Update #17: A message to our Backers and to the Voice Acting community: We are not liars and a scam.
Dear Backers and Voice Acting Community,
Backers, only very few of you are aware, but for the past days, we've been trying our hardest to clear our name in the VA community. VA community, this is a detailed account airing our side with proof of the actual events that transpired between the Company and Rachael Messer. This is going to be a very lengthy post; please bear with us.
DISCLAIMER: Please take note that the sole purpose of this update is to clear our name and nothing more. I hope that at the end of this update, nobody would be sending hate or harassment emails to anyone involved. We do not wish to ruin anyone's career or reputation. We are doing this simply to clear our name from the harassment, bullying and hatred we've been receiving over the past days.
Why we are doing this.
Last January 16, Rachael Messer posted in her Facebook page her official statement regarding her involvement with The Letter:
The Company responded to her statement, but unfortunately, our comment got deleted a few hours after it got posted. Comments from friends and supporters were also deleted and were flagged as spam. With this being our main avenue to properly air our side, we decided to take it here to Kickstarter to show everyone, especially to our beloved backers, that we are dead serious about making this game. Things are already getting out of hand. We're being flamed, trolled and hated on all of our social media accounts. We're hoping this update will shed light to everything that happened. We are not thieves, we are not a scam, and we never lied to anyone.
How we met Rachael.
Before we begin addressing her statement, let me brief you all to how we came across Rachael. Backers, if you can recall, we briefly mentioned in our Update #3 that someone is helping us recruit potential VAs for the game. And for a brief period of time, that's true.
We met Rachael Messer when she contacted us in both our website and in Kickstarter, offering her voice acting services. We considered because we liked Rachael's portfolio. She voiced characters in Wakfu Raiders in which the founders of Yangyang Mobile were once developers of. During that time, we were feeling very anxious towards our Kickstarter's success, so we contacted Rachael to ask if she could give us assistance on this. Since VA is one of the most requested feature, we wanted to announce a good, professional cast for The Letter, in hopes that more people will join us.
Rates, FUNimation & Team Four Star.
First, we mentioned that our VA stretch goal is currently sitting at $120,000 USD, and we asked Rachael to help us collaborate with interested VAs from FUNimation and Team Four Star to help achieve this goal. But before anything else, we asked for their rates because we didn't want to hire people we can't afford, and second, we might be able to lower the VA goal to a more accurate estimate. We told her we're new to the VA industry so we don't know what rate to give her, and Rachael kindly filled us in on the estimations. She gave us an estimation that's acceptable for us, so we told her to guide us on how to proceed, since she has all of the actors' contacts. (Very important, we are only communicating through Rachael and Rachael alone.)
Rachael responded positively to this call. She said she'll be able to get big named people easily and that she already sent out an e-mail to a few people and already heard back from a few of the big FUnimation actors who said they would like to try out. We came into an agreement that we will lower the VA stretch goal down to $40,000 USD, and we made it clear that we need to be funded first in Kickstarter in order for this to go through.
We have two weeks before the campaign ends, and the team was happy and excited, full of hope to surprise our backers with a good cast before the Kickstarter ends. I mean, it's FUNimation and Team Four Star! Man, we know full well that voice acting can make or break a game, and the idea that we'd have a good, reliable cast gave us confidence that we may be able to make a much, much better game than what we initially thought. We were simply ecstatic! But that moment is short-lived because six days have gone by, and we haven't heard anything from Rachael. Concerned, I decided to follow up.
The next day, Rachael responded saying she's going through over the auditions and that she would send everything by the night of November 17. Rachael messaged me again, informing me of the people she wants to cast for The Letter. She first mentioned Luke's actor (who she said she's still waiting to confirm his commitment to the project), followed by Zach's actor and Rebecca's actress (who also didn't confirm their commitment to the project. She only mentioned in the email that she wanted to cast them). She attached 3 audition files for the said characters. She also mentioned she found a good actress for Isabella, to which we responded that we'd like to hear Isabella's audition first from her side before we scout locally on our side. Our last email exchange was on November 18, 2015, in which we said:
- Luke's actor - we want him to send Ash's lines as well, because we think he might also be good as Ash. We want to decide whether to get him as Luke or Ash.
- Rebecca's actress - feels a bit exaggerated, and we asked her if the actress could make some adjustments to make it more fitting for the character.
- Isabella's actress - before we scout on our side, we want to hear Isabella's audition first on her side.
- Hannah's actress - which is Rachael herself, we said we look forward to her audition. We have not confirmed that she got the role because she hasn't sent her lines yet.
