…and while I’m at it…

by | Oct 21, 2016 | VO Business | 12 comments

laClearly, my blog post from this week about a certain Canadian-based online VO casting service touched a nerve. 

I’m glad people are waking up to the many ways voice-actors can be taken advantage of…not the least of which is a rash of cheap come-ons from outright fraudsters phishing for voice-actors to bite on their misleading fake audition requests.

If you aren’t already a member of my FaceBook group: Voice Over Red Flags, drop me a line in the comment section with your FB-related email, and I’ll add you to the group.

Here’s the manifesto:

Welcome to a private place for voice actors to carefully share concerns in service of community self-preservation. Here’s what we hope you use this group for:

1) Clients who are either not paying on time, or prove to be troublesome clients in general.
2) A place to ask about the efficacy of a casting site or possible client or an online voice-seeker you’ve never heard of.
3) Finally, it could also be a place to warn about scammers preying on voice-actors.

This site will be closely monitored to allow only prudent, proven, vetted instances of bad behavior.

For all the unscrupulous online dangers; one of the advantages of belonging to and contributing to a trusted internet VO community, is the warnings that are shared about such predators.  I’m glad that World-Voices Organization is an active part of building that trusted community…educating…creating awareness, and being a focal point around which our members can rally.

WoVO is a non-profit, and we’re not the VO police.  We don’t have staff attorneys or the big kahunas to take on multinational companies.  SAG-AFTRA does, though…and by midnight tonight, they’re calling for a strike against some of the biggest names in the Video Game Industry:

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.  

I’m posting the full notice below, but I’d also like to point out this statement from the union:

If you live in the Los Angeles area — no matter what contract you work under — please join us on the picket line on Monday morning at 10:30 at the below location. Your fellow members need you!

Once again SAG-AFTRA proves it is an organizing point for Hollywood and sometimes NYC.  They could care less about the voice-actor in Asheville, NC or Tucson, AZ. 

Just make sure our folks in Los Angeles get their rights!

Sure, I’m for resolution of all the grievances for my voice-acting brethren and sistren in LA (and I have many).  Something needs to be done about 2-yr-old issues, to stop the bullying of voice actors, and spread the wealth around a little more. 

But video-game voice work constitutes maybe — what? — 8% of all voice work in the U-S?  So, when you get done with all that posturing, SAG-AFTRA…how ’bout giving the voice-actor in Bangor, Maine a compelling reason to even join the union?  What have you done for the woman voice-actor in Spokane, WA to see that HER compensation rates are in the ballpark of “fair”?

For a while there…just a couple of months, I thought that a group of us had the ear of SAG-AFTRA’s top people.  But nothing came of it.  The union is the 800 lb gorilla with the heft to stop the shenanigans of P2P’s…to protect us from online fraudsters, and to represent us for better compensation in the marketplace, but they’ve proven over and over they care little for anything beyond their bread ‘n’ butter in Hollywood.

End of rant.

CourVO

__________________

A last attempt to reach an agreement with video game employers this week was not successful. Management remains unwilling to agree to fair terms that would bring the interactive contract into the 21st century.
Therefore, as of 12:01 a.m. PT today, SAGAFTRA is on strike against the following video game employers with regard to all games that went into production after Feb. 17, 2015: 
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.  

Read the strike notice to get all the details and click here for a flyer about the strike.
The two issues of greatest contention are transparency and secondary compensation. While the companies are willing to disclose potentially objectionable material that may be involved in the role, they refuse to tell the performer’s agent what game the actor will be working on. This keeps the performer from being able to make an educated decision about whether to take job. This is unheard of in any of our other contracts. 
Regarding secondary compensation, employers have offered to give actors an upfront bonus based on number of sessions worked, starting at the second session worked. The negotiating team is willing to agree to their proposal, as long as secondary compensation is an option. In other words, an employer would have the option to buy out an actor by paying a bonus upfront or, if they prefer, they would have the option to pay a bonus after the game releases, if the game happens to sell more than 2 million units. The employers have refused to consider this option, excluding games from union talent if they are unable to afford the upfront bonus structure.
After nearly two years, management has been unwilling to resolve these issues in an equitable manner. This strike is not the union’s preferred outcome, but is necessary to let employers know SAGAFTRA members will stand fast to their principles and not be exploited.
 
During a strike, it is critical that all members demonstrate solidarity so that we can present a united front to management. If you work for one of the affected productions, it’s your responsibility to honor the strike, but even if you’re not, your support is needed. If you live in the Los Angeles area — no matter what contract you work under — please join us on the picket line on Monday morning at 10:30 at the below location. Your fellow members need you!
Also, be sure to show your solidarity by tweeting #performancematters.
For more details and to sign up for updates, please visit our website at sagaftra.org/interactive. If you have questions, please call the strike hotline at (323) 549-6815.
Please RSVP here if you can join us on the picket line:
When: 10:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m., Monday, Oct. 24

Where: Electronic Arts
5510 Lincoln Blvd, 
Playa Vista, CA 90094

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CourVO Newsletter



12 Comments

  1. Lois Wolf

    hi … i have the ear of my local SAG-AFTRA President, and possibly the folks running the office in DC [that’s my local]. Would you mind if I shared this column with him [and them]?

