is far from the case as outlined by the SAG-AFTRA (Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists) union which called on its members to vote to allow for a strike should it deem necessary. The union’s contracts with various video game studios were last created in the mid-90’s and understandably very antiquated. Since then, technology has changed drastically and voice actors are being asked to do things they’ve never had to do like Motion Capture Acting (while it’s for a movie and not a video game, check out Benedict Cumberbatch live acting Smaug, it’s intense and amazing). The union has offered a new contract with provisions that would help protect the voice actors voices, safety, and allow them to know more about the projects they sign on for as well as bonus payments if the video games go wildly successful. Specifically they’re asking for:
- Limiting “vocally stressful” recording sessions to 2 hours
- Stunt Coordinator for Performance Capture
- Transparency on the title and nature of the project before auditions
- Performance Bonuses – for every 2 million subscribers or copies or downloads, capped at 8 million, a reasonable residual payment when a game is wildly successful
However the video game studios have not only rejected the proposals made by the union, they have completely refused to negotiate at all according to SAG-AFTRA’s website. Additionally, again without discussion of any proposals made by the union, the studios have returned with the following stipulations they want to see:
- A $2,500 fine for tardiness or inattentiveness
- Fining an agent $50,000-$100,000 who chooses not to submit an actor for certain roles
- Motion and Performance Capture concerns don’t apply to voice actors
Voice actor and prince of the geeks, Wil Wheaton, has spoken out in support of SAG-AFTRA’s detailing the kind of physical, mental, and emotional challenges of voice acting. After 6-7 hours of call-outs and lines with breaks to drink soothing honeyed tea:
Don’t talk at all for the rest of the day, and don’t make any plans to go audition for any other voice work for the rest of the week, because your voice is wrecked. Don’t go to any kind of day job that requires you to talk with anyone, either, because you’re not going to be able to do that. Oh, and over years and years of this, it’s going to build up into serious and permanent damage… and then you’re not going to be able to work with your voice anymore.
The fact that our employers won’t even talk with us about this growing problem, that affects the ability of all voice performers to take care of themselves, is reason enough to go on strike until they will.
You can check out Wil’s detailed blog post to read more about his support for the union vote.
Representing approximately 160,000 voice actors, recording artists, broadcast journalists, and various other vocal performers, according to its website, SAG-AFTRA sent the notice to vote for a strike authorization on September 25th. Votes are due in by Thursday, October 1 at which time we will find out if our favorite video games are at risk of losing our favorite voices.