A couple of months ago I wrote about the potential of a voice actor strike. Specifically that voice actors and video game publishers were not seeing eye to eye in their negotiations at the time. Recently I decided to do a little digging since those of us on the outside of SAG/AFTRA are getting no updates on the situation. Essentially this is what I've found:
No strike has been called.
That being said, we are actually pretty close to one. I checked the SAG/AFTRA Updates page in regards to this issue and have found that there has been some movement on the part of the union. You click that link and read about it in more detail but it seems negotiations have continued to stall so the SAG/AFTRA National Board delegated the responsibility to call a strike to the Executive Board. Wait, wait, stick with me. I realize this is a bit boring but it basically comes down to the fact that the National Board only meets 4 times a year. If they don't delegate the issue to the Executive Board, then they won't be able to declare a strike until April. The Executive Board can call a meeting and call a strike at a moments notice. This happened in January so it seems a strike could be called at any time. So we are where we were.
It's also interesting to note an update where SAG/AFTRA is calling for members to report "vocally stressful" sessions they may have experienced. This is because the union is investigating the possibility of petitioning California's Occupational Safety & Health Standards Board to include regulations to cover risks to the voice. I would imagine that while it only would be applicable in California, it would force studios outside of California to meet the same regulations to continue to work with union members.
I'm going to link to Wil Wheaton's blog post again because I think it sums up nicely what this is all about. A lot of people look a this and think it's a bunch of people whining about how they don't get paid enough to talk and that they need more breaks and their hands held during pretend fighting scenes. (For motion capture) That really isn't the case. Here's my take on each of the issues on the table:
Residuals would be nice, but really everyone knows at this point that this issue is a red herring. It's will be the first thing to go. The only reason it's still we are still talking about it, I would imagine, is because the publishers aren't willing to entertain any of it so the union is doubling down.
Limiting vocally stressful sessions to two hours just makes sense. If you have ever gone to a concert and screamed and sang your head off for over three hours remember what your voice was like the next day. Yeah. Now imagine you have to go to an interview to get a job based on how good your voice sounds. This isn't because we're pansies. To put it another way, think of delivery guy. He has to lift 100 lbs packages all day long. He gets a new manager that not only won't let him take a break for 8 hours and that he must bend with his back and not his knees the whole time. Everyday he is risking his health and his ability to continue working because his boss isn't letting him do his job safely. His back blows out and now he can't work. That's what happens to us. If our voice goes, so does our income.
Stunt coordinators in motion capture sessions, again, just makes sense. This issue and the vocal stressful issue are frankly the two I think are the most important to the union. If you are doing any kind of acting that requires physical movement outside of "walking, sitting, standing, lying down" then you need a stunt coordinator. Especially if there is any type of "fighting" involved. I've been in a few productions where there were no stunt coordination or fight choreographer and ALWAYS someone got hurt. Thankfully each time was a bump or a bruise but that doens't matter. Because eventually it's going to be more than that. Why risk it?
Transparency is the other issue I believe is mostly there to be removed in negotiation. While it would be nice to have the name of the title and whether it had objectionable content it isn't a neccessity. If you have concerns a project may not align with your ideals, ask. I'm sure a director you are auditioning for will be happy to give you a vague yes or no without compromising the confidentiality of the project. And if they don't, and you are that worried about it there are other projects out there. It's not like we don't audition for a 100 jobs to just get one. What is another 100 jobs. That IS our job.
So that is my break down. Thanks for sticking with me on this update and I will post any news on this issue as it comes out.
What do you think about the demands of SAG/AFTRA? How about the stone cold silence of the publishers? Leave a comment below or drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org Thanks again!