Thursday, June 09, 2005

Clarification & and Lots of Rambling

A few people have written me email about the following quote I made in my last post.

“Game companies will go back to getting their staff members to record their background screams for free instead of paying someone like Lynnanne Zager.”

I want to point out that I didn’t say game companies would go back to using their employees to do “major voice over work” for free; I said “background screams.”

If you are using somebody for “major” voice over parts in the game they should get paid for that work. If they suck so bad that you don’t think they should get paid for it than you should probably get another actor.

But just because you found them around the office doesn’t mean they will suck. All the voices in Dune II (first RTS game) were all Westwood employees. I should also point out that Dune II even having voices at the time was an amazing feat since it was not a CD-Rom game nor were the system minimum specs that high.

Lands of Lore CD-Rom had Patrick Stewart as King Richard in the expanded intro, but all the rest of the voice over work was done by Westwood employees. This was back in the day that’s CD-Rom games were the new experimental media. Companies would put the normal version of the game out, and then experiment with their technology in a CD-Rom version that had bonus content such as voice acting of various parts. Hollywood names would do video game work at the time because it was a new unknown field and they wanted to be a part of it from the beginning. I was not privy to all the details involving Mr. Stewart’s contract or what we paid him but we did get a cool cardboard cut of him as Captain Picard which we used to stick in unlikely and unexpected places around the office to be funny or try and scare people.

Moving forward the voice of EVA in the first Command and Conquer game was done by Kia, Westwood's secretary at the time. But forget just voice-overs, how about on screen video captured actors? Almost all of the minor roles in the first Command and Conquer game were Westwood Employees. For example: Seth, the first Nod Commander, was played by Eric one of the 3D artists. But forget bit parts how about Kane, the big bag villain in all the C&C games. He was played by Joe Kucan, Westwood's casting director. Though to be honest Joe Kucan was already an experienced actor and used to run Rainbow Company Children’s theatre in Las Vegas. He directed me in Big River which is the musical version of Huckleberry Finn.

I am credited in C&C: Red Alert as “additional background voices” though I am sure my background screams and such are present in a few other games. I recorded one of the Mentant voices for Dune II but mine wasn’t used. You can hear me quite clearly in Lands of Lore when all the important people are meeting to discuss what to do about Scotia, the villain of the game. Frank got us all in a room and we were supposed to just do background mumbling conversation but out of the blue I threw in an audible ‘Scotia’ grumble. It came off pretty good so we re-did the take and we all actually started talking-mumbling instead of incoherently mumbling and would occasionally raise the tone up a notch so you could catch an actual word or two like ‘Scotia’, ‘Gladestone’, or ‘Dark Army.’

I didn't get anything extra for my 'additional voice acting' credits in those cases but I didn't expect to. It was just 10-15 minutes work doing something that really didn’t require any skill, for a project I am already working on. But I am sure Kia and Joe Kucan got compensation for their major work they did and they deserved every bit of it.

Anyway the point I was making was that video games aren’t going to be hurt by having to go to non-union voice-actors. They will be able to find non-union actors who are just as good for the roles that are needed. For example, the actors in most local theatre productions are non-union actors who are doing the work for free because it is fun and/or they want the credit to put on their resume. Some of these local theatre performances aren’t that good, but some of them are very good. I am sure putting out a casting call for the voice over work in the paper the theatre groups use for auditions will result in a non-professional, non-union, actor who is just as good for the part as somebody in the union.

Okay, that’s enough rambling. I just sat down here to read some web comics before the female folk get back and drag me off to do some tourist stuff. My feet still hurt from tramping all over Surfer’s Paradise yesterday.

Oh, before I go I should say that I am pretty sure Joe Kucan does belong to the Screen Actor’s Guild, but that doesn't mean he wasn't also somebody found around the office.

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