Voice of Niko Bellic is Not Happy With His Pay

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If you’ve played GTA IV, watched any trailers for the game, or even watched TV recently, odds are you’re already familiar with the voice of Michael Hollick. He’s the guy who lent his talents to bring the main character of Niko Bellic to life. So he should be pleased with how well the game is selling, right? Well, not really. It seem Hollick has received a total of around $100,000 for his 15 months of voice over and motion capture work, but that’s it. No royalties, no residuals; just the flat rate he and the other actors in the game received through the Screen Actors Guild. And while $100,000 for one and a quarter year’s worth of work isn’t bad, it’s a paltry sum when compared with GTA IV’s $600 million worth of sales; not to mention the fact that, were this almost any other form of recorded media, Hollick would be entitled to millions. Unfortunately, it seems the Guild has yet to work out agreements when it comes to video games and even 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,” Mr. Hollick, 35, said last week over dinner in Willamsburg, Brooklyn, shortly after performing in the aerial theater show “Fuerzabruta” in Union Square. “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. Yes, the technology is important, but it’s the human performances within them that people really connect to, and I hope actors will get more respect for the work they do within those technologies.”

Of course, while it’s easy to say that an actor making such a large contribution to a game should be compensated as such, Hollywood has a different view on the matter:

“What drives video games is not Tracy and Hepburn; what drives it is the conception of the creative director,” said Ezra J. Doner, a former Hollywood executive who represents entertainment companies as a lawyer at Herrick, Feinstein in Brooklyn, N.Y. “The actor whose appearance or voice is used is more analogous to a session music for a band. The session musicians don’t get residuals on the sales of the CD. They get paid a session fee. It’s not like the star quality of Tom Cruise that’s getting people to buy that video game.”

Admittedly, she’s got a point. Personally, I never knew who voiced Niko up until now, and I frankly didn’t care. It’s certainly an unfair situation, but the popularity of a video game really is driven by a slew of factors; and the actors behind the voice work just aren’t one of them. Really, the only time I think I’ve ever known who was doing a voice in a video game was when it was a performer who had already been established in Hollywood (like Ray Liotta as Tommy Vercetti in GTA: Vice City).

Via New York Times

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26 Comments on Voice of Niko Bellic is Not Happy With His Pay

Rollett

On May 21, 2008 at 2:36 pm

100k a year is more then MANY MANY people make.. to me its really low to whine about that.

webcore

On May 21, 2008 at 2:37 pm

Why should Mike. A. Hollic care about how much he’s getting paid for voice over work?

He’s satisfying his cravings for the microphone and getting a wad of cach for doing so….

exeHL

On May 21, 2008 at 3:32 pm

Games are changing. Considering how high profile Grand Theft Auto IV is and where video games stand in today’s world, his complaints are valid.

Anne

On May 21, 2008 at 4:12 pm

it is reasonable pay – the value of having done this on his CV will be worth far more in the long run

raok52

On May 21, 2008 at 5:26 pm

He still deserves more money, wad. Every voicework actor who does so much for a game (I think the guy who did CJ’s voice should be complaining as well) should get a percentage of residual profits. Which in this case, isn’t residual at all, since it’s still selling very well. He deserves a lot more than a piddly 100k. Yes, it’s more than most people make, but they’re people like you, and you. You are the little people, just like me. WE DO NOT MATTER. You need to learn this. I do not matter, you do not matter. Your opinion doesn’t matter either. So off, and support this guy who contributed to a game I’m sure you’re all playing (and if you’re not, you’re a Wii got or Sony fanboy piece of , and need to be killed)

Satan Bless.

Dadud

On May 21, 2008 at 5:42 pm

Time for a Rent Niko video.

Kodiak

On May 21, 2008 at 10:28 pm

raok52, if we dont matter, why should we support Hollic, listen to you, or do any thing for anybody. Since the working man is obviously unimportant, I guess we can all just off and take a vacation from everything.