    Reply
    • Chris Mezzolesta

      I get lambasted sometimes because I will not stop complaining about the 2000 commercials strike (“Let it go, that was 16 years ago”), but then as now, it is (SAG-)AFTRA’s complete refusal to even consider the existence of voice actors outside their hallowed coasts that has caused the decimation of the truly ‘local’ locals. Long as they’re paying dues, that’s all that matters, the Charlottes and the Atlantas are supporting LA & NY. It is the greed behind the strike that caused so many to start looking away from union talent, or more specifically the unusually onerous machinations of dealing with union talent. Their refusal to get their collective minds out of the 1950s way of doing business has led to the uprising and dominance of the online casting model, over which they have no purvey, they pretend to know nothing about (I have heard this directly from a union rep), and yet they STILL insist on vilifying the non-union voice actor as the root of the problem. Had they changed with the times, at the time, perhaps we would not have the Voices.coms and the Fiverrs and the ‘Make Money In Voiceovers With My Proven Method In Your Underwear’ hucksters. Those who have come to union membership since the Internet VO ‘revolution’, no matter how successful they may be, still do not know what it was like before, when competition was numbered in the dozens, not the hundreds of thousands. And what has SAG-AFTRA done to keep quality and standards up? Not a goddamn thing. As long as someone pays up and works under Rule One, everything’s hunky dory and there’s nothing to see here, move along. Until they wake up, IF they wake up, and realize that THEY are the root cause of these problems, NOT non-union or financial core voice actors, NOT advertisers tired of dealing with them, but THEIR refusal to address a changing market because of their perceived dominance and self-importance, they will continue to lose more and more to the Wild West of online voiceovers, and someone ELSE will become the de facto industry leaders. They have a LONG way to go. I invite you to share this with your local, seeing as it is still in existence (I started in Cleveland in 1990 & joined AFTRA in 92, the strike KILLED ad & talent agencies in town, and eventually the once-great local closed up after decades. Work there is a shadow of what it once was. But let’s go out of our way to protect the LA video game actors at all costs!!). LA reps from SAG-AFTRA came to our World-Voices convention and we spoke directly to them, in no uncertain terms, about how we feel we are perceived. We were assured that they heard us and that they were trying to move things in a positive direction. And, sure as shootin’, Poof. Vapor. Nothing. So those new gung-ho union members who think this is the greatest thing since sliced bread and OMG I’m a Union Actor Now!, are under-informed and most likely ignorant of what came before. Please do let your local reps know that they need to be more vocal with LA and that National needs to be truly National, and encompass ALL of the nation, not just the coasts. It’s time to update their vision, to accept the national & global scope of the industry, and be accountable & responsive to ALL actors and market forces. As of now, FAIL.

      Reply
      • Lois Wolf

        Thanks Chris Mezzolesta, I will pass your words along [literally just forward]. I joined the union back in 1987, but due to other matters wrote a letter to be “let out” in 1996 [give or take … memory and all that]. I missed the inbetween “revolution” and am just trying to get my foot back in the door. I see that my name still comes up as a member when I checked, tho’ I have’t paid dues since 1996ish.

        I’ll see if a bug in our President’s ear and that of the staff people there can open the dialogue or just give them some meat to discuss with National.

        Thank you!
        Lois Wolf

        Reply
  2. Bob Wood

    I’d like to be on the list as to avoid the bad players in the VO biz.

    Reply
  3. Kristi Burns

    …here’s an AMEN from Spokane, WA….negotiating on my own since 2007!
    (with a lot of help from WoVO and Rates Roundtables ! )

    Reply
  4. Sandra

    I’d like to be on the list as well…I just received an email from some company in India..Cosmic Global? Not sure if it’s legit or not, so I’m not responding. Also tried to join the page on FB, but didn’t see a link where I could join?

    Reply
  5. Jan Eliot

    As always another good read! Thanks for the information, always helpful . I would like to be added to your FB group for potential red flags in the industry. WoVO has been helpful as well. I am Janet Smith Staples, (aka Jan Eliot.)

    Reply
  6. Irene Peet

    Thanks Chris for all your hard work!
    I have come across many suspect companies and individuals over the years…

    I would like to be added to the FB Red Flag group!

    Reply
  7. Brian Arens

    I’d love to be added to your FB group – [email protected]. Thanks!

    Reply
  8. Jack R Smith

    Would like to be part of your group. My FB is Voices You Hear.

    It seems that if the union is so concerned why wouldn’t they see the advantage of treating the voice over community with more respect, not just in LA or New York but in other areas of the states where there are some excellent talent. This actually might help their revenue…

    Reply
  9. Brian Boulden

    Dave can you please add me to your Facebook list

    Reply

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