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SAG AFTRA Fail to Bilk Video Game Companies for Residuals

by May 15, 2005

Talks on Interactive Agreements Break Off as Video Game Producers Fail to Address SAG, AFTRA Demands for Profit-Sharing, Rejecting "Modest" Union Proposals for "Mo Money!"

(Note: Based on a SAG/AFTRA Press Release Dated 5/10/2005 - this is a parody and NOT an official press release)

In what can be only described as a rare and dangerous form of common sense, Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) announced this week that talks with video game producers for new Interactive Media Agreements have broken off, as the final proposal presented by the companies again failed to address the fundamental issue of "profit-sharing". This is actually quite similar to the Swahili use of the term "profit-sharing" translated 'weegatzdahavamoor' in which all of those who happen through hard work to become very profitable are suddenly forced to share with those who previously agree to be paid a lesser sum for their services.

After two extensions and numerous bargaining sessions since February 15, 2005, the contracts expire at midnight this evening. No further extensions or talks are planned at this time (presumably because SAG and AFTRA continue to come to the bargaining table only to find that no one else has bothered to show up.) SAG and AFTRA have both sought and received strike authorization from their members and will now hold caucuses with members in several key cities to determine whether a work stoppage is necessary. Final strike authorization requires the approval of each union's elected leadership.

The end result, of course, is that video game producers will have to get non-union actors to do voice and character acting for their multi-million dollar video game releases. However devastating a blow this must be to the gaming community, I'm sure they will find a way to go on even though it will more than likely result in an unprecendented and most unexpected cost savings to them. In a related announcement, the corporate entity governing small green cucumbers has also broken off talks and will no longer be using SAG/AFTRA actors to make the "snapping" sound for Vlasic pickles.

The key stumbling block in efforts to reach a deal was the producers' repeated unwillingness to explore any revenue participation options for actors in the most successful games. Their refusal to create any form of residual structure - a concept accepted throughout the entertainment industry and common to all other areas of both unions' jurisdiction - even included rejection of a modest union proposal to share in profits on games that sell more than 400,000 units, which, in 2004, would have impacted less than 30 games.

We received a voicemail regarding these talks and apparently, the actual exchange went something like this:

SAG Rep: We simply want to make additional money on games that sell really, really well.

Video Game Company: Why?

SAG Rep: Because.

Video Game Company: Because why?

SAG Rep: Because you're certainly making a killing, why shouldn't we?

Video Game Company: Yes, but we already paid your people the exhorbitant rate of $300/hour for studio time even though they arrived 3 hours late, didn't prep for their lines and ate the catered lunch we brought in for the studio execs. Swedish meatballs from Sweden are very expensive.

SAG Rep: Yes, well that hardly has anything to do with it, now does it?

Video Game Company: Did you just drop a $100 bill?

SAG Rep: Oh, well, it must have fell out of my pocket...

[Apparently the discussion went on and on until someone pointed out that one of the programmers had just cut a marvelous replacement scratch track costing the company a grand total of a $3.45 and a snickers bar. The rest, as they say, is history. Back to the news... - Ed]

In the early 1990s, recognizing the emerging nature of this industry, both unions agreed to contracts that included lower rate structures for actors and no back-end obligations. But with the industry's maturity and enormous growth - illustrated by the fact that some games now gross well over $100 million - the unions insisted that these new agreements include their fair share of the profits generated by their work through a profit-based residual model.

SAG National President Melissa Gilbert (yes, that one) noted, "Game revenues exceed domestic box office receipts. Producers rejected even a modest proposal of a residual structure that would cost them less than one percent of the revenue generated on only the highest grossing games. There is only one way to describe their position: completely unreasonable and lacking in any appreciation of the contributions made by actors to the enormous profits enjoyed by this industry." (Some dissenting opinions have described the position as "incredibly sane", however those persons were rumored to have been taken out back and forced to sign on to the cast of Miss Congeniality 3). Laura Ingalls continued: " If producers want their games to maintain a professional quality, they need to offer an agreement that shows greater respect to the professional performers who make these games come alive."

"AFTRA deeply regrets the producers' intransigence in being unwilling to acknowledge the significant contributions of our members to this exploding and profitable sector of the entertainment industry," stated AFTRA National President John P. Connolly. "To deny working class performers their fair share of the tremendous profits their labor helps to generate is illogical, unreasonable and unjust. It is simply short-sighted to believe that consumers don't care about the artistic quality of the characters."

The AFTRA and SAG negotiating committees plan to report back to their respective governing bodies - the AFTRA and SAG National Boards or their designees - before making decisions on further action.

Further action might include public tantrums or even hanging large billboards in the vicinity of gaming producers which read: "Don't upgrade to the Xbox 360. Those games will be using non-union voice actors!" and "Is this thing on?"

We can only hope that the producers of such Games as Rainbow Six 3, Halo 3, and Call of Duty get a clue quickly before the bottom drops out of the gaming community altogether in light of this recent upheaval.

Note: Items in Italics were added as part of a parody editorial and were not in the initial press release. - Editor.

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About the author:
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Clint Deboer was terminated from Audioholics for misconduct on April 4th, 2014. He no longer represents Audioholics in any fashion.

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