Canadian Voice-Over News

Two of the top union voice agents in the country have joined forces under one roof.  Sandi Sloan of Fusion Artists (www.fusionartistsinc.com) will bring her voice roster under the umbrella of Julie LaFontaine’s Fountainhead Talent Inc. (www.fountainheadtalent.com)  

Contrary to what some might expect from a guy running a non-union shop, I have great respect for most of the union voice agents in this country.  A couple of talents I used to represent moved on to join the Fountainhead Talent roster in recent years and I have had nothing but pleasant dealings with Julie.  I’ve never met Sandi but in my early years as a voice talent, I talked to her several times and she gave me solid advice about the biz which was much appreciated.

I wish Julie and Sandi luck with the merger of what will certainly be one powerhouse voice roster! 

In a future post, I will attempt to break down the pros and cons of union vs non-union, as neutrally as possible.

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2 Responses to “Canadian Voice-Over News”

  1. Paul Boucher Says:
    August 4th, 2009 at 11:40 am

    Roger. Good of you to note this. It’s an important transition in the agency market in Toronto and the region. Rather than take on the the tired old conversation about union-non-union, (valid as it may be to continue the dialogue, it’s sort of like discussing peace between Israel and Palestine), how about taking on the conversation about professional, reputable non-union houses like yours having to compete with either unethical, unprofessional, or simply uneducated non-union talent and agencies, who are cannibalizing/commodifying the business to the point where they’re undermining good gigs (non-union/union or otherwise) out there.

    The erosion of union jurisdiction in several key segments (documentaries, etc) is pretty well documented. I think it’s time the pros on the non-union side start to look at being eaten alive by some of the less “reputable” (ill-educated, unethical, bottom-feeding – pick an adjective here) agencies and talent out there who simply don’t get that they’re undermining their own future as well as fellow workers in the industry.

    This isn’t a union mindset, simply a recognition that although there’s a valid business model in going after smaller market, lower value work (smaller producers, lower budgets etc), there’s also a point of diminishing returns that doesn’t seem to be recognized by some performers or agencies.

    I think it’s probably time that agencies like yours that sensibly advocate for common sense and flexibility in all cases take a look at that and start the dialogue among performers.

    I think the time is coming (and probably sooner than the unions would like) when agencies like yours won’t talk about talent “graduating”, or “leaving” to get higher value work.

    I think the industry will continue to evolve with more and more work going non-union (in the middle ground and certain jurisdictions). Engaging and educating people about sustainably “making a living” in the industry rather than making “beer money” or having a “fun hobby” would be a positive step. That conversation needs to be out in the open in non-union community perhaps even more than the union community.

    For one thing it would lend transparency and legitimacy to the industry segment. It would also hopefully help to create the perception of individuals in the industry having a dialogue rather than the common stereotype of unprofessional “performers” whining. 🙂

    Paul B.

  2. Todd Schick Says:
    August 5th, 2009 at 10:56 am

    The merger between these two agencies comes as no surprise. ACTRA has been making it very difficult for Union VO agencies to make a living of late with their idiotic policies and I suspect that perhaps both these agencies were looking to downsize from an operating perspective IE: paying the rent.

    Here we have this massive so-called “union” constantly increasing in size, because the only way ACTRA can keep afloat is with more members. The slice of (VO work) pie continues to erode…..and it’s reaching the point where it resembles a few crumbs on an empty plate.

    Then, to add more fuel to the fire, we have ACTRA making it more and more difficult for ad agencies (Union or non-union) to sign ACTRA talent. The ad agencies are getting pissed off (as well they should) and are one-by-one discovering that not only is non-union talent comparable to union talent…..it’s also affordable and far easier to facilitate hiring.

    The end result is less and less Union VO talent get work, Union agencies are getting less commissions….and we start seeing mergers and/or agencies folding.

    I would say look for many Union agencies to fold and/or merge in the near future…..especially the smaller ones. So long as ACTRA continues to ignore the cries of help from agencies trying to get work for their rosters, Union agencies are going to drop like a rock in Lake Ontario.

    Switching gears, I would wholeheartedly agree with comments made by Paul Boucher. I believe that what Paul said here:

    “I think it’s time the pros on the non-union side start to look at being eaten alive by some of the less “reputable” (ill-educated, unethical, bottom-feeding – pick an adjective here) agencies and talent out there who simply don’t get that they’re
    undermining their own future as well as fellow workers in the industry….”

    ….also reflects the serious damage Voice123 and Voices.com (a Canadian company, I might add) have been doing to the industry. Particularly those who run a home studio like me. I’ve written extensively about these sites here: http://www.toddschick.com/VoiceTalentFAQVoice123.htm

    Finally, I feel that people are leaving PNA not because the grass is greener on the Union side, but rather, they want to pursue the Acting aspect of performing arts, of which ACTRA has the proverbial kung-fu grip on that work. Indeed, I’ve spoken to many a talent who has left PNA, only to lament that they’ve had to endure a dramatic drop in VO revenues. This is because the union, again, has far too many (very talented) members all clamoring for a tinier piece of the Union VO pie……and yes Paul – the work is going in a non-union direction…..;-)!

    Regards,
    Todd Schick

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