On September 20, voice actor Kyle McCarley dropped a bombshell video announcing he would likely not be returning to voice Shigeo “Mob” Kageyama in the dub of the upcoming season of BONES‘ hit anime Mob Psycho 100. McCarley revealed that this absence was the result in a breakdown with Crunchyroll after the company chose not to agree to a meeting with representatives from the Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) union to negotiate a potential contract on future productions.
Crunchyroll followed up with a statement to Kotaku announcing that some of the anime’s dub voice actors were replaced and in order to “seamlessly” produce the dub at its Dallas studio. In a new interview with The Cartoon Cipher and published on ANN with permission, McCarley disputed the statement and claimed that some remote recording was still used for the Mob Psycho 100 III dub. McCarley also gives a detailed breakdown of the negotiations with Crunchyroll, discussions with other members of the cast, concerns between Texas and Los Angeles-based voice actors, and his opinion on the benefits of unionization for the anime industry.
The below transcript of the podcast has been edited for conciseness and clarity. You can listen to the full episode below.
The Cartoon Cipher: You mentioned in the YouTube video that kind of sparked the whole thing that you were a part of… was it CODA’s or SAG-AFTRA’s steering committee?
Kyle McCarley: It’s the SAG-AFTRA dubbing steering committee that I’m a part of. I am also a member of CODA. That’s has been around a little bit longer. For those who don’t know, CODA is the Coalition Of Dubbing Actors. It’s just a kind of a rag-tag group of dubbing actors who are advocating for our community. That became a thing because SAG-AFTRA organizing staff reached out to all of us individually and said, “Hey, how are things in the dubbing community? Would you like to see more stuff on SAG-AFTRA contracts?” And we all enthusiastically said “yes.” So they formed us into CODA, and we became our own little self-governing entity trying to advocate for actors’ rights, both union and non.
The Dubbing Steering Committee is an official committee that is part of SAG-AFTRA that was seated just about a year ago now. I’m not sure how many of us there are exactly, but it’s enough in the union bylaws to be quote unquote a quorum, consisting of members from Los Angeles and New York, and then we have one member from one other local. Within the union bylaws, that has to be the minimum number: there has to be a minimum number from LA, a minimum number from New York, and then one person from a regional local office, which in our case is Dallas. And all of those members are actors who work actively in dubbing. And the committee was formed initially to help steer (hence the name Steering Committee) SAG-AFTRA staff toward an updated contract, an update to the 2001 promulgated dubbing agreement which had been kind of forgotten for 20+ years. So we helped determine what the new 2022 promulgated agreement now looks like and we continue to meet on occasion. We keep a finger on the pulse of the dubbing community at large, so that we know what kind of updates need to be made to our agreements in the future. That’s what the steering committee’s all about.
CC: A promulgated agreement is when a contract is decided by the participants in the field, right?
KM: I don’t know exactly what the dictionary definition of the word promulgated means but for our purposes, a promulgated agreement is one that SAG-AFTRA forms freely, like, on its own. And then we offer it to employers like “Hey, you can use this contract to put stuff…you know, cover it with SAG AFTRA,” as opposed to a collective bargaining agreement where SAG-AFTRA sits down at the table and meets with employers. And those employers negotiate the terms of the agreement with us.
CC: It sounds like it’s kind of a template. And I guess the plan was to use the template in negotiation with Crunchyroll?
KM: It would’ve been definitely heavily referenced. There’s a similar agreement to the kind of deal that that I would envision happening with Crunchyroll, which is the Netflix dubbing agreement that came about in 2019 before there was a Dubbing Steering Committee, just because Netflix came to SAG-AFTRA with all of the content that they’re making (not just their dubbed content) and said, “Hey, we wanna streamline the process. We’re a pro-union shop, we’re pro-worker. We wanna make sure that we’re doing right by our actors. But we wanna make a contract that helps us speed things along. And since we’re making so much content, could you do us that solid and make a Netflix specific agreement?” And SAG-AFTRA was like “Yes, we can do that.” And our voiceover department director was like “Hey, while we’re at it, how about a Netflix dubbing agreement?” and negotiated those terms.
