The 340-day strike for The Screen Actors Guild‐American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) has reached an end. A tentative agreement has been made between the voice actors and 11 Video game companies: Activision, Electronic Arts, Take-Two Interactive and Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, and more. The strike began on October 21st, 2016. SAG-AFTRA was striking for four issues: Transparency on voice acting contracts, prevent stress on extensive vocal sessions, stunt coordinators available for on hand performance capture studios, and bonus pay depending on sales of the game.
- Not every voice actor knows what game their voices will be in. Often, voice actors are contracted for a specific role, sent to a recording studio, and then given a script. This is more relevant on actors playing small characters or NPC’s.
- Voice acting sessions can become quite straining on vocal cords depending on the role. Grunts, screams, and battle lines session can become strenuous and taxing. Some actors claimed they were forced to shout for hours which can cause permanent damage to vocal cords.
- Some voice actors are requesting to perform certain stunts for performance captures in the game. To save money, most companies will not hire professional stunt actors for roles but rather have their on-hand voice actors perform the action.
- The biggest issues were the request for bonus pay based on video game sales. The original request from SAG-AFTRA was a full day’s pay for each 500,000 units sold. Certain games sell extremely well but voice actors are not compensated for their “efforts in improving sales.”
Not everything was achieved but so far SAG-AFTRA is considering the negotiation to be a big step forward. An alternative form of payment was agreed upon but not based on sales of the game. Voice actors will receive a bonus of $75 for their first session and end up with a total bonus of $21,000 for 10 sessions.
“This is an important advance in this critical industry space. We secured a number of gains including for the first time, a secondary payment structure which was one of the members’ key concerns,” said SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris. “The bonus payments we have now are significantly larger now than what we had 11 months ago. The existence of additional payments beyond your session fee is in the video game world for good, both in our high-budget and independent promulgated agreements” said Keythe Farley, chair of the SAG-AFTRA negotiating committee”
Voice actors will also receive more transparency from Video game studios. They will know the project code names, the genre, whether it is a sequel or part of a previous IP or if it is a recurring role.
“Members are also protected by the disclosure of whether they will be required to use unusual terminology, profanity or racial slurs, whether there will be content of a sexual or violent nature and whether stunts will be required,” said chief contracts officer Roy Rodriguez.
The contract also contains an “employer commitment” regarding issues of long video recording sessions. The agreement isn’t finished. SAG-AFTRA’s national board will review the contract at its next meeting in October.
Arguments against the Strike:
SAG-AFTRA doesn’t represent every video game voice actor. They make up 25% of the industries voice acting talent. 40% of the top-selling games don’t even use SAG-AFTRA voice actors.