We never received any response from Rachael after our message on November 18. Our Kickstarter ended, December 2015 ended, and we hadn't heard anything from Rachael. We'll be completely honest: To us, the whole period we didn't hear a response from her felt like she dropped the project. Around that time, we still needed approximately $10k to reach our goal, and our campaign is scheduled to end on the November 22nd. Everyone in the team and even the people following our campaign thought we weren't going to make it. Case in point, we wouldn't blame or hold it against her if she did decide to drop the project, because even the members of our team were losing hope during that time.
With only half of the potential cast given to us and even her own lack of audition as Hannah, we were at lost on how to proceed with the voice acting part of the game. Although we mentioned that we are willing to fund it ourselves, we didn't want to promise anything to our backers that we can't deliver - making a complete game is our main priority. With that in mind and since our contact never got back to us, we put the idea of having a voice acting in the back-burner and decided to focus on making a complete game first. But within the team, we did agree that we'll get back to considering voice acting again once we are sure that we can fulfill our promise to our backers to deliver what they funded: a good playable game on the deadline we promised.
Take note that after our email exchange, nothing is confirmed. We didn't tell Rachael that she got the role (How can we when she hasn't sent her lines in yet? While we love her portfolio, we can't just cast her without hearing how she'll do as Hannah.), and in turn, Rachael didn't tell us whether the actors/actresses she wanted to cast for The Letter confirmed on taking on the project. No mutual agreements, no rates were finalized (except for the estimates we discussed), and no contracts were signed.
On January 1, 2016, Rachael sent us a new email thread, greeting us a Happy New Year and that she looks forward to us working together this 2016. There was nothing about the last email that we sent her on November 18.
Fast forward to January 13. As we mentioned in our Update #15, one of our very generous backers decided to sponsor voice acting stretch goal (thank you again!). This is something we did not expect, but that's why we decided to give the VA a try once again. But as we mentioned above, we were already at lost on who to contact since Rachael has not responded to our last email - all we have is a New Year's greeting, no confirmation of the commitment of the actors, has not sent in the things we requested, has not sent in her own sample lines as Hannah.
So after the public announcement that the voice acting is a go (December 25), many of our backers and supporters were kind enough to email us again, offering their services for the game's voice acting. Some were also waiting and suggesting for an open audition. That's why we decided to go with our original plan (even before the campaign started and before we got to meet Rachael) to host an open audition in an attempt to give equal opportunity to the people who volunteered as well as to find the talents on our own.
Where things went downhill.
After we posted out the audition announcement, Rachael emailed us again (new email thread):
She asked us if the people she originally wanted to cast are out of the game. This also confused us because she never stated those actors/actresses confirmed their involvement, and also, communication died down when she didn't reply to our last email. She did finally send her lines as Hannah, and Ash's line by Luke's actor.
While our email exchange is happening, the rest of the team are posting the open audition on various websites and voice acting Facebook groups. Suddenly, we've had a lot of people coming to us, saying that an audition for the same game was posted a few months ago, and that they haven't received a reply yet. Confused, we told them that this is the first time we've opened a public audition. One of the members of our development team even thought one of us internally might have made a post last year when we were looking for someone to voice Isabella for the trailer (she was the last one we needed, but we ended up personally contacting the one who voiced her), but upon checking with us the next business day, we found out that NONE from the Yangyang Mobile team became members of any VA group on Facebook until recently, much less made a casting call last year. You cannot share or create a post to a group on Facebook unless you are a member after all.
It turned out that Rachael posted a casting call on Facebook that got shared several times to various voice acting groups. The casting call is deleted now, but we were able to take a screenshot thanks to google cache:
We were very shocked when we found out about this. There are many things that are wrong about this casting call, namely:
- It is clearly stated in our original email exchange that we only asked her to email FUNimation and Team Four Star members, NOT hold an open/public audition. Even if it wasn't in Rachael's interest to hold an open audition, that's what happened because the post got shared several times.
- She knows we're only looking for casts among these specific groups, so this move is inappropriate and misleading to the general public who are not members of the specific groups we requested.
- Rachael also failed to inform us that she posted an audition to her Facebook page. All she ever informed us about is that she sent private emails to a few FUNimation people and are waiting to hear back from them. Again, this is what we agreed on, not an open casting call.
- And even if she posted an open/public audition, we only received three files from her (and all the 3 files are from FUNimation people, and nothing from the general public who told us that they have sent audition files to her from her casting call), so we don't really know what to tell the public who submitted an audition to her.
- Lastly, it is clearly stated in our email exchange that we are only pushing through with VA if the game is successfully funded. So her statement above about "they do have a Kickstarter going on right now, but they plan to pay the voice actors either way so don't worry about it" is completely misleading and misinformation.