FrostPaw

On May 22, 2008 at 5:46 am

$100k for voice work isn’t peanuts. Takes many people 3-5 years to earn that. Some people won’t ever see that much money in a lifetime. Be gratefull youre not one of those people.

Kev_M

On May 22, 2008 at 7:09 am

I agree with alot of people here, $100,000 is a dair amount of cash.
And for a voice actor, its seems fair.

But thing is, like all companies, if they didnt like it at the time, then he should just got the hell out.

We easily coulda had different voice actors and not have cared one little bit.

he didnt seem so vocal about it while doing the work and collecting his paycheck.

The money he’ll make as a result of having GTA4 on his CV will more than compensate for any grumble he may have.

Book

On May 22, 2008 at 12:07 pm

If anyone should be getting residuals and royalties off of the game it should be the designers. The Artists and programmers that crunched for months to make this game as good as it is. This idiot voice actor is taking credit for their blood sweat and tears. I find it offensive, but also completely irrelevant. Voice actors for games will never be compensated like their movie cousins because they do not factor into the success of the game. If their union demands it, developers will just settle for non-union voice actors. If that doesn’t work then they won’t use voice acting at all. And it would not hurt their sales in the slightest because it is good game design that sells games, not acting.

Steve

On May 22, 2008 at 3:19 pm

This guy’s voicework in GTA4 was average at best. It also didn’t take long for me to recognize “Hey, this guy speaks english waaaay too good.” Results in far too much effort on my part to ignore the fact that Nico’s accent is fake.

The guy who did the voicework for Brucie Kibbutz deserves some kind of an award. Brucie is destined to be an iconic video game character.

I had to enable subtitles for Jacob, which is a compliment towards that particular voice actor as well.

Jesse

On May 22, 2008 at 9:22 pm

Too bad so sad. If I was a contractor who built a successful restaurant, should I get royalties from that restaurant? I don’t think so. What if the game did bad? Would he have given the money back? A contract is a contract, if the actor would have requested royalties or residuals from Rockstar, they probably would of got someone else. I would have…

Ben Hobbs

On May 22, 2008 at 11:08 pm

Why is it unfair, I simply refuse to believe that voice acting and motion capture for a video game, even GTA took a SOLID 15 months. More likely it was a week here and there, a few hours a day – but not 9-5 every day for more than a year.

Unlike films or TV shows, the ‘actors’ in video games are NOT the reason people buy them, its about time these people came down to Earth a little. For some cartoons, the voice actors get paid a million dollars a show, for saying 20 sentences, ridiculous.

Dr.

On May 23, 2008 at 12:05 am

Steve, I’m fairly certain the guy who did Brucie’s voice is FPS_Doug from pure pwnage.

The guy who did the voice of Niko should have worked all that out to begin with, not get paid then complain. Contracts are contracts.

Mihen

On May 23, 2008 at 2:43 am

What about the programmers and the artists then. The creative director and lead programmer? They contributed more to the success of the game than this voice actor. In fact the voice means ZERO to the success of the game, it adds quality (which the voice wasn’t THAT good) but people don’t buy GTA IV because Michael Hollick voiced one guy. Give me a break.

Jimmy

On May 24, 2008 at 12:36 pm

Boo Hoo, I am sure he was happy enough when taking the job for 100k. He prob never even knew what GTA was before he got the gig. Anyone who knows the franchise would have had an idea of how big it would be, even if the game was total rubbish it would has still sold by the bucket load.

$100.000 is not bad by any standards for reading someone else’s words! Quit your wingeing, Niko could not have said a word and the game would still be good, thanks to all the talented people that actually created the game.

Steve

On May 26, 2008 at 5:11 am

I couldn’t give a flying who does a voice in a game, I don’t play the game cos of the voice actors I play it cos I like the type of game. Why the hell should the actors get royalties and residuals, if anyone needs them I would much rather they go to the games designer, the story writer, the programmers. Hell, if the game played e no er would play it. You tell me one e game where someone says I love this game cos the voice acting is good…. BOLLOCKS!

