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Wil Wheaton Shares SAG-AFTRA Email Reiterating Publishers' Refusal To Negotiate

by Mike Futter on Sep 25, 2015 at 03:00 AM

When we first reported on the ongoing Screen Actors Guild strike vote that would impact interactive performances (video games), we were told that mutual media blackout was in effect. Since then, a member of the union reached out to us under condition of anonymity to detail the history of the tensions. Today, another actor is speaking out.

Wil Wheaton, who has been in television, film, and video game productions, shared excerpts from an email sent by SAG-AFTRA. The communication confirms our earlier interview that the union’s position is that publishers will not negotiate.

You may have heard that billion-dollar companies like Activision, Warner Bros., Disney and Rockstar Games are against sharing any of their record-setting profits with the performers who help make their games awesome. But…


Our employers have rejected every proposal that we’ve put on the table? That includes the community’s proposals to reduce vocally stressful sessions to two hours, […]

Wheaton goes on to detail a “day in the life” of a voice actor. Throughout his blog post, he attempts to put a single job in the context of the rest of the actor’s livelihood doing voice work and live-action performance. 

He goes so far as to provide a way for the average person to simulate a voice actor’s job over a given day, which includes many hours of reading, which is capped off by “callouts.” These are the incidental lines you hear characters shout out during battle, or from NPCs as you are milling about non-combat zones.

“If you’ve done this as I asked, it’s now six or seven hours after you started,” Wheaton says. “Don’t talk at all for the rest of the day, and don’t make any plans to go audition for any other voice work for the rest of the week, because your voice is wrecked. Don’t go to any kind of day job that requires you to talk with anyone, either, because you’re not going to be able to do that. Oh, and over years and years of this, it’s going to build up into serious and permanent damage … and then you’re not going to be able to work with your voice anymore.”

He also reinforces what our union contact told us about proposed fines and loss of franchise penalties for agents. “The studios want to fine SAG-AFTRA up to $100,000 if our agents don’t send us out on an audition?” he writes. “Because these same people who refuse to discuss any of our proposals for this upcoming contract believe … what, exactly? That they own us all and they can force our agents to do whatever they want them to do? This makes literally no sense at all.” He also provides another excerpt from the SAG-AFTRA communication.

If your agent chooses not to submit you for certain auditions, our employers want to put into our contract language forcing SAG-AFTRA to revoke your agent’s union franchise. This would mean that your agency would not be able to send you out on any union jobs, including those in animation, TV/film, commercials, etc.

Wheaton indicates that this is unheard of in the industry. It would essentially remove choice from the job application (audition) process. It’s important to note that our union contact suggests this might be an absurd item in the proposal that will come off the table quickly should the publishers agree to a good faith negotiation.

“If my agent doesn’t submit me for something, for whatever reason, that’s between my agent and me,” he says. “Maybe I don’t want to work for a certain studio, so my agent doesn’t submit me for their projects. Maybe I don’t want to work with a certain director, or another performer or whatever I feel like because I’m a sentient human being who makes his own decisions.”

Despite his concerns with how publishers are allegedly approaching negotiations, Wheaton ends on a positive note. “I sincerely hope that a strike won’t be necessary,” he writes. “I sincerely hope that our employers will come to the negotiating table and talk with us in good faith, to reach an agreement that’s fair. But if they won’t, I’ll go on strike unless and until they will, because I believe that #PerformanceMatters.”

[Source: Wil Wheaton]


Our Take
I have reached out personally to a number of publishers, and have yet to receive more than a “no comment” from those that did respond in full. Now that the media blackout seems to be crumbling, I’m hopeful we’ll be able to get the other side of the story and understand where the publishers are coming from. We’ve heard all of this story so far from the actors, and I know there is likely another perspective that would help us better understand the situation.

Oh, and for those of you playing the guessing game about our anonymous actor source? You can cross Wheaton off the list. It wasn't him.