Posted on May 21, 2008, Jonathan Voice of Niko Bellic is Not Happy With His Pay
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