So there’s two agreements that apply to the dubbing community: the Netflix dubbing agreement, and the promulgated agreement that applies to everybody else. If Crunchyroll were to produce something on a union contract right now, like today, they would have to do it on the promulgated agreement. But the terms of what I was offering to them would be that they would be able to come and negotiate with us to form an employer-specific contract along the lines of what Netflix has which is a little different from a collective bargaining agreement as well, because it’s something that’s just one employer as opposed to a group clients. Again, I’m not an expert on what exactly the definitions are, at least as they apply to the union.
CC: It’s okay. I’ve been going through a lot of notes lately about the union situation. And I went back to one of the Twitter Spaces and Ben Diskin‘s like “Oh no, not this. I have to explain what collective bargaining is!”
KM: Collective bargaining as a concept is easier for me to explain than what the union defines as a collective bargaining agreement versus a promulgated agreement versus whatever the other… there’s several different types of them and I don’t understand what differentiates all of them from each other.
CC: I guess that’s why we have the union staff.
KM: Right, there’s a whole legal department.
CC: I guess it’s a situation where like the union actors know more of that like legal lingo. But obviously the legal staff know even more. But the only way for everyone else to understand it is to hear it from the actors.
KM: Yeah. And we have to try and do our best to make sense of it for ourselves first, and then do our best to try and make sense of it for everybody else, and do so succinctly enough that people don’t just turn off in the middle of us talking.
CC: That is important. In terms of negotiating a specific contract with Crunchyroll that’s similar but may not be the same as the one with Netflix, I spoke with a couple of people over the past couple of days. I won’t name who, but someone pointed out that because Crunchyroll is releasing their dubs on a week-by-week basis, could that affect a certain term? Would the hourly minimum maybe need to be changed since episodes are being worked on week-to-week?
KM: The short answer to that question is “I don’t know.”
I know that Crunchyroll is offering at least some actors two-hour minimums regardless. I don’t know if that’s limited to just the LA actors, because that’s what we expect as a community. Most of us will not work without a two hour minimum, even if we’re working non-union. I don’t know if they’re not offering that two hour minimum to their Texas actors. And I don’t know if that would be a concession that they would ask for because they have not said what they would want in a contract, cuz right now they don’t want a contract. So I don’t know what kind of concessions they would ask us for. But we’re open to meet with them and talk about ’em.
CC: And just to clarify, you would be okay reprising as Mob non-union even if they said no to the terms?
KM: That was my offer. The offer that I made was: I will come and work on Mob as long as I get a promise that you’ll sit down and meet with SAG-AFTRA. Cuz I know that any meeting in an official capacity with SAG-AFTRA is gonna take some time to set up and they’re already recording the first episode of Mob right now. So I know that they’re on a time crunch there, so that was why I was like “Here’s my solution, here’s my compromise.”
CC: If anything, they’ve made it the most talked-about dub before it’s even come out!
KM: I don’t think that was anybody’s goal!
CC: It still stings that you lost a role of such a big character, especially for the finale of his story, but the way you described it, it seemed like a clever strategy. You set the bar very low, and now everyone’s seen what they did with that bar.
KM: Well, I appreciate that. I don’t know if it’s a strategy that everyone would approve of, but it’s the shot that I saw, so I took it.
CC: Was that something that you decided to do on your own, or was that in talks with the Steering Committee or CODA?
KM: Oh, definitely not talked about with SAG-AFTRA in any official capacity, for sure. Cuz they would’ve told me “you can’t make that offer, that would be in violation of the rules.” I mean, the idea came from somebody else in the cast. I don’t wanna name who, because I don’t want to out anybody. I had a Zoom call with a few other people in the cast of Mob Psycho 100 who were all very conflicted about the issue. I think it was January, maybe February when season three of Mob Psycho 100 was announced, and I went to several people who were prominent cast members in the first two seasons and said “Hey, I want season three to be done on a union contract. So I wanna send a letter to Mami Okada, who’s the casting director at Bang Zoom!, who recorded the first two seasons, to let her know now so that she knows when they put together a budget for season three to accommodate for that. Who’s with me?” And I got like 13 people to sign that letter. And then Crunchyroll ended up taking the production in-house.
