Roberta’s email: Why, a week after Interactive ‘ballots’ went out, is AFTRA still sending out emails urging a “Yes” vote on the contract?

Watchdog Cartoon of the Week ! And you have got to read the emails the Ol’ Dog received one from a Hollywood V/O agent.

* Here is the recent email sent out by AFTRA President Roberta Reardon .

Forwarded Message
From: AFTRA Notification Service
Date: Wed, 4 Nov 2009 23:36:14 -0500
To: “IMA Members (Bulk)”

Subject: Important Message from President Reardon

Flash! Interactive Media November 2009

Dear AFTRA Member: The working members of the AFTRA Interactive Media Steering Committee, the AFTRA Administrative Committee and the AFTRA National Board of Directors recommend that you vote YES on the new AFTRA Interactive Media Agreement.

This agreement will:

1. Raise base rates and contributions to the AFTRA H&R plan
2. Require employers to pay AFTRA members liquidated damages of $100 any time they fail to give notice in advance that a session will involve stressful vocal work
3. Keep the fee for remote delivery currently 135% of the original session fee that the employers tried to eliminate
4. Create a new category of work atmospheric voices that our Steering Committee members believe will generate new work opportunities with higher minimum payments
5. The agreement is for a short period 15 months so we have the opportunity to review the contract and bargain for even better terms in 2009

Please exercise your right to vote on this contract and vote YES. This will help keep AFTRA members working in video games and grow our share of this billion dollar industry.

Look for your AFTRA referendum materials and voting instructions in the mail. If you have not received your materials by November 4, please contact Betty Gomez in the AFTRA National Membership Department in New York at or by phone at 212.863.4224.

In solidarity,

Roberta Reardon
National President

Hmmmnot a lot in there about that Twenty Voices for one session fee. What is curious is that a week after the “deal” was sent out to the affected members to vote on, AFTRA is still sending out such emails.

What does it mean? Well, since AFTRA is most likely getting a running tally of the voting, it could mean a couple things; One is that AFTRA just wants to make the “yes” vote as big as it can. The other? Well, it could mean that the voting is either very close, or not going AFTRA leaderships’ way–and they are getting a little desperate.

Well, we should know in about a week.

A.L. Miller SW Editor & Chief WOOF !

This came in an email to the Ol’ Dog


In all of show business, “Atmosphere” has ALWAYS referred to Background Actors (aka ‘EXTRAS’)

It has NEVER been used to refer to an actor who speaks.

Every actor who speaks in an animated program is considered a principal.

Every voice actor who performs in an ADR session, even when they speak in groups, earns a principal scale payment for their work.

Every actor who performs in an Interactive game, even if they’re playing “Soldier 1”, is considered a principal.

The concept of “atmospheric voices” has been introduced by producers in contract negotiations over the years and it has always been “dead on arrival” as far as actors are concerned.

Just last week, in fact, the SAG Interactive Contract proposal was shot down by actors at SAG because it introduced the concept that some actors who play smaller parts are only “atmospheric” and therefore should not receive the same pay as “principal” voice actors.

This is now up for a vote at AFTRA and if you’ve performed in an AFTRA Interactive game during the last three years you will soon be getting a ballot in the mail.

You must vote NO. !!

You will lose your status as a “principal” actor if the role you are playing “does not advance the story.”

Ever hear of the “under 5” rate for some on-camera sit-coms? Now that same concept is going to be applied to Interactive. The only difference is you have to record WAY OVER “5 lines”. You will be required to perform 300 words for every “atmospheric” character (and that does not include battle cries, screams, groans and multiple takes.)

For voice-performers in every field (animation, ADR, interactive) IT WILL SET A DANGEROUS PRECEDENT IF THIS CONTRACT PASSES.

It’s standard operating procedure for Producers to look for precedents that are set in other contracts. You can bet that they will be using this against YOU in all future negotiations.

If this contract passes, “atmosphere” will have a new definition: it will now refer to both EXTRAS and INTERACTIVE ACTORS. WHO WILL BE NEXT?

Don’t let this industry devalue your talent and skills. Don’t let yourself be sold to the lowest bidder.

