SAG-AFTRAʼs package of proposals has been crafted with input from interactive performers every step of the way. We started with one-on-one meetings with the top performers in the industry. Then we held dozens of small in-home gatherings, organized three big social events and had a Wages and Working Conditions caucus. Below are the issues that came up time and time again. These are the four issues that make up the bulk of our proposal package.
You might call them residuals, secondary payments, royalties, pay bumps or whatever suits your fancy. It is simply the idea that, if a video game is wildly successful, actors should share in its financial success. There is ample precedent for residual income for actors, yet they’ve historically been extremely difficult to achieve in this contract. The formula we propose is as follows:
We’re asking for a reasonable secondary compensation for every 2 million copies, or downloads sold, or 2 million unique subscribers to online-only games, with a cap at 8 million units/ subscribers. That shakes out, potentially, to FOUR bonus payments for the most successful games: 2 million, 4 million, 6 million and 8 million copies.
It’s a simple approach to secondary payments, and it’ll net you up to four extra union scale payments for your performance (currently $3300.00).
Management will tell you that only 20 percent of video games use union talent, so there isn’t enough penetration in the market to warrant this type of payment. It may be true that when you factor in every single game (including games without any Voice over or Performance Capture) on every single platform (including phones), union penetration is only 20 percent, but we did some research on this issue. We looked at the 100 top-selling games of the past two years and found that of the games with sales numbers that would trigger a secondary payment under this proposal - the “blockbusters” - the penetration of union performers is nearly 100 percent. That’s why we positioned our “ask” at 2 million copies – it’s where most games start to turn a profit, and it’s where all the union talent is found.
As the video game industry continues to incorporate more dialogue into their titles, voiceover actors are being asked to perform many challenging vocal tasks, such as simulating painful deaths, creature voices, battle sounds, and screams and shrieks, with significant force and explosive vibration. Actors are reporting that they are fainting in sessions, tasting blood, vomiting, losing their voice for a day up to several weeks, permanently losing their vocal range, etc.
Stunt Coordinator on Performance Capture Volume
Many actors feel unsafe without a stunt coordinator because they are often asked to do things that could potentially be dangerous to themselves or others. For example, once, without a stunt coordinator on set, a video game developer tried to do a wire pull - which means he basically made himself jerk really hard and fast across a room - without someone on set to monitor his safety. He, of course, got hurt and couldn’t go back to work for a long while. This is just one instance among many.
Stunt coordinators also help train actors how to fight, do stunts and combat and perform motion capture properly so they look more realistic in the game.
Actors need to know more about the projects that they are working on. SAG-AFTRA has proposed that the actual title of the project and the role being hired for should be made available to at least our representatives before signing a contract. We have also heard stories of actors coming into a session and being asked, without prior consent, to do content that contains simulated sex scenes and racial slurs. To be placed in a session, and asked to do a sex scene and racial slurs that will be forever tied to an actor’s name should be a choice made by an actor prior to booking.
Again, precedent is on our side here. You wouldn’t work on a TV show, commercial or film without knowing what part you’re playing and how it fits into the story, yet we are asked over and over again to do just that in interactive media. Our proposal also asks for the following information whenever reasonably possible: How many sessions are you expecting to book? Is there offensive content? Will the sessions be vocally stressful? Transparency is key. We deserve to clearly know what we’re getting into before we commit to a role in a game.
That’s the package we have proposed. It’s not loaded with any crazy demands. We decided to take the high road and approach negotiations reasonably, with principled requests based on contractual precedent and performer input, and then stick to our guns.