Guild loses hope on vidgame pact

SAG fails to ratify voice thesps' contract

The Screen Actors Guild remains at a standstill on reaching a deal with the videogame industry ­ — and will probably see further erosion of its tiny slice of vidgame voice work.

SAG negotiators reached a tentative deal in early October on the vidgame pact, but about 75 members working the contract in Hollywood spurned the deal on Oct. 28 due to concerns over the “atmospheric” provisions allowing employers to use actors to perform up to 20 voices of up to 300 words at the daily base rate.

No talks have taken place since then. “We have had conversations about setting additional dates for bargaining, and those conversations are ongoing,” said Ray Rodriguez, SAG’s deputy national exec director for contracts.

Scott Witlin, an attorney with Akin Gump who’s negotiating for the industry, told Daily Variety that there’s no prospect of a relaunch of talks any time soon. “We’re still in a state of assessment,” he added.

SAG told its members last month that vidgame earnings had plunged 56% last year to $2.77 million — a miniscule portion of the $2 billion of thesp earnings subject to pension and health contributions (Daily Variety, Nov. 17). And with SAG’s vidgame contract having expired at the end of last year, nonsignatory employers will likely be reluctant to ink a deal with SAG until the contract’s sorted out.

That means the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists, which already covers the lion’s share of unionized voice work for vidgames, will probably increase its work on the contract. AFTRA members ratified the same deal that SAG members rejected last month.

The two performers’ unions have generally made little headway with vidgame companies — an estimated 75% of the voice work performed is non-union. The SAG contract covers publishing giant Electronic Arts and about 70 other gaming companies, paying thesps a day rate of $782 for four hours of work.

SAG’s rejection of the vidgame pact may also put the kibbosh on efforts by negotiators to synch up the expiration dates and terms of the pacts for SAG and AFTRA. AFTRA’s deal — which had been negotiated separately during the past year — will expire on March 30, 2011.

The vidgame pact is the one deal that SAG’s national exec director David White wasn’t able to complete this year.

White closed five other deals in 2009: commercials, feature-primetime, basic cable, TV and cable animation and industrial-educational.

The feature-primetime deal was ratified in June, nearly a year after it expired.

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