Please vote NO and send the negotiators for BOTH unions back to the negotiating table.

P.S. If you’ve worked on an AFTRA game in the last 3 years and you don’t get a ballot, call Britt at AFTRA at 323-634-8133.


This was sent by a well-know and respected Hollywood agent.

My reason for being so vocal about this agreement is I believe in the actors who do this work. I know how good you are and how hard you work on these games. I know how much your performances add to the value of these games. I’m proud of you.

That said….

The main point of contention is the Atmospheric Voice provision. We all agree that the technology for video games has changed dramatically since the inception of this contract. Games now have the ability to include hundreds of characters. The formula for the current contract is based loosely on the animation agreement. It doesn’t work anymore for video games. There are no animated shows with hundreds of voice, but there are and will be more games that have exactly that. We do need to address this
issue. The structure of the contract does need to be changed. But, not in the dramatic way the unions are agreeing to.

The unions and some actors are saying this contract is a good thing. Let me point out a few things that I feel are not so good. The Atmospheric Voice provision allows for one actor to do 20 CHARACTERS for SCALE. Yes I said SCALE.. The same rate you’re getting right now for three voices. It also allows for UNLIMITED VOICES for Double Scale. The same rate you are getting for 6-10 voices. How in the world is this a good deal?

EACH CHARACTER can have up to 300 words of dialogue. They would have to hire 10 actors for Principal roles, before they could hire additional actors for Atmospheric Voices. They are trying to make that sound like it will create more work for more actors. It will not. It will only add a provision that has not been thoroughly thought out and we will all regret it.

As you know, the video game industry uses the same actors on their games for a reason. They want to hire actors who make their games the best they can possibly be. These actors can do many characters, do a great acting performance, work for four solid hours , scream their lungs out and come back and do it the next day. It is a specialized field and it is not something that every actor can do..

They have also added a provision that would cause the actors to become Tattle Tales on the very people who hire them.
If you do a job that is vocally stressful and your agent wasn’t told, you could tell your agent and we could call the company that hired you and make them pay $100. Is that $100 worth the actor and the agent risking their working relationship with a company. I think not. Most of the time they do tell us it’s vocally stressful when they book you, but they won’t pay any more money for the work. So, it doesn’t matter if they tell us or not. It doesn’t change the fee you get.

What your unions need to do is get you a higher session fee for vocally stressful work and forget turning their actors in to tattle tales.

Below is the increase they got on scale.

You would be getting a 3% wage increase with SAG, which would bring you into parity with AFTRA. and than an additional 2.5 % increase on April 1, 2010 for both unions.

Well, 3% increase is standard in any contract, but the big difference is, most other contracts have a residual base as well. As you know this contract has never had a bonus structure or residuals or any profit sharing.. This is a BILLION DOLLAR industry, if they do not want to do a bonus structure, you should be getting a bigger bump up front.

In my opinion, your unions need to go back to the negotiating table with some respect for the actors they represent. Many of your negotiators don’t know how these sessions work and they probably don’t play the games. They have no idea what we agents have to do to get you work on these games. They are now using the fear doctrine to try and get actors to ratify this very bad agreement. As you see, I said many, not all.

I was told EIGHT years ago by very big director for a huge video game company these words “Sandie, when games start depending more on the story line and need good actors or when they are based on movies, your actors will be able to get what they want”. That wasn’t the case 8 years ago, but it is now and will continue to be. Video game management and their lawyers know this, but it appears your union representatives do not.

How can the very people who negotiate on your behalf in all good conscience agree to a deal that so undercuts their actors. What kind of a union is that?

They should be ashamed of themselves.

Let me make it clear, that I am a full supporter of our unions, but I do not support them negotiating a contract that is harmful to their members. I also consider many of the producers and directors I work with in the video game industry to be friends. They are honorable people and I thoroughly enjoy working with them.

It is management and lawyers from the video game industry who are negotiating these contracts. They are trying to get the best deal they can for their companies. Who wouldn’t. My only wish is that your unions would do the same..They are not at this moment.

Alright, I’ve had my say. Do with it what you wish.

Sandie Schnarr