So I don’t know if they ever knew that letter existed. But anyway, I was in contact with the rest of the cast or those 13 or so people or whatever it was, and like six of us got on a Zoom call after we got that email from Crunchyroll to say they were doing it in-house and they were doing it non-union. Cuz I was telling them all “Well, I’m gonna walk away if they don’t agree to flip it union.” And it was on that Zoom call where they were like “but when it was Bang Zoom!, we thought there was a chance that they might flip cuz they’ve done it before. Crunchyroll never flips. And we don’t wanna walk away.” There’s people on the call like “Ah, I really need this job and I don’t wanna walk away from it. Is there some sort of compromise here?” And for me, I was like “No, there’s no compromise. It’s union, or I don’t do it. That’s my line in the sand.” And it was one of the other cast members who was like “Well what if you use this as an olive branch to get them to the table?” And they laid out the idea and at first I bristled at it and I was like “No, I don’t work non-union and I don’t wanna cut slack to a non-union-only shop!” But then I thought about it more and I was like “This could get them to the table. And that’s a much bigger thing than just this one show. So yeah, I would do that if it got them to the table,” but they didn’t take it.
CC: Some of the comments I saw surrounding this were people saying like “Oh, of course Crunchyroll wouldn’t do this. Mob Psycho is not the biggest show they have.” And I was thinking “it’s pretty big!”
KM: Yeah. I mean, pre-merger it was a Crunchyroll show, and I would argue it was the biggest, or definitely among the biggest that Crunchyroll had. I mean, now that they’ve merged with Funimation, there are bigger shows for sure.
CC: I guess if the rhetoric was that Mob is not big enough compared to the other fish that Crunchyroll are frying, do you think that this particular strategy would work again on one of those big properties? Or would we have to take a completely different approach?
KM: Nobody’s gonna make the offer that I made ever again because of so many reasons: a) you can’t make that offer. It’s against the rules. But b) because it didn’t work this time. And if it didn’t work here, I don’t see why anybody would try it again and expect different results. Also, because this was kind of a perfect storm in that I’m an actor who’s been strictly union-only with the work I take for the past few years now, who happened to be in a lead role in a popular show that Crunchyroll had another season of and wanted to keep non-union, and happened to be willing to make a public stand over it, rather than just saying “Well if it’s non-union, I’m gonna walk away.”
That combination of factors is not gonna happen very often. So no, I don’t think this strategy is gonna happen again. There definitely could be a show where the whole cast gets together and says “Hey, either it’s union or we all walk.” We didn’t end up taking that strong of a stance there. There were other cast members who are not reprising this season, but it’s not like it’s the whole cast walking away, which could have maybe made a bigger impact? I don’t know.
CC: I guess the assumption was: you were making the offer about the role of Mob. And so the assumption was that if things didn’t go through that they’d only take you off. But now it seems like they’re taking more off because they’re doing it in Dallas now.
KM: I mean, the public statement that they made is not at all in line with what they were saying to any of the cast, and they are definitely doing some remote recording on the show. I can tell you that much. So no, they have not replaced the entire cast.
CC: Oh, okay. I think the public statement just mentioned Dallas and then everyone assumed that the entire cast would be replaced.
KM: I can tell you that that is not true. I may be violating someone else’s NDA, but they didn’t make me sign one.
CC: We mentioned collective bargaining earlier. This step of the project would be to either flip just Mob union and then maybe even more shows under Crunchyroll after that. But when it comes to like these contracts and how they are compared to non-union contracts, do you think later down the line there’ll be more pushes to bring dub contracts closer to like an “ideal world” for lack of a better term? Where the contracts are closer to stuff like pre-lay and video games? Or is that something we shouldn’t even be thinking about right now cuz it’s way too far off?
KM: Yeah. The rates that we have right now are hard-fought gains and for 20+ years, dubbing was paying $75 an hour at the top end, between LA and Dallas. Now, rates just within the past couple of years with the Netflix agreement and the updated dubbing promulgated agreement, which only came into being within the past year (the Netflix agreement has been around since late 2019, so a little bit longer), those brought the union rates up, which in turn brought the non-union rates up. But the rates are where they are today through hard fought gains, and our union rates are gonna keep having annual increases to keep up with inflation just by the nature of us having a Dubbing Steering Committee that will make sure that the contract isn’t forgotten for 20 years again.