Another thing, if I was a game producer I wouldn’t rehire these guys for another game, who wants bitter nobody actors when other nobody actors would be thankful of a great job like this.

nunya

On June 26, 2008 at 11:55 am

$100,000 is nothing. It’s time you children grow up and realize that.

Zenthik

On July 29, 2008 at 10:59 pm

Wow, you’re all a bunch of ignorant morons. Voice acting contributes immensely to the immersiveness of a game, and your inept analogies to irrelevant bull show only your colossal stupidity. Listen to a big talent like Tony Jay and tell me his acting didn’t lend character and immersion to every project he was in.

Heru-Ur

On July 30, 2008 at 12:32 am

Ok so this dude got paid 100 grand to stand in a room and talk into a mic, and hes ing about his pay?! What a ing tool.

Deex

On August 1, 2008 at 5:45 pm

They shouldn’t pay him anymore money. He walks into anyplace that needs some form of acting, and he wants the job, and he auditions for whatever work he’s doing, all he has to do is say he voiced Niko Belic on Grand Theft Auto 4.

Think about it, a sweet way to get your foot in the door. Sure not up to standards by what other people making acting in big name things, BUT he gets his foot in the door to do bigger things.

Niko's mom

On October 29, 2008 at 12:43 pm

Niko himself wouldn’t have whined about this. He would have gone after R*

J.T. Carter

On May 22, 2009 at 5:11 am

word!! HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!

megan fox

On November 23, 2010 at 3:51 pm

oh,guy,it’i realy great!

jayman419

On October 19, 2012 at 10:02 pm

Niko is an incredible character, and Hollick deserves his share of the props for bringing Niko’s thoughts and emotions off the page. But Doner, quoted at the end of this article, really has a point.

While I can’t imagine Niko with any other voice than Hollick’s, I just had no idea who Hollick was before I bought GTA IV. If they had chosen another voice actor, I wouldn’t be able to imagine Niko with any other voice but that other guy’s. I didn’t buy GTA IV because I wanted to see Hollick’s performance, even though I could heap praise upon his work all day, especially the subtlety that he brought to the role. I bought it because the other games in the series were incredibly fun.

Let’s be honest… GTA III didn’t even have a voice actor for the main character, and they still managed to move almost 15 million units. If Hollick doesn’t want to be involved in GTA V, I’m absolutely sure that there are hungrier actors out there willing to do the job, and capable of doing it well.

Another point which Doner barely touched upon is that the people who hire session musicians don’t have to invent entirely brand new instruments every couple of years. Video games are treated differently from other forms of entertainment because they are fundamentally different. Rockstar and Take Two made bank on GTA IV. But I imagine that there were very few people who were telling their friends that they just had to go buy an awesome talking simulator.

jayman419

On October 19, 2012 at 10:03 pm

…cont’d

And R* shelled out the cash (up front) to develop the RAGE engine in the first place (and I doubt Table Tennis did much to offset those development costs). They have constantly tweaked and refined their tech. They released two expansions to GTA IV (both had some pretty significant additions to gameplay), created a top-tier racing game, changed the city’s setting to the Wild West to revive another franchise which seemed dead, and were still able to fund other risky projects like LA Noire and Bully. Right about now they are starting from scratch again, for next gen consoles, if they want to continue to be a market leader.

I’m not saying “Oh poor Rockstar, they’re barely scraping by”… but look at how many developers close their doors or undergo major reorganizations every year. Rockstar, like any developer, is only a flop or two away from putting a *lot* of people out of work. Even with all the money they’ve made, R* Vienna is gone and R* Toronto is merging with Vancouver. Residuals wouldn’t mean more significant pay for rookie voice actors chasing their big breaks… It would simply mean either less voice acting in games, or less video game production in the United States.