In one of the VA Facebook groups we've posted our official open audition, we were already receiving flak and hatred because people were thinking we keep on recasting, and that this is a third recast. The Facebook thread got so negative the admin deleted the post, but we were able to screenshot Rachael's comment about us:
We were just shocked that we had to post an official statement on our Facebook page to try and mitigate the damage:
To be completely honest, we are puzzled where she got the information that this is the "third time we re-casted", when we never had a finalized cast to begin with. We never announced any names. We would like to make it clear that the first voices (the ones featured in the trailer and the Kickstarter page) were freelancers hired to voice those specific lines for the trailer and nothing more. They are completely aware of this and we did not just drop them. They were duly paid for their services after we got the files from them and our working relationship ended right there. We made no agreements or promises that they are going to be our cast for the final game because at the time we hired them, we haven't launched our campaign yet and we are still uncertain that we'd get funded. They aren't even in the demo because the demo does not have any voice acting at all, only royalty-free sound effects. You guys can still download the demo if you want to double check.
Rachael's cast, like what we keep saying, never came to fruition because both sides have not come to an agreement, especially without confirmation from them. It would be presumptuous of us to make a public announcement naming the actors she sent as our cast without them confirming that they wanted to take the role. Again, we didn't lie to anyone. The email exchange above can attest to that.
Going back to Rachael's official statement.
Thank you for staying with us so far. Now that these things have been cleared, please allow us to address the allegations made against us in Rachael's official statement:
1. "The roles that were chosen were Zach, Luke, Rebecca and Hannah. I was waiting for them to decide, since they are in the Philippines, if they wanted to use an actress from there for Isabella."
We told her we want to decide whether to get Luke's actor for Luke or Ash. We requested to her if he can also record lines for Ashton and send it to us. She failed to deliver until January 14, 2016. Additionally, in her own words, she's "still waiting on [the actor] to confirm the part." (See November 18 email thread)
For Rebecca, we asked if the actress could adjust her delivery of the character's lines to fit the character. We have faith that the actress can pull her off since we looked her up, but we wanted to hear a sample of the revision first before making a decision.
For Hannah, she never turned in her sample lines until two days ago; for some reason, she is assuming that she already got the role.
As for Isabella, we were waiting for her to send the sample voice clips of the one she mentioned on her side who'll be a good Isabella before we scout on our end.
She is stating the roles for these four are chosen; again, we have not come to an agreement. Our last email ended with us still waiting for the confirmation of one of the actors' commitment to the project, the requested revisions, and her own sample lines as Hannah. She never gave them to us until days ago.
2. "The last email I received from them was at the end of November with them telling me they wanted those actors and to send out an email to them to make sure they would play the parts and I did. The actors confirmed and I emailed the company to tell them the actors confirmed."
Nope, we never received an email telling us whether the actors confirmed if they want to take the role. All she ever stated in the email are the words "I want to cast this person" and "I think this person is perfect for the role", but no confirmation from her side (please see the November 18 email thread).
While we told her that we like the samples for the actors she gave us, we are also aware that there needs to be a confirmation from the actors she gave us if they wanted to play the part. We can't just cast people no matter how fitting they are for the character if they did not confirm. Had they confirmed, we would've entered into a mutual agreement with the actors, we would have given them the role, included them in the cast list, and officially announce it (hopefully all before the Kickstarter ended, which was the original plan).
3. "After being told about this casting call from another VA asking if it was spam or not, I emailed the company again, this time they finally did respond saying they never got the info they wanted back in November. Very confused, I sent in the information. They are now claiming me a liar, saying I had no reason to send out any casting calls and that they never confirmed the actors. Again, I have email after email that I have been so tempted to screen shot and send along with this message proofing this."
Yes, she did send the information we asked months ago, but only on January 14, 2016. We didn't call her a liar; All we stated is that she is unauthorized to host a public audition. What she is authorized to do, however, is to send out private emails to interested FUNimation and Team Four Star members. In her statement, she posted a casting call on Facebook that got shared to multiple VA groups without our knowledge (until recently when we did a search. The post has already been deleted from her page: link, link, link). This isn't what we agreed on.
4. "Now I tell you all this because they asked me to cast the project, for free."
No. We never asked her to work for FREE (check the email exchange, there was never an instance of us saying the word "FREE"). The first thing we asked her is the rate, and we had intended fully well to pay for her services.
All the voice actors who will be working on this project will be duly paid for their services (just like what we did with the freelance voice actors who recorded the lines in our trailer). We have allocated funding for this. We are not thieves.
A lot of people have contacted us offering to be our "casting director", but this whole nightmare just traumatized us so much.
5. "The wrong here is in how they have treated myself and yanked people around, blatantly ignored my attempts to contact them about this, and claimed things they told me in emails were not true when I have those emails proving they did indeed say I should send out a call, did indeed agree on the actors, and the emails saying which actors had confirmed the parts."
We never yanked people around. In fact, we never even received any of the audition files from the casting call she did on her Facebook, only those three files from the VAs she recommended. We were also in the middle of discussing the casting she's recommending when communication was suddenly dropped, and thus no agreement was reached. We were the ones waiting for her response in the email we sent two months ago.