Non-union rates, I would imagine will continue to rise to kind of try and keep pace, but as far as major increases go to try and match other industries like animation and video games, any major rate increases that comes in dubbing will be based on where corporate profits are at. We’re not gonna try to get everything onto a union contract and then turn around and go “Okay, now pay us 10 times more than what you’ve been paying us!” That’s not gonna work. 2001 was when that agreement was drafted and it had baked-in annual in rate increases for the following three years, but then it never got updated again. So everything just stayed where it was.
CC: Obviously this has been talked about a lot among both union and non-union actors. But it feels like the louder voices such as yourself have been from the LA side of things. And in comparison, it feels like the Dallas actors have been quieter. I was wondering, with regards to them being in a Right-to-Work state, do you know if there’s a specific danger they might face for talking about this stuff compared to an LA actor?
KM: I mean, you could talk to a Texas actor and maybe they could give you more insight. They might not want to; they might prefer to keep things off the record. But the only danger that I see for them that we don’t have in LA doesn’t have anything to do with Right to Work laws. It’s the fact that Crunchyroll basically owns Dallas, at least as far as it applies to us. It’s a very different landscape than what we deal with here in LA. There’s something like 12 different studios in Los Angeles that work on dubbing projects alone, and all of them are in competition with each other, not to mention all the other voiceover work that’s available here like commercials, original animation, video games, promo… everything’s in LA.
Dallas voice actors rely very heavily on Crunchyroll for their work. So even if they do share some of the “It sure would be nice if Crunchyroll were a union shop” sentiments that most LA actors have, they’re naturally gonna be a lot quieter about that because they would be putting a lot more at risk than we do. I stand to risk nothing because I don’t work non-union anyway. Also, because Crunchyroll is taking most of their work to Dallas and requiring people to record it in Dallas, I’m risking nothing by saying “Hey, I won’t work on this show if you don’t flip it union” because all I’m risking is this show. They’re not gonna offer me any other work that I’m gonna take. There’s nothing to be lost for me, compared to a Dallas actor whose only employer is Crunchyroll and they’re working on 12 other Crunchyroll shows. They’re not gonna make the same stand because they need that work.
CC: What’s the best thing that the rest of us can do in this situation? Everyone has been bringing this up to Crunchyroll mostly on social media because that’s kinda the most control that fans have. When I’ve heard discussions about improving conditions or raising rates in other industries, particularly for the animation industry in Japan, cuz they’ve also been having troubles there with rates and hours, I’ve heard some people say that potential boycotts won’t work because the fat cats at the top just won’t feel the effect of it. And if they see it coming, they’ll just restructure everything beneath them.
KM: I have not really heard that argument but I would challenge it now that I have, because there’s, nothing that a corporation cares more about than their bottom line. So to me, boycotts sound like a very effective strategy. Now, having said that, I’m not advocating for anybody to go cancel their subscriptions over this. Though I do greatly appreciate and applaud the people who are doing it because again, I think that is very effective. It stands to be very effective. What I am advocating for is for fans to let Crunchyroll know however you see fit, whether it’s through cancelling your subscription and filling out that little “Here’s Why” blank. I think that’s very important if you’re gonna do that. But let Crunchyroll know that you want them to agree to these terms and sit down and meet with SAG. All I’m looking for is a meeting. #JustAMeeting. So yeah, put that down as the reason in your little cancellation thing if you’re gonna do that, or just go fill out the contact form, send them an email, tag them in your angry but civil tweets, keep it civil. All of that I think is very helpful.
CC: Going back to the whole union-versus-non-union or LA-versus-Dallas situation, there’s been a lot of concerns that this is going to pit the two scenes against each other. I guess one of my worries, I don’t know how founded in reality this is, is that even if things do shake out for the better, is it possible that people from the separate scenes won’t want to work with or maybe just not trust each other?
