Niko speaks out on voice actors' pay

Blames union for lack of GTA royalties.

Michael Hollick, the voice actor who portrayed Niko Bellic in Grand Theft Auto IV, has had a pop at his union for failing to protect voice acting talent in games - or getting him more money, reports GamesIndustry.biz.

According to a New York Times article, Hollick was paid roughly USD 100,000 over 15 months for his voice acting and motion-capture work on GTA IV. He takes issue with the fact that he will not receive royalties or residuals as he would for work on television programmes, films, radio shows or albums.

"The first GTA IV trailer generated something like 40 million hits online, and that's my voice all over it, and I get nothing," Hollick said. "If that were a radio spot, I would have. Same thing for the TV ads."

Contracts between the actors' union and the entertainment industry make little or no provision for electronic media like videogames and the Internet.

"Obviously I'm incredibly thankful to Rockstar for the opportunity to be in this game when I was just a nobody, an unknown quantity," said Hollick.

"But it's tough, when you see Grand Theft Auto IV out there as the biggest thing going right now, when they're making hundreds of millions of dollars, and we don't see any of it.

"I don't blame Rockstar. I blame our union for not having the agreements in place to protect the creative people who drive the sales of these games."

Hollick said that it is the human performances within the games that people really connect to, and he hopes actors will get more respect for the work they do within those technologies.

"What drives videogames is not Tracy and Hepburn; what drives it is the conception of the creative director," said Ezra J. Doner - a former Hollywood executive who is now an entertainment lawyer.

"The actor whose appearance or voice is used is more analogous to a session musician for a band. The session musicians don't get residuals on the sales of the CD. They get paid a session fee," he told the New York Times.

"It's not like the star quality of Tom Cruise that's getting people to buy that videogame."

Ryan Johnston, the voice actor who portrayed Irish hood Patrick McReary in Grand Theft Auto IV - at a pay rate of USD 1,050 a day, about 50 per cent higher than the general guild-negotiated rate - said he believed it was just a matter of time before actors' financial participation in games caught up with their popularity.

The discrepancy between payment for traditional entertainment media and electronic media is expected to dominate negotiations between Hollywood and the actors' guild this summer, with many predicting an actors' strike to parallel the writers' strike last year. That strike revolved around similar issues.

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Oli Welsh

Oli Welsh

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Oli is the editor of Eurogamer.net and likes to take things one word at a time. His friends call him The European, but that's just a coincidence. He's still playing Diablo 3.

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