Using the official Yangyang Mobile Facebook account, we posted a response to her thread detailing these things, in the hopes that it will give the people following her page (which has a much larger following) an insight from our side. The post has since been deleted by her.
The team already expected that she would be deleting the post, and we made no further comments on her page about it knowing that it's useless to do so. This is why we're releasing this detailed account to you guys. However, in a recent comment, she is now accusing us of creating multiple accounts to "harass" her.
Screenshots of some deleted comments reached us through our supporters. We have no idea about the contents of the other comments that were posted, but we would like to point out that these accounts aren't associated with Yangyang Mobile and any of its team members. The team is sound asleep when all these commotion were happening (before dawn in the Philippines, +8 GMT Timezone):
We are censoring the names of these people as they are not connected or working with Yangyang Mobile, although some of those who commented are supporters of The Letter. Again, we want to avoid dragging more people into this. To reiterate, the only purpose of showing you these screenshots it to affirm that none of our 10 team members did what she's accusing us of. We never made multiple accounts, we never harassed her, nor called her a liar. We are not the kind of people who will go that low just to prove our point.
No to cyber-bullying, spamming and harassment.
In line with this, please, please we would like to ask you guys to refrain from posting, spamming, and/or harassing Rachael in any of her pages on social media. As much as we appreciate your support, there is a fine line that needs to be drawn between defending someone and blatant cyber-bullying. It will only make things worse and we want to avoid that.
Because of what happened, we ourselves experienced getting bullied, spammed, harassed and hated on, and we do not wish anyone to suffer the same fate as us.
What we would appreciate is if you guys could share this post to anyone who's willing to listen to us. We only want to clear our name, and continue making games that our supporters would love and enjoy playing. :)
A message to the public who auditioned to Rachael's casting call.
Again, we never got the audition files you sent. We wish we had more control over these things, but we didn't, and we're very sorry for that. If you still wish to audition, you are free to re-send your past audition files to firstname.lastname@example.org. You don't have to do the new lines unless you want to. Like we said in our official announcement, we really appreciate everyone's efforts, and we want to give everyone an equal chance! :D
A message to Miss Rachael Messer.
Rachael, I'm really sorry things ended like this. Regardless of the sudden drop in our communication, we should have informed you that we're posting an open audition. Again, we never called you a liar. What we're simply stating in our official statement is:
- You were not authorized to hold a public casting call, be it on Facebook or anywhere else;
- You were only authorized to contact specific people;
- You didn't confirm to us that the actors you recommended confirmed their commitment to you;
- The actors in the KS page and trailer are hired freelancers and not a "cast";
- And lastly, we only received three files from the public casting call you held.
We wish you well in your voice acting career. When I first met you, my initial impression is you're a talented actress, with a lovely voice and a charismatic face (a.k.a. the whole package!). Let's both move on from this nightmarish experience and may this be a lesson learned for us all. We understand that the only reason you only did what you did is because you want to help us find a good cast, and for that, we are really grateful for your interest and enthusiasm in The Letter. If you may, I sent you an email to continue resolving matters ourselves. I want to hear your side. Hopefully we can find something we're both in agreement with. :)
To everyone, rest assured that we are not thieves, scammers, spammers, harassers, or anything like that. We are a legitimate company, registered under the Republic of the Philippines. We have allocated funding for the voice acting stretch goal, and all of our chosen cast will be compensated.
Thank you so much for hearing us out and we apologize for all the trouble this has caused.
Sincerely in behalf of the entire YYM team,
Congrats! You've reached the good ending!
Of course, we don't want to end this update with everyone having a foul taste on the mouth, so let me share a mini-update regarding our voice acting endeavors so far!
Since January 13, we've received over 100 auditions for the cast of The Letter! :D We feel it could have been more, if it hadn't for this whole mess. But still, what's done is done.
To our surprise, the most auditioned characters are... Luke and Ashton! Followed by Andrew and Johannes. The girls, on the other hand, are completely falling behind. Utterly unexpected, since our voice acting banner is very...girly.
Conversation between the art team:
ME: Eko, why is the banner so girly?! How can we get the males to audition if this is the banner we're going to show?! They're gonna think The Letter is some otome-game or something. And besides, where will we place The Letter's logo there? It'll look like they're coming from two different games!
EKO: But but but!! The reference you gave is kyaaaaa~ so I thought you wanted a banner that's kyaaaaa~ too, so I went all out! D:
ADELL: What the hell, guys? So much for horror...
CZAR: I have no idea what this game is anymore.
JIAN: Isn't Christmas over?
I admit; that's a miscalculation on my part. Maybe I'll ask Eko to make a banner with a sexy pose of Luke, Zach and Ash; maybe more girls will be encouraged to audition. ;)