The Great Battle Fought by One of the World’s Finest Voiceover Artists
No one likes a bully! The thing is, life is full of them, and it does not stop when school ends. Bullies find themselves in drunken crowds, on the playground but sadly also in the workplace. Entertainment is no different! This happens in the actor world as well. In late 2021 we saw an example of this as a big company tried to bully those at the bottom of the ladder! It is the same old story, but the good news is bullies do not win! Let’s explore how this relates to controversy in voiceover with John DiMaggio’s story.
The Voice Talent Has Rights!
As voice actors, we must look after ourselves. We need to take care of our bank accounts, our voices, our bodies, and our mental wellbeing. It was painful to watch in 2020 all the negative press Activision and Blizzard were getting for the poor working conditions they put their employees through. Fortunately, that bad press provoked them to change and improve how they treat people. Sadly, the damage was already done. Money is such a monster! It makes people do awful things and big companies… well they have two options, make a difference with their money, or try and take every penny without care of the damage it makes to the world. Fortunately, a splash of bad press and a reduction in sales and bad companies are quick to change their tone – GOOD!
Voiceover Artists Coming Together to Stand Up to Big Companies!
Some unions are great! Some are… well you know! But earlier in this blog, I mentioned in late 2021 a big company tried to bully those at the bottom of the ladder, who was that? Many of you reading this will remember the iconic TV series The Simpsons. If you do, you may also remember the spin off ‘Futurama.’ Futurama ran for a few seasons before ending. The impressive thing about this show is that it came back for another series before ending a second time. Years and years came by and then Hulu brought it back again! Great work Hulu, right? Well. kinda… Hulu attempted to take on all the original cast however John DiMaggio said no because the rates were poor! Hulu had hoped to have got away with the low pay, but they were wrong! The voiceover community came together.
Knowing Your Worth as a Voice Actor
Throughout the battle of voice actor vs big company, there was not much in the way of mudslinging, however, Hulu did say publicly that if John DiMaggio did not come back onto the show they would replace him. This started a mass uproar on social media, why? Two reasons:
Reason 1: John DiMaggio plays ‘Bender’ the cheeky comical Robot we all grew to know and love! Effectively Hulu was saying they would replace the lead character! Voice actors are not disposable commodities!
Reason 2: Voiceover artists worldwide saw this, and personally felt threatened, because if it could happen to someone as big as John, well we are all in danger.
The Voiceover Industry Staying Strong
You will see in the article I share a tweet from Sean Schemmel. Now Sean is a dear friend of mine, but he is also arguably the biggest Anime voiceover artist in the world. Sean along with hundreds if not thousands of other voices over artists got behind John to support his battle against Hulu. So, what about the rest of the cast? Well, there was some grumbling in the ranks, some got behind John, and others stayed quiet to watch. As John was the last one to accept or reject the new contract, he really caused a stir for Hulu (and rightly so). At this point, was the whole cast in jeopardy? So many of them were supporting John whilst others were happy with the rate and hoped he would return for consistency, but there was still hope!
The Voiceover Actors’ Trump Card
It was suggested that John was simply being greedy, and it was all about the money but publicly he came out and said it was not about his own bank account, but it was about the rates in the industry. He stated that everyone in that cast was being underpaid for the calibre of the project and the responsibility and pressures that come with being a celebrity. John was not willing to let yet another company bully voiceover artists in a race to the bottom with rates, so if Hulu really believed replacing him or anyone else was the right choice then he invited them to try.
From my perspective, a giant game of bluff was at play here and John showed that we are all unique and irreplaceable. When a company chooses to recast, they choose to compromise the project and a part of it dies as something new emerges in its place, new, but different.
Can Any Voiceover Artist Do This?
To some extent yes! We all have control over our working rates and our businesses. But certainly, in this instance when the biggest voiceover artists in the world stand up for better rates and are willing to pass by on massive projects for it, well that says a lot globally. Not only does it protect all of our worth’s, but it also sends a message across the industry that the bigger companies can not simply just pay tiny fees for massive roles. The saying ‘it’s just good businesses’ really annoys me because things are done in the name of ‘good businesses’ may offer a bigger return for greedy shareholders, but the reality is that voice talent is worth a bit more wealth and the people at the top do not need any more wealth! We work in a massively competitive industry and that does not mean companies can pay the cheapest person they can find, what it means is we must ensure we are at the top of our game so that the best of the best gets selected.