KM: I would certainly hope not, because actors have every reason to want their employers to use union contracts, and no reason not to as far as I see it. There might be some, in my opinion, unfounded fears that if Crunchyroll becomes a union shop and then their overhead goes up because of that, then maybe they won’t see a benefit to recording stuff in Dallas. But I think that’s an unfounded fear because they’ve already got the infrastructure there. They’ve got a huge studio there that has like 20 different booths going all day long. There’s no infrastructure available like that in Los Angeles. Real estate is way more expensive here, and they already own the real estate they’ve got there in Texas. They don’t have to pay income tax in Texas. They’re not leaving Texas, that’s not gonna happen. And I think everybody, all the actors: LA, Texas, union, non-union stand to benefit from a union contract at Crunchyroll. So as long as nobody tries to turn this into an actor-versus-actor conversation, cuz that’s not what it is, I think we’ll be okay.
CC: Yeah, I think I’ve seen certain fans or people who aren’t actors doing it more. And I think the actors I have seen doing it most aren’t really involved with anime dubbing very closely.
KM: There’s definitely a contingent of some older-generation actors or more traditional-thinking union actors who are very anti non-union. That sentiment is not common within the community of actors who work in dubbing because it just can’t be. There’s too much non-union work in dubbing for us to be vindictive against non-union colleagues.
CC: I think the Netflix and Aniplex situations might have tipped the balance, but not by that much in the grand scheme of things.
KM: Well, yeah. I mean now with Netflix being strictly union, Aniplex being strictly union, and Viz and 4Kids doing some stuff on union contracts, now there’s definitely more union dubbing work to be had than there ever has been before. But Crunchyroll‘s still non-union, and they still account for the vast majority of anime at least, even if you’re not counting all of the live action dubbing work that’s available. With Crunchyroll still being a non-union shop, there’s still a large percentage of dubbing work that is non-union. And if you’re making your living largely off of dubbing work, you’re likely going to be working non-union or at least understanding of your peers that do.
CC: It’s been very hard to get even a small victory with companies like Crunchyroll. So, is there a chance that like once a victory is achieved that nothing will happen for a while? There’s discussions about “how will this affect the ADR directors and writers and translators? Will we be able to negotiate for better schedules and not just better pay? Will it be possible for dubbing productions to work under IATSE and SAG at once?” And other stuff like the Houston scene, the Miami scene, Vancouver, remote talent…
KM: There is definitely a benefit to focusing energy on one task at a time. The thing is that SAG-AFTRA is an actor’s union. So as an actor’s union, SAG-AFTRA can’t really advocate for other workers who aren’t actors. They can support those other groups when they advocate for themselves, but they have to be advocating for themselves first in order for SAG-AFTRA to help in in any way. Actors are also a very public-facing workforce, so we have the help of both a very established union in SAG-AFTRA, as well as fans. So those two entities can help us push things forward for ourselves. Again, we can help those other groups push the needle forward for themselves as well, but that they’ve gotta be able to shoulder the bulk of the load for themselves. The thing is though, when corporate profits are at an all-time high, I think that that indicates to me that there’s still plenty of room for everybody down at the bottom levels to get a bigger piece of the pie. So, when one group, in this case actors, successfully manages to advocate for themselves through organizing efforts, I think that signals to everybody else that it’s possible.
CC: “A rising tide lifts all boats?”
KM: Exactly. I don’t think people are gonna burn out over it. I think that energy will just build. And if I were to theorize, that might be part of the reason that some employers are so hesitant to wanna work with a union, because they worry that if they give into one group of workers on a unionization claim, then all their workers are gonna want to unionize and that’ll start to eat into their profit margins.
CC: I was listening to an interview that Crispin Freeman did around the time of the video games strike in 2015/2016, and he was saying that the companies were saying “No, because we don’t do that with our video game developers” and he said “Why not?” basically.
KM: And thank goodness now that the “U-word” is far less taboo in the game development industry now than it was five years ago.
CC: Maybe it’s been a similar pattern, because video games were seen as a lesser medium compared to film, say. But when you look at what games have become, and what biggest games especially have become, there’s no getting around it. And I think a similar thing is happening here where Crunchyroll is definitively the biggest. They don’t have literally everything, but if the whole thing was a pie, they’d have the biggest piece by far.
KM: Yeah, exactly.
CC: I guess my mindset had been like “Oh, we have to wait for the actors to solve their issues then everything will trickle down. But I guess if it’s more like “a rising tide raises all boats” then that’s a more positive way of looking at things?
KM: I also wouldn’t call it trickling down because that would imply that the actors are stationed above other people. And I don’t think that that’s accurate. I don’t think anybody feels that way.
