Monday, December 07, 2009

Leverage - Actors' Division

Let's now turn to one of the stronger unions in the U.S. labor movement, the organization that pioneered theatrical and television residuals back in 1960-61, when SAG President Ronald Reagan hammered out the first residuals deal.

But upfront, let's be clear on one important item. It's not 1960 anymore.

... Screen Actors Guild ... members recently rejected a proposed contract that covers voice work in the video game industry. "The concern going forward is that as these games become larger and larger and generate more income, we as actors won't see any more money when we walk out the door," ....

Attorney Scott Witlin, who represented video game publishers in the recent labor negotiations, disputes the notion that actors are being shortchanged. "If you look at the total contribution either in terms of hours that go into the creation of a game or the earnings of the people who make the games, voice talent represents a minute percentage," he said ...

The Screen Actors Guild complaints are that compensation in the video game area is going backwards not forward, and that SAG members receive no residuals for their work on video games, many of which sell in the millions of copies. Mr. Witlin makes the company's usual point, which is always:

"We paid you people for this job of work already! You don't expect us to pay you again, do you?!"

But of course we do, because sharing the wealth is a good thing. And conglomerates are ill-advised to use the limp moral argument about "paying twice" when they're paying many people "twice" already, like for instance executives who get big stock options and bonuses on top of big pay packages, and actors who get ten percent of gross on top of huge salaries. Also those nasty entertainment unions who are already getting residuals for films and teevee shows that the congloms own, because the congloms -- much as they hate it -- are saddled with paying residuals originally negotiated by Mr. Reagan.

Because it doesn't come down to morality at all. The whole deal is arbitrary, just like most deals created by humankind, and comes down to this:

The voices in about 80% of video game titles are performed by actors who don't work under a guild contract ... "It's not so much their argument is weak or strong," said Jonathan Handel, an adjunct professor at UCLA School of Law ... "The overarching issue for any union making a deal is: Who has the leverage?"

It's simple, really. You have the power to make the other party accept your fondest wish, or you don't. Period. It's not a matter of what is right or wrong, or what God wants, or what the children of Kenya believe to be the best outcome. It is only about power and leverage.

I learned this shortly after I started my first contract negotiation (when I had to think about it for the first time.) I've been receiving new lessons in the concept ever since.*

* And it's a concept I iterate over and over and over, since it can never be iterated too much,


mattanimation said...

bunch a whiners. Most of those actors aren't as talented as their gig heads think.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

yes, leonardo dicaprio and miley cyrus need more leverage. go SAG! go get 'em tigers!

Anonymous said...

Paraphrase of above comments:

"Why should any animators ask for salary raises? Have you heard what Glen Keane makes??! And almost none of them are talented, anyway!"

Anonymous said...

I agree. What a bunch of tools these posters are. Did you read the rest of the article? It says these actors tend to make 30 grand or less a year and need second jobs. And they're being asked to stress out their voices in order to get all the work done in one session and save the employer an extra day of pay. Yeah, what a bunch of whiners they are.

Same goes concerning the writers and directors in the previous post.

The only whiners here are all you people who don't ever have the balls to stand up for yourselves and so have to be content to drag everyone else down with you, instead of recognizing that it's Us vs. Employers and not Us vs. other Employees.

Anonymous said...

yes, thanks for the de facto bullshit of the last year. please explain why anyone working in this town can hear the message. we've gone deaf already. and broke.

And thanks for the infantile us vs. them bush dogma. child.

Anonymous said...

Ooh, calling me a child -- nice going! You win the argument, sir!

Since when is believing in what unions *should* be about "bush dogma"? What are you smoking?

Look, the whiners above base their whining on an us vs. them mentality. I'm only pointing out that if you're going to follow that path, you've got the wrong them.

And let me ask you this, does the average animator make more than 30 grand a year? What does the average and mean animator make a year? I'd love to see the average and mean numbers compared to actors, writers, directors, (and business execs for that matter). Maybe we could once and for all get past the "everyone makes as much as Leonardo DiCaprio and Miley Cyrus" idiotic assumption that passes for fact here.

Anonymous said...

I love how everyone loves to talk about how much money Glen Keane makes (as if THATS the baseline for your average animator).

Besides, the only people who really know what he makes is Glen and his boss.

Anonymous said...

Meant to say median instead of mean earlier. My bad.

Anonymous said...

I love how everyone loves to talk about how much money Glen Keane makes (as if THATS the baseline for your average animator).

Besides, the only people who really know what he makes is Glen and his boss.

I think you may have missed the point of the earlier post.

By the way, when Glen Keane re-upped his 7-year contract with Disney, it was public news. Disney publicly released the fact that it was $15 million over 7 years.

rufus said...

"And let me ask you this, does the average animator make more than 30 grand a year? What does the average and mean animator make a year?"

two words: Wage Survey

How many hours of work does an actor put in, compared to how many animators put in?


Anonymous said...

And what do the wage surveys show, smart guy? Are actors and writers on *average* being rich snobs as portrayed by so many here. Or is the truth different than that?

Are their jobs generally lengthy in nature that makes it a viable business model to just get an upfront payment and leave it at that, or is the nature of the beast quite different in those jobs, where the only viable business model for *average* actors and writers becomes one where mailbox residual money is crucial to their long term existence. After all, it's not like companies generally keep them available as ongoing employees or pay for the audition or initial writing process. (And particularly in the writers case, the amount of free work is orders of magnitudes greater than the amount animators are subjected to -- which I'm not saying to demean -- none of us deserve our treatment in this regard.)

Perhaps the world of an *average* actor or writer is not so much better than the life of an *average* animator after all.

But yeah, keep blaming them for all your troubles. Boy, imagine how great it would be if they weren't around. The studios would have made you rich!

Anonymous said...

No one blames actors. SAG and AFTRA's failure to get beyond their division is another thing entirely. That's a disservice to the entire entertainment industry.

And pay is almost entirely besides the point of organizing. You organize for the issues that matter to people, health and retirement. Whether one gets paid hourly from a single employer in any year or paid by the word from a number of employers in any year, the bottom line is who is ponying up for your benefits and how much, so when your hand or your voice or your brain doesn't work as well as it used to, the bargaining agreement negotiated on your behalf has something for you. And for the record, plenty of animators only work part of the year, and often for many different employers. That is just a fact of the creative endeavor. One cannot blame video game productions who have entire staffs of people contributing creative talent (on both the programming and art sides) for perceiving voice work differently than how traditional Hollywood perceives it (...the same traditional Hollywood that is presently evaporating as quickly as video games are blossoming.) Seriously, in a creative economy, exactly how do you differentiate between what a programmer brings to the table every day at work verses what an actor does? Save for entirely different labor histories.

So far this millennium, Silicon Valley 1, Hollywood Labor 0. I wouldn't bet on Hollywood.

r said...

Animators rich?!? hahahaha...what world do you live in?
Got an animator friend who had to declare banckupcy, that's how rich we are, you moron!

Strained vocal chords?! Look, I do sympathise, but you see, we do suffer ailments as well. Ever heard of back pain, carpal tunnel, tendonitis, epicondylitis? See we all age, is not a matter of choice!


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