CC: I guess they’re more public-facing like you said, maybe not “above.” Speaking of the other groups, when it comes to the actual advocacy process, do you have any advice of like how to… I guess, how to go about the activism itself?
KM: It starts at a grassroots level. It starts at the bottom and it starts with going one-to-one to your peers. For dubbing, when we started organizing in… somewhere around 2018 I think, we started by reaching out to people one-on-one to have a short conversation about “what do you think about the state of the industry? How do you feel about where things are at? How could things improve?” And then we would, through the course of that conversation, sell them on how our union SAG-AFTRA could help accomplish making things better. And in a city like Los Angeles, that’s a pretty easy sell because SAG-AFTRA is very well established here. Actors are all very familiar with what SAG-AFTRA is capable of and what they represent. So, pretty easy for us to convince our peers on the benefits of unionizing.
It might be a tougher sell to somebody working in a space where the union is less prevalent or where it’s starting from scratch. Although, we also had some specific challenges of dispelling old information and myths about SAG-AFTRA that wouldn’t necessarily be a barrier for a new union to deal with. And then after, we say “Hey, unionizing could help.” Then we would say “Would you commit to signing an open letter that says ‘we’re all united as dubbing actors. We contribute to making this work the high quality that it is and help to make it earn the kind of money that it’s earning. And we want it all to be on a SAG-AFTRA contract.’” or something along those lines anyway. And we had a very professionally-drafted letter and we would show it to people and say “Hey, will you commit to sign this?” And we had to assure them that it would not be made public until we’d reached a critical mass on the number of signatures.
CC: So the privacy has to be an important part of it?
KM: A big concern that you run into when you’re trying to organize a workspace is people saying “Well yeah, I want those things but I don’t wanna put my neck on the line if it’s just me saying that I want those things, cuz then I lose my job and I don’t gain anything.” So everybody has to be assured that “No, no, no, you’re not in this alone and nobody’s going to see that your name is one of the first, whether it is or not.” Cuz when we started out there, I think there were 12 of us on the committee. So we’re like “Hey, we’ve already got 12 names with our first conversation” or whatever. But we had a list of 200 or 300… I think it was closer to 200 actually, cuz I I remember being surprised at how small the LA dubbing community really was.
SAG-AFTRA organizing staff had crawled through IMDB credits and Netflix credits and stuff, and come up with a list of like 200 names of actors who had been credited as working on a dub within the previous three years, I think it was. So we had that big list of all of those names and we were reaching out to all of those people one-on-one, slowly over time. And we had a target where we were like “We’re not gonna go public with this letter. This open letter will not see the light of day. Nobody will know that your signature’s on it until we have…” I think our target was 70% of those names signed. And then once we hit that threshold, then we published it on our website and we sent it out to all our employers. And then the Netflix contract became a thing. Because ultimately, no C-suite-level executive is going to suddenly grow morals. They will give you what you’re asking for if you ask for it, maybe. And if they do, they’re only gonna give it to you when you give them no other option, basically.
CC: I guess when they know they have something to lose by not giving it.
KM: Right, exactly. So it’s gotta come from within, the workforce has to advocate for themselves. It just has to be behind closed doors.
CC: The last few questions I had down here were more technical, because obviously, yourself and people like Marin and Ben Diskin have been doing a lot with your own social media platforms to explain how all this stuff works.
KM: Trying to! To the best of our abilities, yeah.
CC: Having looked around, I came up with some questions regarding what I wasn’t sure of. I think you mentioned in a thread that a small percentage is collected for the healthcare and pension funds of the actors who work on union productions. Is that the same as the 1.575% part of the union dues? And is that what goes into the actors’ funds along with the initiation fees?
KM: The initiation fees and the dues help pay for things like staff salaries and overhead expenses on the rent on the office space and that kind of stuff. And they’ve got a lot of other resources that they have to pay the bills on. The health plan and the pension are funded by our employers.
CC: Okay, I guess I was getting confused about which percentage was which.
KM: Yeah, there’s an additional percentage, and that percentage varies from one contract to another, but it’s in the neighborhood of like 13%, I think. They pay an additional fee on top of what goes to the actor and that goes to the health and the pension.
CC: Originally, one of my questions was: wouldn’t the union be against dubbing in general, even if it is union? Because the rates are still lesser than pre-lay and video games, so wouldn’t they want to collect 1.575% of pre-lay checks more often than 1.575% of anime checks?
KM: I think the vast majority of SAG-AFTRA as it stands today views more union work as a good thing regardless of what industry it comes from. There might be some old dinosaurs who feel like dubbing isn’t worth covering, or some old dinosaurs who feel like dubbing rates need to be higher before it’s worth covering, or something like that. But I don’t think that that type of sentiment is something that’s widely held within today’s SAG-AFTRA membership.
CC: And as an extension of that, I was gonna ask: since we’re talking about Crunchyroll, would [the dinosaurs] be frowning upon so much union dubbing stuff being done in a Right-to-Work state like Texas where you don’t become a Must Join?
KM: I think if they would have a problem with that, then they’ve definitely got a problem with Georgia, because that’s where most of the production is happening these days. More and more stuff moves out of Los Angeles to Atlanta, and Georgia is a Right-to-Work state. So if that’s an issue that SAG-AFTRA has been facing, it’s an issue they’ve been facing long before Crunchyroll and Crunchyroll is small potatoes in comparison. And I think within the dubbing community specifically, we all want more dubbing work to be produced union. So with Crunchyroll being based in Texas, that’ll mean more union contracts in Texas. And yeah, we don’t have a problem with that.
CC: The next question I had is about Taft-Hartleying. So obviously nowadays, Taft-Hartleying is the process by which people become union. And Ben [Diskin] had said with the Netflix dubbing agreement, a lot more non-union actors have become union through them. Is there a limit to how much Taft-Hartleying can be done on a given project?
KM: To my knowledge, no. I don’t know for certain. I can’t answer that with any degree of authority but I don’t believe so. I can tell you that the Taft-Hartley process is a one-page application that production has to fill out whenever they have a non-union actor that they want to cast in the show. And they fill out that little piece of paper and they send it off and then they do the job and then, somebody at SAG-AFTRA staff will eventually review that paperwork. Essentially, the objective with that is for the union to make sure that that actor is a professional working actor, and they want to make a living as an actor and they’re not somebody’s boyfriend or something like that. And at least in the voiceover world, I have never heard of a Taft-Hartley being rejected. In the event that a Taft-Hartley is rejected, they get a chance to rectify things somehow, like add to the paperwork to make the application more convincing or whatever. But if it’s rejected, at the end of the day, they face some sort of a fine.
CC: Who’s “they” in this situation?
KM: The production. The production company would then face some sort of a fine. It’s for casting an actor that is deemed by SAG-AFTRA to be ineligible to work. It’s the same type of fine that they would face for hiring an actor who is not current on their SAG-AFTRA dues or is a Must Join and hasn’t joined yet. SAG-AFTRA is very lenient with punishing production on those types of things. Generally, they’re like “Hey, there’s an issue here, get your actor to take care of it, or we have to fine you.” And then production comes down real hard on the actor to make sure that it’s taken care of and then everything’s fine.
CC: So it’s production being informed by the union?
KM: Yeah. SAG-AFTRA will give the production plenty of opportunity to rectify anything along those lines. So that’s the normal Taft-Hartley process: they fill out that application, somebody reviews it and then they say “Yeah, you’re good to go” and everything’s fine. With the Netflix agreement in particular, Netflix asked for a special provision in their dubbing agreement that said “our Taft-Hartleys don’t have to be reviewed. They’re just automatically approved.” And SAG-AFTRA OK’d that provision just because Netflix has very specific casting requirements that they have to deal with with a lot of their dubs. Like, where they’re trying to get an authentic ethnicity or cultural upbringing or something, because they do a lot of live action dubbing. Maybe it’s something from Portugal and they want all Portuguese actors who have Portuguese accents. There’s a very limited pool of SAG-AFTRA actors in Los Angeles who would fit that protocol. So Netflix was like “We don’t wanna have to deal with waiting on Taft-Hartleys to be approved and all of that stuff.” It just makes it easy. I don’t know cuz no such meeting has happened, but… possible that a Crunchyroll-specific agreement could have a similar provision allowing for the fact that they’re based in a Right to Work state? I don’t know.
CC: I guess the big question is, do you think a full-on strike is likely to happen with regards to Crunchyroll?
KM: Nobody wants a strike ever. Nobody ever wants to even breathe that word. That’s another thing that you run into when you’re trying to organize by the way, is people going “Well yeah, it’d be nice if it was union, but I don’t wanna strike for it.” And then we have to go “Whoa whoa whoa slow down! You’re like 12 steps down the road. We’re not talking about a strike. We don’t want a strike; nobody wants a strike! We want to get them to sit down and talk to us.” Do I think it would ever happen? It would require the support of at least 70% of Crunchyroll‘s workforce. And I think if we get to that point, we won’t ever need to go to a strike because we’ll convince them to come to the table long before that.
CC: We probably wouldn’t have a repeat of 2016 with video games and that kind of thing?
KM: No no no. And anime work moves way too fast. And the profit margins are, are way too small compared to video games. Uh no, there’s no way that anything like that is gonna happen with anime.
CC: For fans who might be worried how this will affect the shows they love, (it’s already affected Mob obviously) if things do move in a more union direction, is there a chance that the reverse to the Mob situation might happen where a pre-established non-union cast gets replaced by union actors?
KM: Nobody’s gonna advocate for that. That’s entirely up to production to make that decision. I don’t see Crunchyroll moving to replace anybody that they don’t feel like they have to replace because anime fans are so vocal about things. So no, I don’t think that that’s gonna happen. What might happen is if it’s on a union contract, Crunchyroll will have an easier time convincing celebrities to work on certain projects. But I mean, celebrities are also the only reason that so much animation work still is on union contracts. That’s something that is just a thing in today’s world because celebrities sell tickets, celebrities make money. I doubt that they’ll be casting celebrities to replace people just because I think anime fans are far too vocal for that to be happening.
CC: Yeah. I think anime fans are keen to see celebrities in new roles. When it comes to celebrity recasts, it’s easier to follow the money.
KM: I think the budgets are small enough in anime that there’s not gonna be more than one or two celebrities in any given project at a time too.
CC: I guess we don’t have to worry about… I don’t know, Chris Pratt playing Goku or whatever.
KM: I wouldn’t expect that any time soon.
CC: Well Kyle, thank you for being here and answering some of my more specific questions on top of all the other stuff we talked about. Hopefully everyone understood them? If people have questions…
KM: You can try to tweet at me and I’ll try and direct you to somebody who knows better than me, maybe? There’s a helpline at SAG-AFTRA you could call if you’re really curious about some stuff.
CC: There was a lot I wanted to talk about but it’s a very confusing situation, because technically Crunchyroll is rolling out union dubs as we speak. Because they’re releasing Aniplex shows. It seems like there’s a firewall between those and shows like Mob?
KM: Yeah. And I don’t understand it. I wish they would’ve said what their hang-up was on why they don’t wanna meet. Because I can only speculate.
CC: Maybe one last question would be, because you are the voice of Mob who is a character that needs to learn how to stick up for himself in the story of the show, do you have any parting words about what this situation means to you? Because, y’know, whether it’s fans or fellow actors, it’s been pretty nerve-wracking and it’s kind of tough to say what’s gonna happen in the future. And you’ve definitively put yourself out there and gotten a really strong response from the community. It looks like pretty much everyone has your back at this point. And how has that made you feel?
KM: I can say thank you from the bottom of my heart. I cannot express just how much the support that I’ve gotten means to me on a personal level. As far as the cause goes, I don’t know what’s gonna happen. I don’t know if Crunchyroll is ever going to come to the table. I have high hopes, I’m optimistic about it. I think we will get them to sit down at the table and meet at the very least. And I think if we can do that much, I think there’s a high probability that we’ll be able to come to terms with them that’ll benefit everybody involved, including Crunchyroll as a company. So as far as the cause goes, your support means a lot. But as far as my mental health and emotional health goes, your support is so invaluable. The last week/week-and-a-half since this whole situation started has been transformative for me on a personal level. I feel so empowered because of the support that the fans have expressed to me in this particular venture. And it’s meant a lot to me in my personal life. So, thank you. From the bottom of my heart. Thank you.
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